Updated: May 11
When you work in the same physical space that you eat, sleep and watch Netflix in, finding the right balance between work and everyday life can be a challenge. All too often, the boundaries begin to blur, and we find ourselves torn between the two.
Whether you’re in the field of marketing, app design or costume-making, it’s not uncommon to find yourself working till later than planned or replying to emails at unseemly hours. The question is: How can we maintain a healthy balance between our professional lives and our personal lives?
How can we keep developing our careers, while fully tending to ourselves, our families and our loved ones? The road to a good work-life balance may be long and twisted, but the following work-life balance tips can help you attain your goals.
What is work-life balance, and why is it important?
Work-life balance refers to the way in which people prioritize their time and effort between professional and personal obligations. It’s not necessarily about evenly distributing your time, but rather creating a lifestyle in which you’re not overworking. A good work-life balance will leave you with enough time and energy to focus on your personal life, making sure to see friends, enjoy time alone, do things you enjoy, and so on.
There are many factors that could impact your work-life balance. For example, your boss’ demands, family obligations, and responsibilities both at work and at home. Some of these are easier to control, whereas others may be a result of different life circumstances that are not necessarily only up to you.
Finding a healthy work-life balance is highly important to your overall well-being. It can reduce stress levels and the risk of burnout or creative block. In addition, employees who are satisfied with their work-life balance are likely to be happier at work, resulting in improved performance, productivity and commitment.
As a manager, promoting a healthy work-life balance within your team can be a good way to support employees while working remotely.
Tips on how to balance work and life
Set specific work hours
Make post-work plans
Determine achievable goals
Take proper breaks
Create a designated workspace
Be good to yourself
Get dressed for work
1. Set specific work hours
Overworking is highly common, particularly in certain industries and professions. But even in those cases, the moment you head home generally signifies the end of the workday. As a remote worker operating from home, you don’t have that same opportunity of moving from one space to another, giving you the chance to physically disengage from your job.
Even if you’ve transferred from the desk to the couch or kitchen, your computer is likely to be just a few steps away. When working from home, one of the best time management tips is to set specific work hours - and make sure your teammates and manager are also aware of them. Notify your colleagues, or mark in your hours on a shared calendar app.
This way, you’re less likely to receive emails and meeting proposals during your non-work hours. Decide when you want to start and end each day. Factor in your lunch break and other personal responsibilities, like taking your dog for a walk or cooking for your family. This will lead to a more realistic schedule, helping you stick to your work hours successfully.
2. Make post-work plans
Even with a strict work schedule, it’s all too easy to find yourself getting caught up in your task and working extra hours. Knowing when to let go and continue tomorrow isn’t always easy. Making plans for the end of your workday can be a good solution for this.
Unless there’s a task that absolutely needs to be completed today, deciding on a plan for a specific time can help you shift from work-mode to you-mode. Whether you plan to meet friends, attend a yoga class, or try out a new baking craze, focusing on personal time can also be crucial to your overall well-being and help result in a positive work-life balance.
3. Determine achievable goals
Take a look at your day and week ahead. Ask yourself what your priorities are at work: Do you have any specific deadlines?
What are the must-haves and the nice-to-haves? Once you have an idea of what you need to work on this week, you’ll be able to set your goals and plan out your days. Try to make your goals as realistic as possible to increase the chances of actually sticking to them. There are plenty of time management apps out there that can help with this. In turn, you’ll be more likely to adhere to deadlines and improve your productivity, giving you time to focus on other aspects of your life.
While you don’t need to write down specific goals regarding your personal life, it’s always a good idea to take a moment to think about what you want to achieve. Is there anything you’d like to accomplish today, or this week? Perhaps you’ve been meaning to catch up with a friend, work on an arts and crafts project, read a book, or do something else that brings you joy.
4. Take proper breaks
When working from home you may not have colleagues around with whom to take coffee breaks, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t indulge in proper breaks from work. Giving yourself the time to step away from your desk is vital for your work and life balance.
Removing yourself from your duties can also be a good way to deal with stress at work. It will give you the breather you need to revitalize and look at your tasks with a fresh mind. You may also find that taking breaks will help you be more productive. If possible, set a dedicated time for your lunch break, and do your best to disconnect during this time.
You can also take mini breaks every hour or so, in order to take a short walk, stretch, or even utilize the time to do personal chores if you find that useful.
5. Create a designated workspace
As freelancers will know, working from home isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem. The chances are, you won’t be sitting on your bed with a cup of matcha latte in your hand, surrounded by boho-chic decor. In fact, if you want to successfully balance work and life, it’s probably not the best idea to work from your bed. Instead, locate an appropriate spot at home in which you can set up your office.
Having a place at home that is exclusively for working will help you distinguish between work and leisure, making this an important working from home tip. It’s generally recommended to avoid working in a place you strongly associate with relaxation, such as your couch or bedroom. Although you may not have a dedicated spare room, do your best to create a workspace that feels comfortable for you.
If you’re working from your kitchen table or sharing a desk with someone else, try to keep your space clean and organized to avoid distractions. Your work environment should get you in the right mood, so make sure you have everything you need, from a pen and notebook to headphones for listening to productivity music or taking part in an online event.
6. Be good to yourself
With so many responsibilities, being good to yourself can sometimes be the last thing on your to-do list. However, remind yourself that prioritizing your own well-being is important from many aspects. If you feel happier and more satisfied, the chances are you’ll be a better employee, as well as a better friend, partner, parent, and so on.
On top of accepting that you won’t always know how to balance work and life in the best possible way, there are a few practical things you can do to try to be good to yourself. Firstly, give yourself time to unwind after work, which is particularly important since you don’t have that travel time from the office to home. In addition, don’t be afraid to unplug.
Put away your smartphone, disconnect from the outside world, and let yourself relax and decompress. Lastly, allocate time for yourself and your loved ones. While you don’t have a never-ending amount of time, try to at least find small slots in which you can maintain relationships and treat yourself to something you enjoy.
7. Get dressed for work
You may not be leaving the house, but that doesn’t mean that you should be in your pajamas all day. Switching from home clothes to work clothes can also help you make that mental shift, getting you in the right state of mind to work - or relax.
There’s no need to wear a three piece suit, or even put your shoes on, but you may find that physically preparing yourself for the day ahead will also prepare you mentally. Treat your home office as a real work environment.
Some people find it helpful to separate between work clothes and home clothes. Once your workday is over, try changing your outfit to clearly mark the end of your work responsibilities and the beginning of your personal time.
8. Accept imperfection
While there are plenty of work-life balance tips to help you reach your lifestyle goals, the reality is that you can’t always expect your two worlds not to bleed into one another. You can do your best, but ultimately, there are never-ending factors that can impact your work-life balance, such as your type of job, work hours, family situation and more.
Sometimes, you need to accept that the separation between work and life won’t always be ideal. Your expectations won’t always live up to reality. You could find yourself having to answer a work call while spending time with your children, or responding to an important email as you sit down for your long-awaited date-night with your partner.
As well as taking into account the tips above, be realistic. Ask yourself where you can let go a bit, without risking your job, or harming your relationship. For example, can you set boundaries with your potentially overworking manager or adapt the way chores are done at home? Whatever agreements you come to with the people around you, make sure you’re tending to your own needs and being realistic with yourself.
A perfect work-life balance may not be attainable a hundred percent of the time and the constant search for it can be exhausting, so allow yourself to embrace imperfection every now and again.