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A woman carrying a gym bag and water bottle checks her watch as she leaves her office to go workout.

Work-life balance tips

Work-life balance: Achieving the perfect harmony between the two can help you increase your productivity and make your time off feel much more rewarding.

May 2, 2024

A woman carrying a gym bag and water bottle checks her watch as she leaves her office to go workout.

Work-life balance tips

Work-life balance: Achieving the perfect harmony between the two can help you increase your productivity and make your time off feel much more rewarding.

May 2, 2024

A woman carrying a gym bag and water bottle checks her watch as she leaves her office to go workout.

Work-life balance tips

Work-life balance: Achieving the perfect harmony between the two can help you increase your productivity and make your time off feel much more rewarding.

May 2, 2024

Work-life balance meaning and why it’s important

Finding your ideal work-life balance is essential. It’s a message that’s been out there for ages. But why is work-life balance important? And what exactly does it mean?

A healthy work-life balance will look different for everyone. In general, it’s feeling like you have enough time in your day or week for your work priorities and your life priorities – one is not suffering at the demands of the other. A work-life balance is important because it helps avoid burnout on the job and safeguards your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

For workers, achieving that perfect harmony between the two can help you increase your productivity and make your time off feel much more rewarding. Employers who support that healthy work-life integration will have happier employees, which likely means better work output and lower turnover. And the work-life balance for entrepreneurs who work for themselves might look completely different from a 9-5 job working for someone else, but it’s still key to quality of life.

Most people know the benefits of a healthy work-life balance, but that doesn’t make achieving it any easier. Learning how to juggle ever increasing work responsibilities while still carving out enough time for friends, family and some self-care is a constant struggle. But it is achievable! Here are some work-life balance tips to help get you started.

Tips and habits for better work-life balance

There are simple, specific habits you can adopt that will ensure your personal and professional priorities are being met. Once these behaviors truly become habits, they can help you balance your work with the myriad of other important activities on your plate.

Define your work hours

Unless you have a job where you are on-call, most people should have a reasonable understanding of what their work hours should be. A bigger work load or poor planning oftentimes means your work week grows beyond the balance zone.

Getting your work hours back on track starts with you. Set your work hours and stick to them. It might be tough at first. If coworkers are used to you being available for an extra hour or two each day, you will need to remind people that you will be logging off work at a certain time and won’t be handling calls or emails after that.

Creating this kind of deadline each day can inspire efficiency and higher productivity on your part and can show your colleagues what a good work-life balance looks like.

Make the time for personal and social activities

Many people are far too quick to push their personal lives to the side when workloads increase. You make plans to exercise with friends, then text an apology to cancel. Date nights get dropped off the calendar as the deadline for a work project creeps closer. Special one-on-one time with your kids gets cut short or turned into take-your-child-to-work days.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. Making specific personal activities a priority each week – and scheduling them just like you would for any other important work appointment – is making the statement that your personal life is worth as much as your professional responsibilities.

Start by blocking off certain hours for family time. Get time with your children and/or partner on your calendar and set reminder notifications to make sure you keep those appointments. Don’t forget to put your own self-care back on your schedule, too. Each week, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, setting up times for exercise, mindfulness and other personal needs, as well as getting a friend fix. Remember, getting that time away from work helps make you more productive when you are at work.

Sometimes, these windows of time can do double duty. Going for a hike or bike ride with your family or friends allows you to spend quality time with them while getting exercise. The same for some self-care activities like manis and pedis or at-home facials and masks.

Limit screen time when away from work

As much as our smartphones keep us connected to our families and friends, for many of us they also make us feel like we are “always on” when it comes to our jobs. This can be traced to co-workers who text and call during off-hours or the work-related emails that land in our inboxes on weekends.

Just seeing those show up has us switching back to thinking about work. Because of this, learning to limit your screen time is essential to achieving work-life balance. Practice being intentional about turning off or putting away your phones for short periods of time. It could be hard at first, but you will learn to be more present in the moments when you take a break from technology.

Use your vacation time

Sometimes you can get so busy at work that you forget to take a day off, let alone schedule your paid vacation time. Americans are particularly bad at this. A study showed only 48% of Americans typically use all the time off they are offered by their employers.

While making pockets of time for yourself during the week is vital to your wellbeing, so are longer breaks where you can really unplug and relax. Vow to take all your vacation days this year.

Self-care tips: Prioritizing yourself and work at the same time

We already stressed the importance of making time for yourself and your personal priorities. But even when you make the time, it’s not always easy to flip that work switch off completely. You can, however, learn to maximize your efficiency skills to make the transition from work to fun more easily.

The way you prioritize yourself and your work won’t be set in stone. It depends on what stage you are at in your life. At different stages, you may need different priorities. For instance, parents of young children will often put their families at the top of their priority list, while young professionals and empty-nesters may have more time for themselves.

