What is work-life balance and why is it important?

Wellness and work-life balance is something which is somewhat of a hot-topic at the moment. If you’re living and working in London you will 100% have heard this discussed in the Metro, on the tube or in the workplace. But why the hell is everyone talking about it?

What do Greece, Estonia, Slovenia & the Netherlands all have in common?

According to the Better Life Index they all have a better work-life balance than we do in the UK

work life balance
work life balance

I have Danish and Norweigan friends who find the concept of unpaid overtime absolutely unacceptable – verging on abhorrent but for city workers in particular – if you aren’t seen putting in the hours – you probably won’t be getting a promotion. When I started my new job moving from editorial to marketing was a big shift – I moved from a heavily female team to a heavily male one where coming in early and leaving  late was the norm. Right from the start I struggled with this – not only because my one and pretty much only hobby  (photography) is entirely dependent on natural light. If I’m in the office before it’s light and back when it’s dark it limited what I was able to d o outside of work hours.

Work Life Balance: The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life

I’m not alone in this, the OCED ran a comparison by country of work-life balance and coming out on top are Netherlands and Denmark where 0.4% and 2.2% of the population work ‘very long hours’ – compared to the UK where 12.8%.  Whilst we are making steps towards more flexible working in a bid to improve the number of female execs in companies it won’t really change until we actively do something about it.

With numerous studies linking longer working hours, higher stress levels, increasing likelihood of obesity and poorer health it’s in everyone’s best interest to work smarter not longer. The peer pressure in London offices not to ‘go home early’ – aka working your contracted hours not several hours overtime every night – is pretty bad. In Denmark it’s considered a mark of your inefficiency and lack of organization to stay longer – so why don’t we view this in the same way?

These are my suggestions on how to help restore the work life balance to your life:

Be Vocal

By this I don’t mean complain endlessly about the working hours – let’s be honest you probably signed away your rights to EU working hours when you signed your contract. Speak to your team about the work hours and be sure to take full advantage of any flexible working hours that you can. Make sure to set the expectation that you will be in work and leaving on time every day unless absolutely necessary.

Do things after work

Whether this is catching up with friends, visiting a museum on late evenings, join a book club, going shopping or popping to the gym. Resist the urge to slink home and binge watch episodes of Friends/ Game of Thrones/ Outlander / Sons of Anarchy / Greys Anatomy or whatever takes your fancy. For 2 reasons, binge watching isn’t a hobby – you will become a grey lifeless blog if all you do is watch TV (I’m in grey blob rehab currently so I speak from experience). Secondly doing something after work will give you a concrete purpose to leave on time and will elongate your evening.

Get a Life...

When I say this – you need to add things to your life which aren’t just work. Take a pottery class, learn calligraphy do something with your time that isn’t work or watching TV. Firstly this will give you something for the tip above and secondly because it will enrich your life. Having something else to add to the ‘life’ side of your work-life balance will make you feel more well rounded and hopefully happier. For me I couldn’t afford London’s class prices so I signed up to Skillshare for lessons in everything from food photography to basket weaving (30 days free or $0.99 for 3 months).

Work Smart NOT Long

There have been so many studies which show that the productivity of a workforce declines after a certain number of hours – remember school? There’s a reason the lessons were only for a limited amount of time on each subject – work shouldn’t be any different. Being super organised and efficient will allow you to delivery the results you need in much less time that ‘longer’ working peers. It’s all about the smart working – be super organized and the master of prioritization.