Work life balance: how to find your harmony between work and private life
Being able to combine work and private life, nowadays, is a very important need, able to decisively affect professional choices. Perhaps you have heard of “work life balance“, a concept that, in recent times, has acquired more and more centrality: this expression presupposes the need to be able to find a way to achieve an optimal balance between work and private life.
In the next lines you are about to find out why improving your work life balance is so important and what are the most useful tips to succeed in this increasingly difficult goal.
What is the work life balance
By “work-life balance” we mean, in more detail, the balance between the professional and private spheres. The first includes activities and objectives relating to a person’s career and work, while the second generally includes family and social relationships, free time and psycho-physical health.
It may now be useful to investigate when and how the concept of “work fife balance” was born: a very important date, in this sense, is 1832, the year in which the Factory Act was born in the United Kingdom, with laws studied ad hoc to identify a maximum number of working hours for women and children in the manufacturing industry. About 100 years later, in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act promoted in the United States of America determined the number of hours in the working week (44).
In the 1980s, however, it was the feminist movement, with its demands (from shorter working hours to maternity leave), that rekindled the spotlight on this particular issue. In the following years and, in particular, towards the end of the twentieth century, the demands on work life balance have extended to all workers and so companies have begun to activate specific programs in this direction.
In recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic and the growth of remote work have contributed to increasing attention on the importance of being able to combine private life and work, rekindling the debate on the needs of workers and the responsibilities of companies.
Why it is important to balance work and private life well
It has taken several years to gain awareness on such a sensitive topic, but now it should be clearer for everyone why it is so important to know and be able to balance work and private life.
As also certified by a study published in the prestigious journal ‘Nature‘ in 2017, taking a break from work is essential to avoid stress and depression and their potential negative consequences. The same study also refers to the concept of burnout, a particular syndrome related to work-related stress, which leads a person to the exhaustion of his or her psycho-physical resources and the manifestation of negative psychological symptoms with which physical problems may also be associated.
In the same year, a study published in the ‘European Hearth Journal‘ concluded that people who work long hours are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those who work standard hours. Similar conclusions were reached in a 2020 research published in the ‘European Journal of Preventive Cardiology‘, which suggested a correlation between work stress and some heart diseases.
Many experts have questioned the possibility that aspiring to find an optimal work-life balance may prove too difficult (if not impossible) a mission, capable of generating further frustration in the worker. For this reason, it may be more appropriate to think of work-life balance as an evolving, lifelong process.
Feeling overwhelmed by work, finding yourself working from home in the evenings or on weekends, not being able to spend quality time with your partner, children, or friends, losing too much time in the daily commute to work are all problems that can surface as you take stock of your work-life balance. Knowing how to remedy them is critical.
Examples of work-life balance
Before going on to examine the steps that can be taken individually to achieve a better work-life balance, it is appropriate to dwell on work-life balance initiatives that companies can take. For example, part-time work, remote work, parental leave, maternity leave, and paternity leave are work-life balance tools.
Some tips for finding your work-life balance
Beyond the initiatives taken by companies, each of us can implement some useful tricks to find a better work-life balance. These are general rules, but keep in mind that everyone has his or her own personal balance, and the key to success lies precisely in personal organizational skills.
Scheduling work activities is not always possible, but it is important to set daily and/or weekly deadlines and create boundaries for work in terms of time and space as well. Have you ever heard of the right to disconnect? This is the ability, outside of regular office hours, to be unavailable by “disconnecting” from the digital world.
Not responding to business calls at the dinner table or when you are playing together with your children might seem like an obvious piece of advice, but in daily practice even this “small” expedient can become complicated to implement.
The boom in home working related to the Covid-19 pandemic has made it much more difficult to “unplug“, but, again, stakes can be set, for example, by allocating a specific area of the house for the workstation, thus avoiding taking the computer to bed and extending working hours to “infinity”.
For those who work in offices, there are other issues: we refer, for example, to the home-office commute, which often takes away a significant portion of the day. In this case, too, the evaluation on the most appropriate expedients is very personal: there are, for example, those who might benefit from using this time to answer work e-mails, so as to be ready to start working as soon as in the office (of course, this discourse applies if one does not have to drive), while others might take advantage of the home-to-work commute to do some physical activity (running or cycling), thus optimizing time.
Learning to say “no” to new workloads and being able to assess the need to share the workload already accepted is very important: it is possible that there are other people within the company with different needs and, perhaps, wishing to be able to have more responsibilities, to whom it is possible to delegate some activities. For some, this may sound like an admission of defeat, but it is not: it is essential to question, from time to time, the meaning of what one is doing from a professional point of view and to ask oneself, above all, whether this is really making us satisfied and happy. Remember the words of Steve Jobs:
“Your work will take up a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do work that you consider to be great. And the only way to do a great job is to love what you do”.