Life-Work balance

We have all heard about Work-Life balance. It’s brought up in offices all the time.

How many times has someone told you to maintain your “work-life” balance? How many of you are then told you need to work longer hours?

A lot of employers Work-life balance to mean “you need to work more”. You need to live to work.

I would like to introduce you to my view on this.


Life-Work Balance

This is more than switching the words. When you read Work-Life the emphasis is on the work. It is more important to concentrate on Life-Work, where your total life is the important part.

I am not trying to reduce the value of Work. Work is still important. It is what pays the bills, it is what funds your life. Work is important and is still a major part of Life-Work balance.

What we do is shift the focus to your whole life. We look at the big picture and drive down to what you need to let you live that picture.

What are the important things in your life? Think about the eulogy at your funeral. What would you like to hear about yourself?

“… was a good worker, always doing the extra work on a weekend”

“… was always tired and grumpy.”

“… missed most of my school plays because of work”

or would you prefer

“… always kept commitments. … attended every school event like it was the most important thing in life”

“… was trusted by customers as someone who knew the real priorities in life and business”

“… was always smiling and bringing new ideas to the table”


Over-Focusing on Work

So what happens if we spend too much time focused on work? If we do those extra hours when requested? If we overcommit ourselves at work?

  • Over-focusing on work can have some serious impacts including:
  • always tired
  • unhappiness
  • making frequent mistakes
  • personal relationships suffer
  • work relationships suffer
  • productivity decreases. Work harder but get fewer results
  • can lead to mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Working longer hours does not equate to doing more work. Work has a habit of expanding to fill the time available. Give someone 4 units of work and 8 hours to do it in, and they will complete the work. Give them the same 4 units and 6 hours, and the work still gets done! Research has shown that in an average 8 hour work day you spend only 6 hours doing work. If you add on another hour of work at the end of it you still only get the 4 units of work done.

A survey 10,000 people by Randstad found the following. “One-third of people would leave a job for one with a better work-life balance”. For a business, this leads to increased costs due to the need to recruit, and train, new employees.


How Work Can Take Over

More and more people are knowledge workers. Their work is in what they know rather than in performing manual tasks.

At the same time, we are becoming more and more connected. Mobile phones are now mini-computers that you hold in your hand.

Emails and notifications come flying in from every direction.

Human attention is becoming shorter. We always need to be responding.

Patience is reducing. We want answers now, we are not willing to wait.

Businesses are riding on this wave. They’ll send an email at 8 pm and expect a reply by 9 pm.

They’ll drop in a work request at 4 pm and expect it done that day.

They expect people to be reactive. The days of planning has gone.


What Can I Do For My Work?

There are steps you can take to help your team, including:

  • put in place task management systems, Next Actions can help you with this
  • get people talking. Limit use of emails/messages to discuss issues. Get together for a chat either in-person on via video-conference
  • limit the use of overtime.
  • get to know your people, how can you best use their skills
  • make people accountable
  • setup and run Mentoring programs
  • track your team for signs of over-work


What Can I Do For My Life?

There are steps you can take, including:

  • maintain a tasks system and calendar – Next Actions can help with this
  • turn off phone notifications
  • do not check emails between certain set hours, and let people know this
  • honour commitments you make. Take the time to attend special events
  • unsubscribe from mailing lists that no longer interest you
  • keep you Inboxes empty – Next Actions can help with this

Some of these may not be practical due to your particular circumstances. Please apply common-sense to apply any of these.


Life-Work for Business

Do you own your own business, or do you work from home? This is an area that can be more troublesome for maintaining Life-Work balance. How do you turn off from work?

Set a routine

If you have a routine you follow it can be easier to keep on top of things. Act as if you are going to an office but without the commute.

Set a start time for the day, and set an end time. Wrap these with other activities. Maybe you walk the dog before starting work, then after work, you prepare a meal. These give you dedicated cut-off points.


Establish Work Areas

Can you set aside a certain part of your home for work? Do you have a separate study or office that you can close the door on? If so then close the door and walk away.

If your work area is in a room used for something else, i.e. a dining room, bedroom or lounge, can you cover your work area? Maybe with a tablecloth, a room divider or a partition. The aim here is to hide the work area so you are not tempted to use it.


Wear Different Clothes

The clothes we wear affect our mindset. When going to an office or workplace you would be wearing different clothes than those for staying at home.

Why not try putting on “work” clothes during the working hours. Then get changed when you “finish” work. It is amazing what a difference this can make.



Is there someone who can hold you accountable for your Life-Work balance? Maybe a partner or house-mate?

Come up with a reward system. If you go all week without working outside of hours you receive the reward. This could be a bottle of your drink of choice or a bar of chocolate. Never underestimate the power of using a reward system!



Life-work balance is hard. It takes effort. it is something you will find a struggle to maintain.

The benefits of it are real. They can be quite major. Life-work balance will:

  • provide productivity increases
  • generate happiness
  • lead to a more engaged, and loyal, team.

For someone working at home there are different challenges. Being aware of these, and planning for them takes away much of the pain.



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Also published on Medium.