What is work-life balance? And how do you know if you’re struggling?
When I first entered the workforce I wasn’t aware that work-life balance was a thing. Of course, I assumed that work wasn’t meant to be your whole world, but it was never explicitly stated. For some of you, it may go without saying but for me, work and university were always top of my priority list. Health, social life, downtime? All of that could wait. First I needed to get my grades and make that money, then I’d be happy. Right?
Having a good work-life balance means that you give equal priority to your professional and personal life. It means having time to go to work and spend time with your family afterward without the presence of your job.
How many of you can say that you have a healthy work-life balance? Do you use your vacation days? Are your emails shut outside working hours? Do you work on your days off or lie awake thinking about the office?
10 Signs Of Poor Work-life Balance.
One. You’re always tired.
I’m a self-confessed champion when it comes to speaking out about stress and burnout. I could talk for hours about the negative impacts on our physical, mental, and emotional health. But I’ll keep this short.
Too much stress causes significant physical and mental illnesses. It lowers the immune system and leaves us more open to frequent bouts of sickness. Even if you haven’t been coming down with cold after cold, you may still feel extremely tired all the time. No matter how much sleep you get or caffeine you consume, you still can’t seem to get the buzz of energy you desperately need. When we’re overworked and feeling stressed, it causes both our muscles and brains to go into overdrive. Your whole body might ache, you might feel sick, you might suffer from frequent headaches and you might even feel palpitations. These are among a long list of telltale signs of a body and mind being overclocked far beyond its capabilities.
Two. You ALWAYS do more than necessary.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be helpful. Putting in an extra hour here or there is completely fine. If you’re getting paid for your time and it’s not a regular occurrence, it can even feel rewarding to clock in outside your usual hours. But when you’re doing overtime on daily basis, going in on your days off, or frequently being asked to work beyond your pay grade then it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s good to be needed and it’s good to help out others in a sticky situation, but you can’t eat, sleep and breathe your job. It just doesn’t work that way! Employers are demanding more and more from their employees in recent years. More work in less time and with half the manpower.
Between commute time, working, and overtime, my partner was barely ever at home. Before COVID-19 he was the most overworked he’d ever been and reaching his breaking point. But after a few weeks on furlough, he realised that his work-life balance was completely out of wack! A manager or not, nothing is worth risking your health over. It may keep money in the bank, but what good is it if you don’t have the time to enjoy it?
Three. You’re constantly bringing your work home.
Much like spending too much time at work, a large majority of us bring our work home with us. Whether it’s always keeping the work phone on loud, reading emails on vacation, or fixing up spreadsheets at nine pm, it’s never a good thing to bring work home. As someone who works from home on a daily basis, I found it very difficult to let go prior to COVID-19. It was only in March that I set myself a cut-off point, one to which I stick very strictly to. I take frequent afternoons off when work allows and sometimes I don’t write for a week. And you know what? I feel so much better!
But even when I was out working full time I found myself scrolling through emails on a Saturday and checking my work phone after five. My old ringtone still haunts me to this day which is a sure sign it should never have happened in the first place.
Four. You’ve no time for the things you enjoy most.
Having a healthy work-life balance is all about being able to go about your day job while also having free time for the activities that you enjoy. Without that much-needed ‘downtime’, we’re nothing more than slaves to the machine.
When was the last time you sat down to play a video game that you really enjoy? Or took a trip away with your partner or friend? Spending too much time at work or thinking about work pulls us away from the other, more enjoyable things in life. Even if you enjoy your job, there’s always the need for some time off.
Five. You’re struggling with your relationships.
If you’re spending too much time at work mentally and physically, it’s bound to take a toll on your personal relationships. Not only do you have a lack of time to spend with your significant other, but there’s possibly a lack of communication too. If there’s no time for your loved ones then it’s time to check your priorities. I know now more than ever that the time I spent worrying about work would have been better suited to seeing my grandparents or working on my relationship with my partner.
You can fit in some personal time easily by eating dinner together, going out for a walk with your bestie mate, or even calling your mum more often. Not only does it act as a perfect way to build on forgotten relationships, but it can also be a great stress reliever.
Six. You’re feeling unsure of what to prioritise.
