Let's change National Work Life Week to LIFE Work Week
This week is National Work Life Week, run by the charity Working Families, and aims to open up discussions between employees and employers on how best to care for employees’ wellbeing at work, their work life balance and, crucially, how to create a workplace that enables everyone to thrive at work as well at home.
Being somewhat obsessed with wellbeing at work and after experiencing very poor wellbeing in a previous company I am rather invested in this week (& that’s putting it mildly)
However, I want to start by addressing the language we use with work life balance. Life should come first. Always.
That brings me to my first point - the language we use around work, career, confidence, health, wellbeing etc can be incredibly detrimental to our mental health especially if we continue to use negative language as we will continue to facilitate negative working practices and reinforce negative mindsets.
Therefore, my first tip this week, is to check the language you are using and let’s turn this into National LIFE Work Week. After all, our work facilitates our lives and when we do what we love at work this enhances our life. Especially when our career becomes our vocation, when we make lifelong friends through our workplaces and when we find a deeper purpose through our work.
Ok Ok - what about this elusive ‘balance’ that we constantly crave?
Ah – the answer to that would make me a millionaire – if it worked of course. There are so many articles, talks, quick fixes, tips on how to gain life work balance. A quick search comes up with 11,290,000,000 and life work balance threw up 11,530,000,000 results (so just a few then)
If you are like me, you may feel that you have tried at least half of these suggestions / tips. Interestingly that could be part of our struggle as we tend to try things and if we don’t have that instant balance then we discard them.
We also have a tendency to take on so many tips or fixes that we end up feeling overwhelmed, not following through and giving up entirely.
I prefer to see this as a long-term aim for a life work balance especially as more and more of us move to hybrid working patterns with more flexibility.
Whether you are working from home even just one day a month or back at your place of work we still need a balance between work and life. For my clients and I that starts with setting boundaries around both and creating working patterns and lifestyle routines that we work on day in day out for the long-term gains.
Even though this week is primarily aimed at working parents we all struggle with life work balance as we often find it difficult to switch off – there is always one last thing that needs to be done. Obviously, that ‘need’ is often just in our minds – we are masters at putting pressure on ourselves to complete things, when really, we should be turning our attention onto ourselves, our health, our rest – our wellbeing.
The other side of this double-edged sword is the difficulty in switching on into ‘work mode’. Several of my clients are welcoming the return to their workplace as this helps them get into a work mindset. They’ve found their commute has helped them wind up into work and, at the end of the day, wind down from work. One even said that the simple act of putting on her work clothes rather than home working clothes (aka leggings) really helped get her out of her procrastination rut.
I’ve had clients who are now working from home go on a pretend commute each morning to get into their working headspace.
Others have sat in their cars to have important meetings as there are less distractions in terms of family etc.
For many people being in the same room as colleagues has really helped them re-build working relationships and enabled them to feel more focused on work as well as more involved in what is going on.
If you are struggling to create that balance, then I encourage you to try one way – just one – and stick at it over time. Make it a habit so that it becomes second nature whether that’s a walk & talk meeting rather than an at-desk video call, eating your lunch away from your desk, taking a full break, or ensuring you completely shut down your computer once you have finished work
There are few ‘quick fixes’ to creating that perfect balance however, this will be different for each and every one of us. When clients come to me with this struggle, I ask them the following key questions to help them discover what their ideal balance:
What does life work balance look/feel like to you in an ideal world?
What changes do you need to make to gain that- long and short term?
What small can you take today to gain more balance?
It’s amazing to see how people have a lightbulb moment with this and realise that by setting and sticking to strict work boundaries, creating a morning and afternoon routine and having some open conversations with their managers how much progress they can make and how happier they become.
For the self-employed amongst us those boundaries are key to keeping perspective and not getting bogged down in being consumed with work. I will be using the week and beyond to stick to the rules I keep saying I ‘should’ do:
A lunch break away from my laptop
Getting outside especially at the end of my working day to wind down and switch off
Reducing screen time in the evenings by reading instead
Here's my challenge to you what one thing will you be doing this week and beyond to regain that life work balance?