Work-life balance – we all want it, but it seems increasingly hard to get. A November 2014 report by The Australia Institute found that balance between work and life is deteriorating for 4 in 10 Australians.
On average, Aussie workers reported working six hours unpaid overtime each week, which means we are donating a staggering AU$110 billion in free time. Add to this the research by the Australian Psychological Society, which found that Australians are significantly more stressed than Americans and that increasing cultural workaholism is to blame for a decline in our overall wellbeing.
So why are we working longer and harder?
Work insecurity and pressure from employers are the main reasons for a work-life imbalance according to The Australia Institute’s Director of Research, David Baker.
“For many Australian workers rocking the boat appears to be a genuine concern,” he says. “If seeking better balance is perceived to be a threat to career prospects people are unlikely to freely raise the issue with their boss.”
Plus we also work in increasingly high achieving and ‘always on and connected’ work cultures, so the lines between home and job are continuously blurred.
Why is a balanced work-life important?
Apart from increased stress, there’s lots of research to show that long hours and more work over time cause ill health and lack of productivity and motivation. But aside from being more effective at work, working to live, rather than living to work is crucial because our very happiness can depend on it.
So is work-life balance possible and what is it actually?
In reality a work-life balance is very unique and it’s not about creating one-size fits all approach, says expert Jim Bird, from US consultants WorkLifeBalance.com.
“It involves effectively adjusting your work life balance over time and it’s not just about scheduling equal hours between your work and personal life. It’s about balancing professional achievement and enjoyment,” says Jim Bird.
“Achievement and enjoyment are the front and back of the coin of value in life. You can’t have one without the other. Trying to live a one sided life is why so many ‘successful’ people are not happy, or not nearly as happy as they should be,” he says.
“You cannot get the full value from life without both achievement and enjoyment.”
5 signs you have work/life balance in your life
If you can answer yes to these five signs of work/life balance, you are probably some way down the road to achieving it.
- You do a job you love – Yes/No?
- You have time and energy for relationships and social life outside work – Yes/No
- You can manage your work schedule within work hours – Yes/No?
- You don’t stress about work during evenings or weekends – Yes/No?
- Your health and fitness are not impacted by your work hours – Yes/No?
7 tips to help you achieve work-life balance
- Scope out what your ideal work-life scenario would look like
- Identify the areas of your life that you would like to spend more time focusing on
- Take small steps and review – balance takes time to get right and needs to evolve
- Break the habit of staying at work past scheduled hours unless absolutely necessary
- Unplug - draw a line between work and leisure and have time where you don’t answer your phone or check your email
- Prioritise exercise, leisure activities, family and social time as much as work
- Do something you enjoy every day.
- Read Walking the tightrope: Have Australians achieved work/life balance? - 2014, The Australia Institute
- Download Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey: Key findings - 2014, Australian Psychological Society
- Read Proof that you should get a life - 2014, The Economist