Managing Work Demands: A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Written by: Jacqueline Osgood-Renouard – BA
(Psychology)

Last updated date : March 23, 2022

Managing our work demands can feel like swimming against the current of our personal lives. Then we start to wonder if a healthy work-life balance is what we need and instantly picture a perfect scale set at 50/50.

Through this pandemic, many have needed to shift to an alternative workstyle, working from home. And unless your time management skills are fabulous, the likely result of that has been people forgetting to eat lunch, working strange or longer hours.

Even those who still go to work are seeing a shift. As companies cut their employees and those who remain are forced to take on a triple workload. So, how do we create balance? Is it even possible to have a work-life balance in this era? Let’s find out together.

Chapter 1:
What Does Work-Life Balance Really Mean?

To some people, it means more time, others more creative freedom, spending time with the family, or managing easier work demands. But, the reality is that finding out what a healthy work-life balance is won’t be the same for every individual.

While one person might work ten hours a day but feel that the balance is there, another will work eight and feel the balance is off. There’s no such thing as a standard practise or routine that will make everyone feel that sense of harmony.

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Chapter 2:
Understanding Your Definitions

It’s time to ask yourself what balance looks like to you and why you feel the balance is off-kilter at the moment. What needs aren’t currently being met?

We can advise you to exercise more, eat a balanced diet, switch off your devices, and spend time with your loved ones – but is that really the answer you’re looking for?

Ask yourself this, have I ever had a job where I’ve felt the balance was good? How does that job compare to what I’m doing now? Also, importantly, were the hours any different?

You may find that the number of hours you clocked in wasn’t the issue that made this imbalance; in a few, it will be. But, perhaps that imbalance arises from a far more complex place, areas like job fulfilment, finding meaning in what you do, and being harmoniously yourself in your career.

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Chapter 3:
Time Is the Key – But Perhaps Not in the Way You Think

Many of us have a life outside of work and an almost whole other personality at work. Our time is split, maybe unevenly, between being like Clark Kent and Superman. If we begin to feel that our time at work is entirely unrelated to who we are at home, that’s when the balance starts to feel off.

For example, if your value in life is to protect the planet and you work for a company that seeks explicitly to destroy it, managing work demands everyday can feel entirely out of whack. As a result, you’ll begin to see a decrease in motivation while feeling that you’re wasting your time.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value” – Albert Einstein.

Finding purpose in what we do is an excellent step in the right direction. Ask yourself if you see how your role fits the bigger picture or if you see an incredible future ahead of you?

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Chapter 4:
Invisible Corporate Ladders

There are still some organisations where you can still start at the bottom and strive your way to the top, don’t get me wrong. But, the reality is that this is a fading concept as businesses change. So, some of us might be striving for success and that fabulous pay raise, when really, you’re just making the CEO rich.

When people start seeing this, they begin to step back from their careers and focus more on the family. But, what if success has a different definition than the one we’ve grown up believing? What if finding a job we feel is worthwhile and making time for outside of work activities is a better definition of success?

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Chapter 5:
Healthy Work-Life Balance Examples

Let’s take a look at what a work-life balance or managing work demands effectively could mean to a range of different people. Of course, everyone is different, and if your idea of what a healthy work-life balance is isn’t there, try not to feel discouraged – you’re allowed to define it for yourself.

  • Having more time to spend with loved ones
  • A truly fulfilling career
  • Engaging with your community
  • More flexibility to do what you want within your work
  • Getting along with your team well
  • Your values and who you are are aligned with your job
  • Bringing your authentic self to work
  • Creating multiple revenue streams so that you can leave corporate jobs
  • Planning day-to-day activities better
  • Paid vacations, paternity and maternity leave (and the amount of time you’d prefer)
  • Sense of freedom and purpose in what you do
  • Time for physical and mental health
  • An environment that doesn’t encourage burnout
  • Being able to get the right amount of sleep
  • Not feeling anxiety or depression when thinking of work
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Chapter 6:
Mental Health Aspects

A scientific study of 1416 employees from seven different cultures showed that a healthy work-life balance correlated to an increase in job and life satisfaction and reduced anxiety and depression.

Many people suffer from severe forms of anxiety, and it correlates with the lack of distinction between managing work demands and home. We need to begin to learn to work from home as if we were in an office, giving ourselves breaks and switching off devices when work is done.

Creating these schedules for ourselves is part of creating boundaries which we will discuss below. If a boss or job requires you to be on-call 24/7, it will be challenging to achieve a sense of balance.

