I have always found the phrase work-life balance to be a little misleading. The immediate thought that comes to mind is a set of scales, evenly weighted on both sides, but that implies some sort of 50:50 split of time, energy etc, and I don’t know many people whose lives are divided up that way.
Finding your work-life balance is about knowing what is important to you and what you want to achieve and making active choices about how to allocate the time you have to make this happen. The one thing we can’t do in life is make more time, what we can do though is ensure we are using our time in the most valuable way possible for us.
What do the statistics say?
An OECD survey estimated that a full time worker devotes 48% of their week to work related activities, leaving them an average 15 hours a day for personal care and leisure. That said the average working hours in the UK is on the increase with more than 13% of the population working 49 hours or more a week.
When we talk about work-life balance we mostly think about juggling child care, However now over 3 million people juggle care for sick and elderly relatives with work. In society now we have a lot more working carers, who are trying to provide for themselves and their immediate families but who also have elderly parents who require time and attention. Problematically the demands of caring means that 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up work altogether as they are unable to balance all their responsibilities. A more flexible approach to working from employers is key here.
Finding your work-life balance
So when it comes to finding your work-life balance there are often a lot of “shoulds” floating around. The working mum who feels that they should work full time, the working father who thinks he should provide for his family by working long hours. Societal norms and cultural expectations can put pressure on us. When I run my resilience workshops the word “guilt” comes up on a regular basis when discussing what participants feel they “should” be doing with their time.
Our work-life balance changes over time and depends on our own personal situation. As a 50 something woman I have friends who are looking to retire very soon, others who will never retire because they love working, others who can’t afford to retire and who are looking to find a way to work for the next decade without burning themselves out. I am lucky, I know what matters to me and so what to prioritize. At the moment I have family to care for, a living to earn and a purpose to fulfil (through work and volunteering). I also make sure there is fun and laughter in my life, not easy to balance at times but I am certain that these are the most important things in my life.
Take a moment …..
So if you want to find your work life balance take time today to stop and think:
1. What is important to me and my life?
2. Does my work-life balance reflect this?
3. If not how could it be better?
4. What can I do to start working towards my new life balance?
Then have the confidence and belief to know it is within your control to make any changes you need to get you closer to the balance you are looking for. Finding your work-life balance is about making the right choices for you and what matters to you. Take your first steps today, you won’t regret it !