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7 foolproof ways to improve work-life balance

Monday 3 October 2016

One way to tackle workplace stress is by reassessing your work-life balance[1]. But that doesn’t just mean carving out more leisure time – it could also be about restructuring your time at work or finding the right incentives to make yourself more productive. Sarah Graham asks the experts for their ideas on how to find the perfect work-life balance.

  • Enrich your life with non-work activities.
  • The right reward gets the right results.
  • Don’t be afraid to be flexible.
Two workmates sat together outside

Create time for work-life balance

1. Reclaim your lunch hour

How many of us are guilty of eating lunch ‘al desko’? Ditch the miserable sandwich-and-emails combo, and reclaim your lunch hour with lunchtime language learning[2], lectures and – wait for it – raving![3]

Lunch Beat is trying to get the world dancing during their midday break by helping party planners organise 60-minute midday parties for people looking to unwind.

‘No matter how much work you have to do, it’s really important to get away from your workspace at lunchtime and do anything that completely takes your mind off work,’ says Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind.

2. Get involved in workplace extracurricular activities

Alternatively, get stuck in with a workplace sports team or social club, or take part in team-building activities with your colleagues[4]. John Allison runs StreetGym, an urban obstacle course that’s great for getting you and your team out, active, and maybe even a little competitive![5]

‘It’s an excellent session for improving mental health, as it’s an excuse to play in a safe and effective manner in the urban environment – something adults simply don’t do enough,’ he says.

3. Carve out some ‘me time’ every day

‘People need time outside of work for rejuvenation, and to develop and nurture their ‘non-work selves’,’ says lifestyle expert Sarah Jones.

There are proven psychological benefits to carving out some good-quality ‘me time’ every day – whether that’s an extra-long bubble bath, an evening jog, or putting your feet up on the sofa with the cat.

According to a study by Dr Almuth McDowall of Birkbeck, University of London, taking the time to relax, or spend quality time with loved ones, can improve your psychological wellbeing and your focus at work[6]. Make the time, and both your mental health and work-life balance will reap the benefits.


Be more productive during working hours

4. Give yourself rewards

Instead of just reaching the objectives set by other people based on your deadlines, start setting your own and give yourself a little something extra to work towards[7].

‘After you have set your goals and achieved them, reward yourself,’ says Sarah Jones. ‘A big part of work-life balance is feeling great about yourself, so reward yourself both at work and at home – you deserve it.’

5. Use productivity tools

According to business coach Niklas Forser, ‘We stress ourselves when we feel that we are not in control of our lives.’

One great way to take back control is by using productivity tools, such as RescueTime, Remente or even a simple pomodoro timer to ensure that you work productively and get everything done during office hours.


Focus on what’s really important

6. Take a ‘timeout’ from your phone

If, like so many of us, you’re prone to spending your evenings glued to your work mobile, checking emails, make a point of switching it off. According to a recent survey by charity Mind, 38% of English and Welsh workers check their work emails outside work hours[8].

‘Often, saying ‘no more’ will reclaim time and place focus on the stuff that matters,’ Sue Edwards, MD of Balanced HQ, says.

Choose to focus your non-work time on the people and activities that are really important to you – those work emails will wait until the morning[9].

7. Get flexible

If you resent that you’re constantly missing out on precious after-school time with the family, why not speak to your boss about working more flexibly?[10]

‘If you have the ability to work in an agile way and maximise some of the family time, you have a far, far better chance of being happy with the work-life choices you have made,’ says Ben Black, Director of My Family Care.


Workplace stress has been linked to life expectancy[11]. It is also one of the top five causes of short-term employee absence in the UK[12]. So, as well as improving your work-life balance you should also consider protecting yourself so your dependents are cared for should anything happen.

A good work-life balance will look slightly different for everyone, but incorporating some of these simple changes into your day could make a huge difference – not only to your mental and physical health, but also to your productivity during working hours – now surely that has to be a win-win!

For more health articles and tips, follow Sarah Graham or any of the people above on Twitter


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