Achieving a great work/life balance is just a dream, right? Something that is only possible for self-employed people who post annoying photos on social media of them gazing out at a turquoise sea while working on their laptop? Not necessarily. Even during so-called ‘normal times’ many of us are desperate for more time in the day to relax or pursue non-work-related interests. Or just to be able to switch off more quickly when we shut our computers down for the night. And now, with ongoing lockdowns compounding our woes, it might seem like this dream is further away than ever. Well, we’re here to tell you that with the right approach, good communication and some careful planning, these goals are achievable. Read on for some top tips for getting a better work/life balance in 2021 and beyond.
Decide what your work/life balance goals are - and make a plan
Firstly, you need to look at what you want to change with your work/life balance and why. It’s no good just deciding that you want more hours in the day. You have to make a realistic plan that will help you achieve your specific goals. For example; if you want to have more time in the evening to spend with friends and family, can you arrange to start work an hour or two earlier, or work condensed hours? And if this is possible, what else needs to happen? Who else needs to be consulted and what other arrangements need to be made? Start with clearly-defined goals and work strategically from there.
Manage the time you spend on email
This is tricky, but very important. Many of us feel we have to check and respond to email outside of work hours. If this is an expectation of your management, and you don’t feel it is necessary then you should consider speaking to your boss. Perhaps you can agree that you only check emails during particular times - for example, if you have a contact that works in a different time zone and you absolutely must sign things off on a Wednesday, but for the rest of the week, when work finishes you can shut your email down for the night. If you’re self-imposing checking emails outside hours, then why not try one of the many apps that can help you curb your tech use.
Learn how to say no
Not always easy, we know. But sometimes the more we make ourselves available to our colleagues and managers the more they ask of us. If you’re asked to complete a task that will result in you being overloaded, take a minute to think before you respond. Is this really something that has to happen right now, or can it wait until you are back at work? Is this a one-off favour that would really help someone out or are they just taking advantage? If you say yes, consider restating the parameters; your actual working hours etc and reiterating that this is an anomaly, not something they can expect all the time. If you want to say no, do so and explain why. Reassure your colleague that you want to help but you are committing to readdressing your work/life balance. Perhaps you will encourage them to do the same!
Set your parameters
Following on from the previous point, it is really helpful for your work/life mission as well as managing your employee’s expectations to set some parameters. It’s unrealistic for your boss or peers to expect you to respond to emails immediately - certainly not all the time. If you aren’t going to be able to get back to someone immediately with a full report then drop them a quick note to say when you will be able to do it - and give yourself ample time to do so. If there is a time when you are particularly busy during the month, ask your colleagues to cut back on unnecessary or non-urgent requests during this period. You’d do the same for them, after all.
Learn how to cut off when the working day ends
While many of us are working at home, this is doubly hard. But even the simplest things such as placing your laptop in a different room or a wardrobe after you finish for the day, or leaving your home and walking around the block for a while can help separate your work and home life. If you have something to get off your chest, give yourself a bit of time to rant at your partner/friend/pet/wall - then leave it behind. You’ll feel a million times better the next day if you can shrug off any stresses and reclaim the evening for what makes you happy.
We hope these tips to getting a better work/life balance in 2021 and beyond have helpful. It really is all about being honest with yourself and your teammates. So often we put extra pressure on ourselves to be available and to perform. But, ultimately, all we are doing it failing to manage others’ expectations and neglecting our wellbeing- which rarely ends well. If you have a decent manager who is genuinely invested in your wellbeing, they should be on your side when it comes to finding a better work/life balance - especially if it is impacting negatively on your physical or mental health. Find what is the best approach for you and discuss it with your manager and team. You may be pleasantly surprised by how supportive and understanding they are. And, as we mentioned before, you might encourage them to improve their work/life balance too.
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