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Finding the correct work-life balance for you

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 16 Aug 2023

Work-life balance

When it comes to your job, it can be difficult for some to be able to draw a line between work life and personal life. Especially now we’re in a time where flexible working and working from home has become so popular. It can feel hard to say no and take the time you deserve for yourself. Whether that be because work feels too ‘busy’ or you’re a workaholic. Sometimes, overtime can be inevitable. However, it’s about finding balance so everyday doesn’t become a chore and focused around work. 

Everyone may have times like this in their career, where it’s buys and the only thing that feels important is work and developing your career. But it’s important to know when to say no and be able to separate work and life. Taking on too much all at once can have a significant effect on your health and even your ability to complete the work to your best ability. It’s even more important now to be able to take breaks, both long and short, to be able to have boundaries. Both aspects of your life should be highly prioritised, and it can take a bit of time and practice to get a schedule that works well for you.

How is it beneficial to you?

It’s not always easy to find the right balance between work and life, especially because sometimes it’s unavoidable to work a little later than usual. There are situations at work that can just result in a little overtime, whether that be staff shortages or big projects you’re working on. However, it’s not okay to get caught up in this cycle. Not only can it be bad for your mental and physical health, but the more you ‘put up with’ at work and don’t make your line manager aware of later days, the more it’s going to happen. Sometimes, they may not be 100% aware of the effects later days are having on their staff and others may not even know you’re working late. Especially if you work from home or flexibly. It can be even easier to work later hours if you love your job, bit don’t make it a habit. Not that working hard is a negative thing, but it can result in negative feelings towards your job later down the line. 

Burn out is a big problem. You need time at the end of the day to unwind and socialise with your friends and family, which means completely switching off work mode. If it becomes a normal thing to accidentally ignore the people in your life, you will feel the strain and so will your loved ones. Taking the time to unwind everyday and switch off may not prevent long-term burn out, but it can help you start to realise the benefits separating work and personal life can have. 

Prioritise your time

It can be a good idea to think ahead of time and plan out your tasks for the day. If you’re someone that finds it easy to get caught up in work and not take note of the time, having a list of priorities can help you keep on top of things and keep track of time. Organising your time and being prepared can not only make your day flow nicer but it can really help you realise how much work you are doing in one day or week. If not having enough time is an issue, this is something you should take up with your line manager. As hard as it may be to admit, this isn’t your problem. It’s their job to have enough staff and take care of their workforce. 

Make sure you take breaks in your workday. It can be easy to skip lunch or that tea break you were planning - especially if you think skipping this time will help you in the long run. But, you need personal time during working hours as well. You’re entitled to this time and you should feel able to take it. If there are things getting in the way, you may need to rethink your current work schedule. It can help if you take the time to add both personal and work plans are put into a diary of some sort. It can be easy to forget about major work events or something you planned with friends, especially when you may be tired. Eventually when it gets to it, you may just set the plans aside for a future time. Make sure this happens less, simply by planning in advance and prioritising your time well.

Stick to your set work hours

Not having set hours can catch a lot of professionals out. The rise of working remotely and flexible working have allowed us to take back some time from commutes, however, are you using this extra time wisely? Or are you just using this to catch up on work? You’d think this defeats the point. 

If you work for yourself, flexibly or remotely, having set work hours is just as important as if you were going into the workplace. Set a routine - have a designated start and finish time. If you feel like you’re going to be working later that day or week, try and prioritise the important tasks. You can ask your team members for help as well. And if it’s something you as a team are struggling with, talk to your line manager. You are only paid for so many hours, so why are you spending so many more working for free? It can have a dramatic effect on your personal life. 

Learn to art of saying no

If you’re someone that really doesn’t like letting people down, it can feel horrible saying no. Whether that be to taking on more work, helping our a colleague or staying late one day, saying no is something you’ll have to learn to do. Building healthy boundaries is the key here. I’m not saying you should always say no and never help the people around you, but saying no every now and again isn’t going to cause catastrophe. 

Also, saying yes all the time can potentially cause people to start taking advantage. They may come to you because you’re the person that always says yes. Being reliable is a great skill to have, but finding the right balance is going to help you improve your work-life balance. 

Be realistic

Make sure you are giving yourself realistic goals throughout the day. Don’t agree to take on a task that will take way more time than you have. (Unless it’s something that can be out on hold until tomorrow) It’s always good to push yourself at work, try new things and develop better relationships, but this shouldn’t come at a cost. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You’re only one person and no one is expecting you to do everything. If you feel this way, take it up with your line manager. Giving yourself goals that you can actually reach can really help work morale. 

Take a break

You may think you give yourself enough breaks during the year, but according to a post published with stats from The Guardian, more and more people are not taking their annual leave given to them by their employers. Many employees think that if they are taking time off work, they may leave them short-handed or they may be behind when they come back. Don’t feel like this, they shouldn’t penalise you for needing a break. It’s imperative to book time off, get yourself away from the work environment for more than just the weekend. Having plans will give you something to work towards as well, in some cases, helping to drive motivation. You need holiday time to sit back and relax a little, by relaxing your mind, you will refresh your concentration and allow yourself to work better when you come back to work. Your employer doesn’t have to make you take your holiday, so make sure you are doing it for your own benefit.

Finding the right work-life balance can be difficult, on either end of the scale. You should work during the set work hours but don’t be afraid to use your lunch break, by taking time away from your work activities you can take the time to eat a proper meal or have a walk. It’s important for you to turn away from work whilst you are at home as well. This can have positive effects on both your physical and mental state and will almost certainly help your personal relationships with friends and family. Make sure you are including everything you want to have in your life, don’t leave anything out because it may be inconvenient to your job.

Typically, engineers seem to benefit from their jobs and a vast majority enjoy their time spent at work. But it can be worth remembering that We should work to live, not live to work.