Don’t know what to get done first? Always end the day with more things on your to-do list than off? When we take on too much in regard to work, home, and general life, things can grow out of control very quickly. This is where the word ‘NO’ becomes your best friend. Stop taking on more than you can handle just please the boss or another colleague. If you’re a manager or supervisor, learn to delicate tasks for the appropriate people. You can’t do everything and by saying ‘yes’ to every task you’re knocking down boundaries. A wise woman once said to me ‘if you say yes to everything all the time, then people won’t expect anything different. So they’ll always assume you’ll do it.’
When it comes to to-do lists, it’s important to keep no more than 10 things on your list at any one time. I would even go as far as to say 10 is too much, but everyone works differently.
For more information on work organisation, check out this post.
Seven. You find yourself losing your patience easily.
Being overwhelmed all the time can really take a toll on our tolerance levels. I used to blow up at every little thing that would go wrong in life. From the tone of someone’s voice to being stuck in traffic, I would lose my cool at almost anything. In hindsight, it was all a sign of being extremely stressed and burnt out both at work and in my personal life.
If you’re feeling the same it might be time to take a step back from your desk, take a deep breath and think about what needs to change. Are you working too many hours? What about your workload? How does your inbox look in comparison to your outbox? When was the last time you truly took a break?
Eight. You almost never use your sick leave or holidays.
It’s great that you’re dedicated to your work but you can’t let everything else take a back seat. I’m so pleased that several workplaces have prompted me to take my holidays as I tend to be a person who doesn’t bother. However, I’m aware that most would gladly have you work all the hours that God sends you without so much as a hint at the time owed.
Use your time off to recuperate and when you’re sick, take the time you need to rest. If you’ve made feel guilty about that then it’s more of a reflection on who you work with rather than on you as a person, so don’t take it personally.
Nine. You can’t stop thinking about work.
Do you find yourself relaxing in the bath or on a sunny beach in Spain (pre-COVID) but your mind is still in the office? Are you constantly checking emails on your days off or thinking about the next big meeting? Even when I was at home I couldn’t stop thinking about work. It’s not a healthy place to be and it can really take a toll on your stress levels, even when you’re not actually at work.
Although it’s not as easy as ‘just stop thinking about it there are some things you can do. Switch your work phone off, log out of your emails and maybe verbally make people aware of your boundaries. It’s not shameful nor is it showing a lack of commitment to insist on keeping work separate from your home life.
Ten. Your health is deteriorating.
All of this rounded into one neat package can manifest in many different ways. And the truth of the matter is that the more we ignore our own health in favour of our work life, the more likely we are to suffer from long-term health complications.
Take back your life. Stop living for the weekend. Don’t work beyond your physical and mental capabilities. And turn off your emails, for goodness sake!
Learn more about work-life balance at Working Families.
I am working on my own starting a small business made good money online but work l;ife balance is very important
I feel like at times I have a really great work life balance but then other times not so much.
I used to constantly bring home my work and it damaged my relationship with my family a little but I learned my lesson. Having a work-life balance is what a lot of people aim these days and I think we should all.
I needed this reminder. I 100% do NOT have a healthy work life balance. Really need to change this!
My day job is perfect, but it is blogging that is totally overcoming my life. It is so much work and I am starting to feel burnt out. Definitely need to find a good balance.
You have said it all beautifully! The moment you realise you are doing any of those 10 things, then you know that you are in the unhealthy zone.
My work life balance is not the best. Right now, I have 9 unused days of vacation and I don’t know how I will squeeze them in before year end.
We need to have time to do other things. I’m working to have more free time to do other things. Thank you for sharing!
I completely understand where you are coming from with this!! These days a balance between work and life is really hard to achieve x
Keeping the proper balance between work and life is such a hard thing to do. Especially post-Covid, with so many people working FROM home. It’s hard to walk away when the work is home with you.
I feel like I balance work and life decently, but could always do better. My sister is having a hard time with this, I need to send her your post to help work through it.
I do have a healthy balance but, I will say, when you work for yourself there are some unique challenges.
Work life balance can be so hard to achieve. It’s human nature to try to take on more and more, and that can lead to major burnout.
I think it is so important to be aware of when work/life balance becomes unhealthy and these points really help with that. I think a lot of us sometimes may not be aware that there is an issue or that one may be beginning so this was useful!
