We’ve found some themes when it comes to getting work done while remaining happy humans.
Finding work life balance does not just benefit you, it will also improve the business you work for. This was proven as far back as Henry Ford who shortened the working day for is employees to 8 hours only to find productivity and safety improved. The shorter week was so successful it was incorporated into ‘The New Deal’ America’s plan for recovery from the Great Depression.
Getting bang back up to date, today it’s not uncommon for us to spend long periods at a desk (or in the lab), start early, finish late, skip breaks and eat at your desk? Is this familiar? If it is, this is how finding work/life balance can help:
- Increased productivity: it wasn’t just Henry Ford who found reduced working hours increased productivity, study after study has shown the same result. A study by the Corporate Executive Board who represent many Fortune 500 companies found workers who believed they had a better work life balance were likely to work 21% harder than those that don’t.
- Reduced staff turnover: this is key particularly in a growing economy where employees are planning to move jobs. By providing people with whatever they need to manage their lives outside of work will make them less likely to leave. It’s not just the cost of the person leaving you need to consider either, recruiting is an expensive business too.
- Increased engagement: we bet if you think about the best people in your company they are the ones who are engaged, regularly pitch in with ideas and are excited about where the business is going. Finding good work/life balance helps your more easily manage life outside work so your headspace is taken up by the task at hand than who’s going to collect the children if they have to stay late again.
So what can you do to get better work life balance?
Get organised: the first step is to get your desk, inbox and task list ordered and organised. Pick a Friday afternoon if it is likely to be quieter and start. Go through all the notes and paper on your desk and bin anything you don’t need or haven’t used.
Email is one of the biggest time sucks in an office environment. If your role allows try only check them twice a day. Set up an automatic reply with an email saying this and offering a phone number if their query is urgent. You will be surprised by how few calls you receive.
Finally look at your task list and divide them into green, amber and red. The green things must be done now, the amber soon and the red can wait. You will need to review these regularly so that a red task doesn’t change to a green with the passing of time
- Take breaks: we know it may seem counter intuitive when you have too much to do but taking a break really will help you get tasks completed quicker. There are two types of break you need to take over the day:
a. Break from computer screen: if you work at a computer remember to take regular breaks to prevent eye strain and the headaches that it can lead to. It’s called the 20-20-20 rule, it’s easy and only takes a few seconds. Every 20 minutes look away from your screen at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
b. Break from tasks: if you have got into the habit of eating at your desk try to stop. You will be much more productive if you take some time out and come back to the task afterwards. If taking a break at lunch isn’t viable, work with your manager to find another time where you can. Even if it is just 30 minutes try and get some fresh air and let your mind wander. Something that may have seemed over whelming might appear more manageable or even better, you may think of a better way to do it!
- Focus on one thing: multi-talking is more of a concept than a reality, while it sounds brilliant in today’s fast moving world our studies show it rarely works. The human brain is not geared up for it (whether you are a man or a woman). Instead focus on completing one task at a time.
- Talk to management: we know it isn’t always possible but see if more flexible working hours are an option, can you come in later and stay late or come in early and leave a little earlier. Is working from home an option? Even a day or two a week? Having this options is useful for parents and days when you are expecting a delivery or need to be at home for one reason or another but don’t need an entire day off.
- Exercise: one of the first things to suffer when we get busy at work is our exercise routines. Wrecked after the day – go straight home instead of hitting the gym. But exercise benefits us in two ways when it comes to work life balance. Exercise helps the management of stress and self-efficacy which is our own belief that we can get things done. Exercising after work is good, exercise before work is better. Although dragging yourself out of bed is painful on a dark morning. It is well worth it when you arrive in awake and ready to face the day. It doesn’t have to be expensive or take much time. Follow a YouTube HIIT session in your kitchen for 15min in the morning. After a few weeks you are likely to feel and hopefully see the difference.
- Meditate: there’s an Eastern saying “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day, unless you are too busy then you should sit for an hour”. Like exercise making time for meditation every day will help with stress management, help you stay focused and feel more confident so you get your work done quickly and effectively.