4 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance

How to Create a Better Work-Life Balance for Yourself

There’s more to life than work, but work plays a big role in enabling us to live the life we want. In today’s ever-connected world, it can be difficult to unplug and step away from work. To illustrate, a June 2022 Glassdoor survey of more than 20,000 U.S. professionals found 54% said they’re not able to unplug from work while on paid time off.

Yet most people want a better work-life balance. A 2021 FlexJobs survey of 4,600 workers found the number one reason people want to change careers is to find a better work-life balance, cited by 56% of respondents. It’s even a more prevalent desire than a higher salary.

The good news is, there are some things you can do to take control of the state of your work-life balance. While employers should offer reasonable workloads, health benefits and paid time off, here are some things you can do to improve your own work-life balance.

1. Clock Out

Your most precious commodity is your time, because you only have so much of it. It’s up to you how you want to spend your time – working round-the-clock, or dedicating it to your loved ones or your passions.

You should have a clear understanding of your expected work hours and schedule. If your job demands that you’re available for communication 24/7, it’s worth considering if that’s a role you truly want.

Otherwise, you should feel comfortable turning off work notifications when you’ve stepped away from work, unless you know you’re expected to respond. Like other areas of life, it’s good for your mental (and physical) health to set boundaries with your employer.

2. Take Time Off

Speaking of clocking out, don’t let your paid time off go to waste. Some companies only provide “use it or lose it” days. If that’s the case, make sure you plan time off and schedule it with your manager. Feel free to completely unplug on your paid time off. That’s your right, and you shouldn’t have to worry about doing so.

If your company rolls over unused paid time off, be cautious of doing this too much. You may never get around to using all your accrued time off, or it may be difficult on you and your employer if you try to take a lot of time off at once.

Some people choose to schedule “me days” where they don’t take a vacation, but rather just take a personal mental health day. Choose what works best for you.

3. Ask for What You Want

A top desire of professionals today is the ability to work where you want, on the schedule you want. A June 2021 survey of 10,000 knowledge workers by Future Forum found 93% of professionals want flexibility in how and when they work.

If full-time remote work and/or the ability to choose your own schedule aren’t available at your employer, it’s still worth expressing your desires to your manager. Your employer can’t read your mind. But if you want to work remotely at least once or twice a week, they may be willing to work with you. Same goes if you’d rather come in early on Fridays and leave early, too. It never hurts to ask.

Retaining you as an employee is in your employer’s best interest, as employee turnover is expensive. When you assertively and politely express what your employer can do to make working for them a better experience for you, you may be surprised at the results you can get from a simple conversation.

4. Say No

Some causes of job burnout include resentment and being overworked. Prevent yourself from getting in a situation like this by embracing the answer “no” when you’re asked if you’d be willing to do something you’re not comfortable doing.

For example, some questions you could say “no” to include:

  • Would you stay late and work for no overtime pay?
  • Would you take on an extra project that will require extra work hours but not provide compensation?
  • Would you train this person while still getting your full-time job duties done?
  • Would you be available by email and phone while you’re on vacation or paid time off?
  • Would you take on this advanced title without a raise?
  • Would you agree to this quick turnaround deadline that is likely to create stress and tension?
  • Would you attend this meeting during your break time?

It can be tempting to say “yes” to questions like these when you want to advance your career. But when you do this, you face a risk of professional scope creep. An employer or manager may expect you to continue to say yes, including to escalating demands.

Again, feel comfortable and confident in setting a boundary. When you say no, you can frame your response in a way that benefits the employer.

For example, say your manager asks you if you can take on a complicated project and turn it in by the end of the week. You know the work required means you’ll probably have to stay in late and come in early.

Rather than saying yes, you could say, “I don’t want the quality of the work to suffer for you by rushing through this important project. An extra week will enable me to focus and ensure all of my other expectations are met.”

That sets up a realistic expectation for your employer, gives you the time you need and prevents you from being overloaded now and in the future.

Work-Life Balance Matters

As we’ve covered in 10 Ways Your Job Could Literally Be Killing You, when you don’t have work-life balance, that can hurt your physical, mental and emotional health. When the stress of your job is shortening your lifespan, it may be worth considering if it’s the right role and employer for you.

Of course, a paycheck enables us to live, and saving for retirement is another important goal to have. If your salary alone is keeping you at your job, it may be time to start looking for a role with a comparable paycheck so you can quit your job or consider ways you can decrease expenses and find work that’s more meaningful to your work-life balance.

If you’re unsure of where to start, we can help. Contact us for a free consultation on our career coaching services. We offer life coaching, too.

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