Such a great article! I admit it was one of those things in the past I really, really learned the hard way and had to learn how to juggle everything without burning out. These are super good observations and I think the biggest thing that’s helped is scheduling breaks, making myself exercise no matter what and eat healthy and sleep (commitment to myself), and having a good understanding of what I can really handle. Such an important post thanks so much for sharing!
I need to start a healthy work life balance. Which is what I am lacking nowadays.
I definitely need to work on my work life balance! It’s hard to leave work when you work from home!
Scared to answer some of these, but the article definitely makes you think about things.
I sure hope so. I try and strike a balance as best as I can! I love your tips and will incorporate them into my daily life!
I definitely struggle with finding a good balance. The problem is that I have a day job, and I work from home, so it is hard to just take a break. It is good to practice self care.
Doing more work that necessary is a sure tell sign! My friends do this and complain all the time because once they do extra work they’re always expected to keep doing it, without any extra pay.
My husband is the same. But he gets some time off now because of the furlough scheme. He’s not complaining and nor am I!
Thats shocking! I can’t believe they got away with that. I’m glad they changed now and that you’re better able to manage your time. My friend was in a similar company for 6 years and then when COVID happened, they dropped him like a stone. So much for loyalty.
I have to stop myself and remind myself to take breaks. It’s so important.
Thank you so much for reading x
I was exactly the same. I’ve been better lately and have stopped caring about followers, money etc. It’s literally just a hobby with the occasional payout and taking time to enjoy my art rather than push myself with it.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading love! Hope you’re keeping well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it.
I can say I don’t think I have a good work life balance. It always seems like I’m playing catch up with things. I’m always tired.
It sounds like my husband. He is a workaholic, just works and works. I’ll share this article with him.
These are really great tips. I was a workaholic and I struggled with life-work balance so much. I was always tired, fighting with my husband, neglecting myself…. I found my balance now and I’m happier than ever. So it’s absolutely possible to have a successful career and a happy life.
going above always can be very tiresome. I have learned to say no. I could still improve at it.
It can be hard to balance. I’ve been doing it for years myself. Right now with all that’s been going on, I find it a bit harder though. I am homeschooling my kids for now, so it takes a lot more to keep things balanced.
Fortunately, my work life is balanced. I make sure to do it that way because our work definitely affects our health.
I have a heathy work life balance now but for a couple years I didn’t. Keeping consistent office hours and taking days off really helps me. I also don’t take my computer on vacation.
Thanks for this informative post! We really need to balance our work and personal stuffs because it’s affecting our health too.
Oh yes! I need to improve my life, my work life. I have no time for anything, especially for things I love!
It is very essential to have a healthy work-life balance. It is to keep our mind and body healthy as well. Thank you for sharing this.
Totally agree. Life is all about striking the right balance.
I balance work and life well. I just take on too many things that I love doing!
I don’t have work life balance lately. Thanks for posts like this. I have to remind myself to rest for a while.
I feel like my husband struggles with this. I always tell him he never uses his vacation days, he works late all the time, he seems stressed when he’s home. I hope the work load eases up for him. He’s been short staffed which is why.
Finding that balance can be really tricky, especially if you work from home or have a job that encourages people to stay late. My husband’s job started requiring people to work mandatory overtime- 10 hours a week. It was a really unhealthy company policy, and thankfully after a few months, they changed the policy.
I would say I do NOT have a healthy work/life balance. I actually just work all the time, but I do watch a little TV at night with my girl.
I work a lot now, but when my kids were little I stayed home. Now, that the kids are grown I feel like I can put in the extra effort at work.
I admit that I work very hard to succeed! In short, it is necessary not to go crazy and on the other hand to be productive!
I used to have a really bad work/life balance. When I first started properly blogging full-time, I couldn’t stop. Like literally couldn’t stop. I took no time for myself and I was literally miserable every time I WASN’T working. When I wasn’t working, I felt like I was wasting my life and nothing made me happy and it was SO unhealthy. I’ve completely turned that around now and whilst it’s not perfect, I’m glad to see I don’t relate to any of the above points anymore!
It takes such a long time to work this work-life balance thing out.
And just when I think I have it sorted – Bam! I start feeling run down and all of those things again.
Great read 🙂
Exactly ! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting pet! x
Same here! Without my husband I would be lost.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
Wow, that sounds like way too much for anyone to handle! I really hope you manage to get some sort of balance soon.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
I’m exactly the same. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
It can take a while to get it right, I’m still struggling. But it comes down to being able to say no and practicing boundaries.
