Re-defining work/life balance

Stressed employee

Work/life balance used to mean leaving the office on time, not taking work home at the weekend and switching off the mobile after-hours. For some it still does. But in the majority of cases today, work/life balance is less about a division between what is and what is not work and more about a flexible approach to working.

Driven by rapid innovation in technology, the ability to work flexibly has increased significantly in recent years. Whether it’s accessing emails on the go or using remote working software to connect with colleagues from home, the possibilities are endless. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say achieving the optimum work/life balance is any easier but it does put us as individuals in greater control.

Control’s an important word because the only person that can really help us achieve work/life balance is ourselves. All too often however we make the mistake of thinking we’re capable of constantly delivering 100 per cent in both our working and personal lives. That’s fine when everything runs smoothly and to plan but how often does that actually happen? Without any buffer, when an issue crops up in business that requires immediate attention, it involves stealing time from elsewhere such as time with family or friends. That’s fine every now and then but working full pelt long-term throws our lives out of balance and leads relationships with family, our health and even our personal interests to suffer.

Building ‘buffer’ time into our working days can prevent this from happening but that’s just the start when it comes to achieving constant balance. To maintain balance you need to take a long-hard look at yourself and how you work.  For example, are you really effective Monday to Friday? Unlikely. So when you are you at your best?  Is it in the mornings or are you better in the afternoons when you’ve had time to settle in? Are you a night owl and prefer to work later in the day when the office is quieter? How about the working week? Do you make better decisions Monday to Wednesday and start to lag later in the week?

Once you’ve answered these questions take a look at your working week and get critical. For example, if you find you’re able to plough through your ‘to do’ list in the afternoons is it really best use of your time to sit in a three-hour long meeting every Wednesday afternoon? If you start to lag later in the week is it wise to have important financial meetings on a Friday morning? Probably not, so start to rejig your appointments and find a structure that works best for you. Once you know what works, share that insight with your colleagues so they know when best to book-in meetings and appointments with you.

You’ll be amazed at how embracing this approach both improves your ability to strike a work/life balance and get more done. That’s because striking a work/life balance today is about flexible working. And that doesn’t just mean making the most of technology to work when you want. It means recognising we’re unable to give 100 per cent all of the time and establishing a personal routine that helps us balance long-term the work and personal demands we face.