Did you know that almost a third of UK workers feel they have a poor work-life balance? It’s an important issue to address in this day and age I feel. Not only does it affect relationships and our home life, but it can also take its toll on our mental health. It can be hard to know how to separate between the two and create boundaries between home life and work life.
The current situation
The general consensus appears to be that UK adults are overworked. Maintaining a healthy balance between home and work life seems to become more difficult as we get older, with statistics showing that the younger the employee, the less likely they are to identify work-life balance as an important part of their job. Juggling a family alongside a job is also difficult for many to manage. This is something I have struggled with over the years myself. Statistics reveal that 75% of working parents suffer stress and anxiety as a result of their work-life balance management. I’m not surprised at all.
Many businesses aim to operate at maximum capacity and this can take its toll on employees. It’s no shock to read that levels of unhappiness rise with an increase in working hours is it!
This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Even workers who don’t work long hours,still have the issue of ‘switching off’ and disconnecting from what’s happened at the office. Did you know that one-third of European workers said that a bad day at work affected their personal life?
The thing is as we work more, we find that we have less time to spend with those we love, less time to focus on accomplishing goals that aren’t work-related and less time to pursue our hobbies and dreams. I know when I work from home I do find it difficult to seperate work time from my home life as the twwo intertwine. But, many of us feel as though there’s nothing we can do about it.
How do people manage a work-Life Balance in other countries?
In comparison to our western European counterparts, Britain has the worst work-life balance. What can we learn from our foreign neighbours?
Compared to our European counterparts, it seems in the UK we have a lot less free time outside of work. In Belgium, employees have an average of 8.6 hours of free time per day compared to their 7.4-hour work days, and the Netherlands are enjoying the shortest working week at only 30.3 hours. Denmark only spends 6.6 hours at work each day with 8.8 hours each day to spend how they wish, and Austrians are encouraged to start the weekend early with 3 pm finishes implemented around the country. Many Germans are able to relax on a Sunday too, as stores are regulated so that they close on Sundays. All of these extra hours add up it seems, with Britons working 325 hours more per year than workers in Germany.
We also come up short when it comes to taking breaks during working hours too. The UK standard is 30 mins to an hour per day. This in contrast to foreign employees who are encouraged to take multiple breaks throughout the day. The Spanish are famous for their midday siestas which began as an effort to sleep through the hottest period of the day in warmer climates. Although new laws mean that shops have to remain open without a break for naps, some workers still follow the siesta tradition. Or, they take long coffee and lunch breaks with colleagues — something that is widely accepted by employers. Finland also take on the approach that long breaks are good for everyone, and their workers enjoy extra-long lunch breaks that are one to two hours long! If you visited Sweden on business, you’d probably be invited to join them for ‘fika’ — this is a late morning coffee that offices pause to enjoy at around 11 am.
Other regulations that help maintain a healthy work-life balance include:
- Belgians are able to take a full month off work to coincide with school breaks.
- Spanish workers have a holiday allowance of 30 days.
- France introduced a law in 2017 that gave workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from after-work emails.
- Swedish workers enjoy 16 months of paid family leave
What can we do?
Although we can’t change the regulations of our workplace, there are some things that we can do to help manage our work-life balance.
Research has proven that taking regular breaks can improve your productivity, Could this be something you can discuss with your employers maybe? Get some fresh air or spend time talking to family on the phone, taking a small action like this could reduce your stress levels.
Long commutes can lead to stress and depression according to one study. Can you propose working from home or changing up your working hours to help avoid the morning rush into work? Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone so why not make your commute more productive by reading to reduce stress levels or take in a podcast.
Alternatively, going to a gym or exercise class near to your work could help you to avoid the bulk of the busy traffic and allows you to fit some exercise into your day as well! So why not take a change of clothes with you and get out of that suit before you head home for the day.
Although it can be difficult, try to refrain from checking emails when you’ve finished work.
Bear in mind the long-term issues that mixing home and work life can have. Maybe aim to not check your phone after a certain time? Newer phones have the option to switch on an out of office to remove the temptation to check messages. This is the same for working overtime, unless entirely necessary, make sure you are sticking to the number of hours that you’re contracted to. Doing more hours than you anticipate on a regular basis can be damaging to your health.
Make sure you’re using all your annual holidays to recharge and spend time with family. We’re all guilty of not totally switching off and relaxing on our holidays, but this isn’t always helpful for our work-life balance. Although we need to do this now and then, annual leave should be used to recuperate, relax and enjoy time away from the office so try to focus on this.
It goes without saying that the current situation is not great for UK workers. But, there are some small changes that you can make. From splitting up your break to making the most of your holidays, being conscious of finding a good split between the office and spare time is the first step to improving your work-life balance.
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