But, as I mentioned, it’s not easy or straight forward for everyone.
Thank you so much for reading.
Thank you for reading. I can be the same sometimes.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It can become far too easy to get overwhelmed. I know I find it hard now because I enjoy my job but I also need to remind myself that I’m not as well as my body sometimes has me believe.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting! It’s not easy but we can all get there with practice.
I have to watch myself when it comes to balancing things out. I often take on too much at any one time and end up burning out. I struggle to say ‘no’ to myself in regards to being productive all the time.
That’s good to hear! It’s wonderful that you’ve found a balance in your life.
I’m the same. The guilt kills me. I’m starting work up again next week on the blog but this week I took it off because I was full time elsewhere. I feel so bad for not getting stuck straight back into work but even I need to realise I need a break.
There is no way you should be getting called in the middle of the night. Even if you’re a doctor, doing it too much can be so damaging to you. x
I was the exact same as my last job. It broke me and, honestly, it led to my mental breakdown. I never took the time for me. That’s no way to live but sadly a lot of people are unable to escape it due to financial constraints. I really hope you manage to find a way around it and some sort of work/life balance that suits you.
It’s really hard to handle a balance life specially in this type of pandemic. I’m still struggling to live a healthy life. I’ll apply these tips for myself. These are very helpful!
those are top ways to know your work life is affecting every other part of your life. The first things you’ll most likely notice are the relationships, then your health will follow soon after. I’ve learned throughout my years how to better balance work and life outside it. great list, you’ve nailed it!
I don’t know healthy work life balance, always is life is crazy nowadays.
I don’t know that I have a healthy work life balance but this is for sure my purpose! Thanks for these tips!
I’d like to believe that I have work-life balance but it can still be improved though. I’d like to focus more on my writing.
Getting that work/life balance right is so important, like you said, not getting that balance right can cause so many problems and issues, a great read x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
I’m guilty of struggling with the work-life balance. It is especially hard working from home, but this article really highlights for me what I can improve upon.
I would say I have a healthy work-life balance. I make it an effort.
This is so me, i already know that my life routine isn’t balance. This is why i experience these effects. Will now avoid caffeine, and follow these tips.
I have seen a lot of people who overwork and take no breaks at all. Some even work the weekends! You should always think of yourself first then others (I know it sounds selfish) but if you can’t look after yourself , you cannot look after others!
This is what we call a successful life! Life is not about fancy things but it’s how you balance your life!
It’s really better to be healthy because being sick will make you suffer more. Self care is the top priority
I’ve been starting to make self care a bigger priority because this is exactly how I was feeling! It’s so draining. Thanks for all the helpful advice!
I’ve got to work on my work-life balance. I’m guilty in some points you mentioned. It’s a good thing I have a husband and a family that remind me to try to do better.
Nope. My balance is way off. I work 40 hours on my full time job, 10 hrs teaching a college class, 10 hours supervising student teaching and probably 20 hours blogging.
Love this post. We should always remember to enjoy life while making income. Life is all about life,simple as that. Lolz.
I haven’t always had one. Learning to have one now.
I feel very lucky to have a great work life balance. I think most struggle with this one and I am terrible at communication sometimes for sure.
I admit that finding a good balance is something that I’ve always struggled with. One day I’ll get it right.
It can be hard to make a balance between work and home. I struggle with this as I work from home.
Boy when I was working before my kids, I had a really stressful job. I taught juvenile delinquents and was always bringing work home. I eventually realized that I needed to check whatever happened during the day at the door when I walked out at the end of the night. It is really easy to allow your work to consume your life and that is not ok.
I have a healthy-adjacent work life balance. LOL. But I”m getting better!
I am definitely someone who can throw their work / life balance completely out. I often work to forget things instead of dealing with them head on.
I feel like I have a good balance on a day to day basis. I do work a little all the time but i have time to enjoy my kids and dogs.
Sometimes I work too much. I work from home, so I can get drawn into posts that I need to write and then realize, oops, I need a break! I am working on that!
My husband is a workaholic and I can see all of these signs with him. I’m tired of calls from work in the middle of the night!
I am struggling right now. We just got a new boss at work and I feel like she’s going to completely mess up my schedule. I work to live, I don’t live to work. And I’m so stressed right now.