But if more people speak up about this issue, sit their bosses down and explain the benefits to their bottom line to have motivated, happy, and productive teams, we may begin to see change.

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Chapter 7:
How to Begin Shaping Work-Life Balance

Discover Yourself

Introspection, looking within ourselves, is paramount to understanding what we need. Begin by setting a few moments in the day to write down what you want from a career. Then, write down everything that would provide that work-life balance, who you want to spend your time with, what you want to create or do.

Then, ask yourself some inquisitive questions to get to know yourself. For example, does this job make me happy or depressed? Why does it? Are there some small steps I can take within the company to improve things? If not, is there an action plan I can put in place to make my situation better?

Planning

Whether you want to stay at your job, make changes from within, or move on to another, plan it. Seek out your desired future and think about how you’re going to make it happen. Focus on managing work demands that ignite your curiosity and passion. Then, consider what may be holding you back emotionally from that future. Sometimes we hold onto past events that haven’t been dealt with, which lead us to make poor career planning.

For example, if you grew up in an environment where the focus was on helping others and letting them into your home too much, you may allow jobs to take advantage of your talents as an adult. While helping others is a wonderful quality, you would need to learn your incredible worth.

Get Creative with Solutions

In schools, we are taught that the right career is to become a lawyer, doctor, or something to that effect. But, nobody learns that you should do what aligns with your interests, personality, and value as a person. For example, do you value saving lives for a doctor, or do you love helping people in court?

There are so many ways to earn money that can align with your purpose, so get creative in finding the right solution for you.

Voicing Your Needs

If you look up quotes on silence, they all explain that staying silent is a sign of wisdom. But we would argue it depends on the kind of silence and the situation. When it comes to voicing our needs, speaking up is far more powerful than silence.

We shouldn’t need to sit pretty and accept whatever our company thinks is acceptable treatment, especially if that treatment is detrimental to our health. Your voice could not only change your circumstances but change the lives of others too.

Understanding That It May Take Time

We wish we could snap our fingers or wiggle our nose (guess the TV show reference), and we are suddenly managing work demands with effortless flow, chock-full of purpose. However, it takes time and effort to discover our true purpose, to put our skills to what we care about. Also, it takes time to get to a place where we feel free to be who we are and spend our time how we choose.

Work Towards A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Sometimes it requires present sacrifices so that in future, we are where we want to be. Putting the time into planning where we are going and taking those slow steps to it. For example, you may need to work hard at a company that you know will lead to more freedom down the line.

Don’t Settle

Never settle for staying in a career that doesn’t lead to what you want. Don’t accept continuous hard work that never ends. Don’t settle for boredom or anxiety. Work towards uncovering what these emotions are telling you, listen to them, and take action to solve them.

Be Honest

Although it can be challenging to confront our colleagues and managers with our wants. Being honest is the first step towards a healthy work-life balance. Telling them that you need more time at home or like you want to take your tasks in a new direction can’t do any harm.

Set up a meeting and discuss with them frankly what you require to change. If they refuse your requests, then at least you know that perhaps it’s not the job for you and you can begin seeking new career opportunities. Honesty may be uncomfortable, but it’s the best policy.

Setting Boundaries

Some of us struggle with our boundaries, and it links into factors like the society we’re in and honesty. We can feel like we need to push ourselves in our careers to get that approval. But, in reality, that’s just a sure way to get burnout.

Setting some boundaries and outlining what those are to yourself, and practising slowly to express that with those around you can be hugely beneficial. It can be incredibly disheartening if a person or company doesn’t respect those boundaries. Sometimes we can blame ourselves as if we are asking for too much.

But, you have every right to have boundaries, and they should respect them. If you have no idea how to go about setting boundaries, then perhaps talking it through with a therapist will help you initiate that.

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Chapter 8:
Finding Harmony

Instead of thinking of it as a healthy work-life balance or managing work demands, try being more mindful of creating harmony between work and life. Try connecting to a career that lights you up more, one that isn’t solely based on financial gain. The shape of that career (the hours, the benefits, the type) depends on you as an individual. There’s no quick-fix solution to finding harmony in what you do. There’s only a practice of understanding ourselves better and moving towards the things that bring us joy. The practice of doing something each day, getting better at our craft, and seeing a potential for a future brighter than you imagine. You can find the harmony you seek because there is nobody in the world with your mind, heart, and talents. So, we wish you the best in your discoveries and hope you take care of yourself.