**This is a collaborative post**
The work-life balance – we all struggle with it.
Almost a third of UK workers admit they feel they have a poor work-life balance and it’s becoming more and more of an issue. Relationships, home life, happiness, mental health, even physical wellbeing – it can take it’s toll and cause issues that can be avoided.
Read on as we investigate the best way to manage a good work-life balance; even taking on board some tips from other countries.
The current situation
The general consensus appears to be the adults in the UK are overworked. Maintaining a healthy balance between home and work life seems to become more difficult as we get older, with statistics showing that the younger the employee, the less likely they are to identify work-life balance as an important part of their job. The task of juggling a family alongside a job is also difficult for many to manage with statistics revealing that 75% of working parents suffer stress and anxiety as a result of their work-life balance management.
It’s an obvious fact to state that as an individual’s weekly hours increase so do their feelings of unhappiness – but it doesn’t seem to matter how many hours you work whether it be full of part time; switching off from work can be hard.
One third of European workers say that a bad day at work makes them feel terrible – I can certainly relate to this!
As we work more, we find that we have less time to spend with those we love, less time to focus on accomplishing goals that aren’t work-related and less time to pursue our hobbies and dreams. It can feel desperate and hopeless and that aim of working to live turns into living to work.
How do people manage in other countries?
It seems as though workers in other countries have more free time to spend outside of work. In Belgium, employees have an average of 8.6 hours of free time per day compared to their 7.4-hour work days, and Netherlands are enjoying the shortest working week at only 30.3 hours. Denmark only spend 6.6 hours at work each day with 8.8 hours each day to spend how they wish, and Austrians are encouraged to start the weekend early with 3pm finishes implemented around the country. Many Germans are able to relax on a Sunday too, as stores are regulated so that they close on Sundays. All of these extra hours add up it seems, with Britons working 325 hours more per year than workers in Germany.
Unlike UK workers who often work with only half an hour to an hour break per day, foreign employees are encouraged to take multiple breaks throughout the day. The Spanish are famous for their midday siestas which began as an effort to sleep through the hottest period of the day in warmer climates. Although new laws mean that shops have to remain open without a break for naps, some workers still follow the siesta tradition. Or, they take long coffee and lunch breaks with colleagues — something that is widely accepted by employers. Finland also take on the approach that long breaks are good for everyone, and their workers enjoy extra-long lunch breaks that are one to two hours long! If you visited Sweden on business, you’d probably be invited to join them for ‘fika’ — this is a late morning coffee that offices pause to enjoy at around 11am.
Other regulations that help maintain a healthy work-life balance include:
- Belgians are able to take a full month off work to coincide with school breaks.
- Spanish workers have a holiday allowance of 30 days.
- France introduced a law in 2017 that gave workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from after-work emails.
- Swedish workers enjoy 16 months of paid family leave
What can we do?
There isn’t an awful lot we can do to change workplace regulations but we can try and make some changes ourselves to try and improve our own work-life balance.
Enquire with your employer about splitting up your break. Research has proven that taking regular breaks can improve your productivity, and it therefore could be something that they will support. Get away from your desk – go for a walk, get some fresh air, call a friend or family member, read a book, close your emails – or anything to get your mind and body a break from work.
A long commute can lead to stress and depression according to one study. You could make your commute feel more productive though, by listening to a podcast or audio book that can reduce the stress of rush-hour traffic. or even calming music or stream your favourite TV show on your phone, tablet or laptop. You could even walk a part of your journey, ideally through a park or the countryside.
Although it can be difficult, restrict yourself on checking emails when you’ve finished work. The same goes for overtime – we all need extra funds sometimes but don’t go too crazy, don’t burnout. This can not only affect your mental health but can lead to employers expecting this behaviour at all times.
Make sure you’re using your annual holidays to recharge and spend time with family. We’re all guilty of using our holidays to run errands or do something that we’ve been putting off, but this isn’t always helpful for our work-life balance. Although we need to do this now and then, annual leave should be used to recuperate, relax and enjoy time away from the office so try to focus on this.
Do you have a good work-life balance? Do you have any tips or tricks? Please share in the comments below 🙂
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