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Work-life balance

Juggling work and home life can be a challenge, affecting both our mental and physical wellbeing. Explore our helpful guide to learn what work-life balance is, and the steps you can take to get the balance right.

Balancing responsibility and relaxation

Explore what it means to effectively balance work, hobbies and relaxation to help manage yours and your family’s wellbeing.

Work-life balance is the relationship between your work and personal life. It’s different for us all, so it’s not possible to determine what the right balance is. Finding how best your work and your personal life fit together will help manage your overall wellbeing.

Balancing work and play can go a long way in helping your mental and physical wellbeing, including:

  • Preventing stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders
  • Increasing happiness levels
  • Giving you more control over your time
  • Helping you perform at your best
  • Giving you more time for the things you love
  • Helping lower your heart rate and blood pressure levels
  • Easing aches and pains

Unhealthy work-life balance can creep up on us, as signs are sometimes hard to spot. Small, seemingly insignificant moments can actually squeeze out time for other things and end up disrupting your life. This can take its toll on your mental and physical wellbeing, relationships and home life. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take action:

  • You’re often too busy with work to find time for other areas in your life
  • You’ve giving up on exercise
  • You’re regularly snacking on junk food
  • You’ve been neglecting your social life or home responsibilities
  • You’re bringing work home, working late or when you shouldn’t be
  • You’re irritable, anxious or stressed
  • You feel exhausted a lot of the time

Work-life balance is a personal thing and only you’ll know what’s best for you. But setting boundaries can be a good way to ensure you’re striking a balance between your work and personal life.

From working longer hours to free up time the following day, to flexible hours or working from home so you can care for someone more easily.

Constantly looking at screens affects our daily routines, from the moment we wake up to when we go to bed. We use phones, laptops, and tablets to work, relax, shop, be entertained, find information and talk to others. But this hyper-connectivity leaves us with less personal time, impacting our wellbeing.

A digital detox removes or reduces screen time, helping promote more balanced digital behaviours to improve your overall wellbeing.

The Bank Workers Charity was very helpful and understanding of my situation, finding the best possible way to assist me.

– from our client

Steps to stay ahead

Follow the steps below to find and implement a healthy work-life balance that fits yours and your family’s needs.

The first step towards a better work-life balance is spotting conflicts in your work and home life:

  • Look at how you spend your time at home and at work, finding the moments that are most important
  • Add in things that aren’t vital but you really want to make time for
  • Think about what you’d be willing to give up
  • Look at any weekly conflicts. Are you missing gym classes because you’re working late? Are your caregiving responsibilities draining your energy?
  • Take an honest look at your work-life balance and figure out what changes, sacrifices or cutbacks you may need to make

Planning is a good way to avoid becoming over-stretched. Use these tips to better manage your time at work and home, and help restore balance:

  • Make a plan for the following day and try to stick to it
  • Give each task a time limit to stop work from spreading into time for other things
  • Stay focused with regular, short breaks
  • Try to avoid multitasking, it can take longer than doing one thing at a time
  • Learn to say no and stick to your boundaries. And if you can’t, ask for extended work deadlines or help from friends and family

Making time to relax can seem impossible. By building small self-care steps into your daily routine, you can start to reduce stress and anxiety, improving your mental and physical wellbeing. Here are some tips for relaxing:

  • Set aside specific time in your daily schedule for relaxation, and stick to it
  • Remove unnecessary distractions during rest periods, like laptops or phones
  • Try controlled breathing sessions to relieve tension. Place your hands gently on your stomach and inhale slowly through your nose, counting ‘one, two, three, four’ and exhale through the mouth at the same count of four. Repeat a few times until you notice a difference
  • Practise progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) by tensing and releasing different muscle groups in your body to relieve tension. Start from your feet and toes, move upwards, and focus on each group for a few seconds while inhaling, then release while exhaling
  • Take up a therapeutic hobby like drawing, painting or baking
  • Try meditating with calming music to help transport your mind to a place that brings feelings of joy

Our devices are good at demanding our attention, but it’s possible to recognise and reduce the amount of time we spend looking at our screens:

  • Use apps like Screen Time to track phone usage and set app time limits
  • Set realistic goals to help you rely on technology less. Like reducing phone usage, taking social media breaks, or a ‘no phones’ rule during meals
  • Keep your devices out of reach to stop temptation
  • Focus on in-person interactions whenever you can
  • Avoid checking emails outside of work

Sleep is vital in helping our mind and body rejuvenate so we can thrive at work and at home. Take these steps to ensure you’re getting the best night’s sleep possible:

  • Plan ahead and make to-do lists before you go to bed
  • Stick to a consistent wake-up time and avoid snoozing or napping
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol before bed, and avoid large evening meals
  • Only go to bed when you’re genuinely sleepy
  • Minimise screen time before bed or adjust the screen settings for reduced brightness
  • Ensure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature
  • If you wake up at night, avoid clock-watching and try reading, a podcast or a herbal tea

Changing how, when or where you work can be a good way to achieve a positive work-life balance. Explore the basics of flexible working below:

  • You can request flexible working if you’ve been with a company for 26 weeks or more, though it’s never guaranteed
  • There are two types, non-statutory and statutory. Non-statutory isn’t governed by law, and will follow an internal policy procedure. Statutory is governed by law, including a written request and decision-making process
  • Flexible hours come in various different forms:
    • Hours of work, where you choose core hours, usually 10am – 4pm
    • Compressed hours, where you work your total contracted hours over fewer working days
    • A job-share, where you share the work and pay of a single full-time job with someone else
    • Working from home, allowing you to work entirely from home or split your time between your workplace and your home
    • Annualised hours, where you work contracted hours over a year but the actual hours change weekly or monthly
    • Term-time work, where you only work during school term times so that you’re free during school holidays
  • When making your request, think about the following and have a meeting with your line manager or HR to talk things through:
    • Why you want to work flexibly
    • What type of change you’re asking for
    • How long you want to do it for
    • Any impact on your role and your colleagues
    • How you’ll manage the impact
    • That you’re making a statutory request for flexible working
    • How it will improve your wellbeing, caring ability and performance at work
  • If your employer doesn’t approve your request, make sure they explain why. If you’re unhappy with their decision, explore these options with support from Citizens Advice:
    • Make an appeal
    • Raise a grievance with your employer
    • Make a discrimination claim
    • Speak to ACAS or the Labour Relations Agency
    • Claim constructive dismissal
    • Make a claim to an industrial tribunal

If juggling your job is still too much, think about a career break. Ask your line manager or HR about an employee network you could join to find out more, or give us a call to talk things through.

Illustration depicting a mental health matters.

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