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Is it possible to find the right work-life balance?

How do you make sure to leave your work at the office so you can be 100% present with the family? And is that even an option anymore, as more and more people discover the advantages of working from home? Work-life balance is one of today's biggest buzzwords, and in this article, LINAK would like to give our take on the trend.

Woman at home office

First, it is important to emphasize that the right work-life balance is very individual – the right balance for you may leave your closest co-worker unbalanced. When speaking of a traditional definition of work-life balance, it refers to the level of prioritization between personal and professional activities in an individual’s life and the level to which activities related to their job are present in the home.

Throughout the past years there has been an enhanced focus on work-life balance. Modern technology has made it much easier for employees to constantly be at work, blurring the distinction between professional and personal life. Working from home has become more common, which has shown to have a positive impact on the work-life balance of many employees.

 

Is a work-life balance just an illusion?

In 2018, the Danish philosopher and businessman, Morten Albæk, published a book, which highlighted the growing challenge of finding a balance. According to Morten Albæk, it is an illusion when we look for a so-called work-life balance and think we can split ourselves into the work person, the leisure person, and the family person. He states that we are only one human being with one life, and the time we have available is the same no matter how it is managed. So, according to him, work-life balance is really a matter of merging all “our persons” into one – and accepting that factors from each of them will affect the others.

Human personalities merging
 

He may have a point, nevertheless a survey by Gartner shows that US employees in general now value a good work-life balance more than the health benefits offered by their employer. In fact, 72% of employees consider work-life balance to be very important when looking for a new job. This should be a wakeup call for companies that believe a good healthcare package alone is enough to retain their workers.

 

The impact of work-life balance

When talking about work-life balance, several factors come into play. First, the flexibility of a hybrid workplace can be crucial. 73% of US employees, who work from home, say they enjoy a better work-life balance compared to when they worked on-site. The top reason cited was more time to spend with their families. Furthermore, they also said that working from home enables them to better balance their personal and professional lives. They are more productive thanks to, for instance, fewer interruptions, more focused time, and a quieter work environment.

Another important factor for work-life balance is the matter of staying healthy while working. A poor work-life balance and long hours at the office can affect your health negatively. Ergonomics while working must also be taken into consideration. If you experience pain caused by your working positions, this discomfort will most likely also affect your personal life. Make sure that you do not put stress on your body by using it wrongly – or not using it at all. For office workers, a height-adjustable desk makes a big difference – no matter whether working from home or at the office.

Home office sit-stand desk
 

Work-life balance across borders

When looking around the world, there is a huge difference in our satisfaction with our daily work-life balance. Dutch workers are the true Masters of work-life balance, scoring an impressive 9.5 rating out of 10 in the OECD Better Life Index. Italy is the second runner-up, and Denmark is in third place with a score of 9 out of 10, whereas 60% of Americans say they have a poor work-life balance, mostly due to a lack of boundaries between work and home life. This leaves US workers with the 12th worst work-life balance out of the countries in the study.

 

How to achieve a good work-life balance

As stated at the beginning, it may be difficult – and even impossible – to split yourself into the working person and the family person, and there is no doubt that the level of complexity in doing so depends very much on your type of work. However, there are some things you can do to create a balance in life.

  • Initially, you will need to acknowledge that you cannot achieve it all at once. You will have to make some choices to create balance in your everyday life. 
  • Have a talk with your manager and colleagues to align expectations. Set some boundaries for when you work and when you do not work. This could be regarding answering emails and phone calls outside of business hours or when you are off work due to vacation or illness. 
  • If you have a partner, it is important that you talk to him/her about how you can organize your life with respect to each other's jobs and resources. It is a good idea to find common ground that you are both comfortable with. In this way, you will develop some good routines to solve all the practicalities of everyday life together. 
  • Make time for yourself and your own hobbies.
  • Make sure you get a good night's sleep. 
  • If you have a home office, make sure to keep it secluded from the rest of the house so it is possible for you to "walk out of the office" even when you are at home. 
  • Also make sure that the office is arranged so you feel comfortable and relaxed – and so you can change your working position during the day. Read more here on the importance of a healthy workday. 
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