The ultimate balancing act

Life is a balancing act. The main avenues of life, such as family, school, self-care and work, require time and attention. Unfortunately, trying to devote time to each aspect can be difficult, especially when one demands more time than the rest. 

The National Library of Medicine conducted a study in 2020. They found an excess of research explaining the need for work-family balance rather than work-life balance. This is largely due to the significant number of women that entered the workforce decades ago. 

However, work-life balance and work-family balance as interchangeable terms doesn’t cut it anymore. Now that women are free to make their own decisions, many are choosing not to have children. In addition, there’s been an increase in elderly workers needing time devoted to recovery from illness, disease and chronic pain. 

Nonetheless, those workers deserve work-life balance as well because self-care and health are just as important. The National Library of Medicine conducted a study. They found that health and family are rated as 25 per cent more important than other nonwork aspects. 

An all-encompassing definition of work-life balance is when a worker has the opportunity to prioritize nonwork and work aspects equally. 

In 2021, the Mental Health Foundation defined the requirements of a healthy work-life balance. They said it involves meeting deadlines at work while still having relationships with peers and getting enough sleep. It also means having the resources and time for a good diet and not worrying about work at home. 

Prioritization can change based on what is more important at the time. For example, a worker may be facing significant mental health challenges. A work-life balance would include prioritizing mental health to function better on the job and in their daily life. 

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research conducted a study. It confirmed there is a significant link between personal well-being and work-life balance. When one starts to plummet, the other does too.

Juggling many roles at work and home can cause anxiety, fatigue and extreme stress. It can also cause damage to physical health when prevalent for long periods of time, causing idleness at home. But if a worker is content with their job, they are more likely to be happy and energetic at home. 

The study also notes that an imbalanced work-life dynamic disturbs productivity levels. That is due to the fact that general well-being becomes damaged from overload and pressure. Workers are aware of this, with 53 per cent saying they believe their work is negatively affected by poor mental health. 

Managers play a significant role in curbing an imbalanced work-life dynamic. It is encouraged to create an environment where employees feel free to voice their concerns. Leadership should be trained to notice stress in themselves. Staff should also allow employees to attend therapy during work hours as they would with doctor appointments. 

Fortunately, a healthy work-life balance is not fully dependent on leadership decisions. Employees can also do a few things to help themselves. The Mental Health Foundation has a few suggestions. They include prioritizing productive tasks, assigning a selected time for tasks and researching workers’ rights in your province. The latter allows a better understanding of the appropriate amount of work hours, policy and sick pay. 

For those working in Ontario, refer to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act

Harvard Business Review explains that achieving a work-life balance requires constant reflection. This reflection should include how a worker feels in their work environment and at home. This also includes reflecting on how one feels during their job. And asking questions about what aspects are tolerable or intolerable to form healthy boundaries at work. 

An important component of Harvard’s five-step process includes implementing changes where necessary. Harvard says that making public changes like switching to a less demanding position is effective in changing your tasks as well as expectations from colleagues. In contrast, private changes look like adjusting personal work patterns, such as how much time to assign to a task. 

At the end of the day, health is a key priority for everyone. Although a work-life balance requires continuous effort, it is worth maintaining a stable personal well-being.

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