Follow these tips on how to take care of yourself and your career at the same time, no matter how busy you are at work, or what stage you’re at in life.

Manage your schedule efficiently

We try to squeeze so many things into our days that sometimes no matter how many to-do lists, sticky notes, calendar alerts or other reminders we have, we aren’t efficient enough to get it all done. Try the 1-3-5 method.

The 1-3-5 method fills your daily schedule with one very important task to accomplish, three tasks of medium importance and five small things to cross off the list. Your 1-3-5 plan might look something like this:

  • 1 very important task: Deliver client A’s monthly data analysis report by 10 a.m.
  • 3 medium important tasks:
    • Call client B to discuss upcoming event
    • Weekly work meeting with your project team
    • Evening spin class at the gym
  • 5 minor tasks:
    • Finish your expense report
    • Buy a birthday card for your aunt
    • Pick up your prescription from the pharmacy
    • Stop at the store for bread and fruit
    • Walk the dog

This 1-3-5 method forces you to prioritize your daily tasks on both levels, looking at work and personal needs together as you decide what is most important. If you are doing these lists and keep finding they are full of work priorities and nothing personal, go back through them. You want to pencil yourself in, make time for self-care and your own needs.

Be present during personal time

See “Limit screen time” above. Learning to unplug from work when you’re enjoying personal time can take effort for some people. And if you’re spending time with friends or family, you should be focused on them and not scrolling through social media on your phone or looking at work emails. Take measures to put the phone away and be truly present during your own time.

Stick to your core values and learn to say no

Our core values can shift depending on our current stage in life. People just starting out in their careers are going to have different values than people who have been climbing the corporate ladder for decades. To help you understand what really matters to you, write down the most important areas of your life, such as family, school, friends or career. Then rank them in order of importance. This will help you figure out how you want to prioritize your week and invest your time.

For all the people-pleasers and well-mannered among us, this one can be difficult to learn. Saying no takes practice. But you need to learn how and when to say it. If a co-worker asks for help with a project but you know you are simply too busy, it’s OK to say no. In the past, you might have pushed aside your own work to help out, then slogged through extra hours to finish your own job.

That’s not efficient for you. If you are truly too busy to help someone, tell them no nicely and explain that you’re not able to lend a hand. If you work as part of a team and too much of the work has landed on your desk, learn how to re-delegate, which is another form of saying no. Disperse the extra work to others on your team who might not have as much on their plates as you do.

How to improve work-life balance for employees

Most good managers know how to spot red flags when it comes to their workforce. Employees who routinely stay late to finish their work or are seen taking stacks of work home with them can be a concern. Sometimes employee inefficiency can be to blame, but more than likely, there’s a problem with how the employee is balancing their work and their personal life.

That’s a situation managers can help them solve. Promoting a healthy work-life balance is essential to satisfied, productive employees. Here are some easy ways to help your employees achieve that important balance.

Lead by example

Leadership starts at the top. It’s up to managers to show their employees what a healthy work-life balance really looks like. Start by setting expectations. Don’t encourage employees to take work home with them if you don’t expect them to work in their off-hours or on the weekends. And don’t respond to emails or messages yourself once you are off work.

This can be a tough lesson to reinforce. If an employee sends you a question via email or text, your natural response is to help them out by answering it. But unless it’s an emergency, do not answer it after-hours. Wait until the start of the next work day to send the response. This drives home the message that you not only value your own personal time, you value theirs.

Avoid contacting employees outside work hours

Following up on not answering emails outside of work hours, make sure you don’t send them, either -- unless it’s an emergency of course. You may hear managers tell their employees on Friday to enjoy their weekend, but then proceed to send them emails or call them with questions about work projects during these off-hours or even during their vacations.

This makes employees feel like they should be working or on call during their personal time. Make sure you are not putting your employees in this position. It’s taking advantage of them and unnecessarily intruding into their personal time. As a manager, it’s vital that employees be allowed to enjoy their time away from work and their vacation time unbothered by work emails and questions.

Offer flexible work options

Of all the personal-professional balance options out there, managers who allow a variety of flexible working arrangements are giving their employees the best opportunities to create the career they want, employee surveys have shown.

While this does not work in all industries, it has become almost seamless for most companies since 2020. If you can, give employees the flexibility to work from home when they need to. They may have a cold, have a child who is ill, or perhaps it’s just more efficient to have them work from home that day instead of spending their commute time on the road.

For many employees, working from home and joining meetings online leads to a more productive day. Giving workers the freedom to do this allows them to shut off their computer at the end of the work day and shift right into their off-hours activities with no commute.

Other options include allowing employees to set their own schedules. If they have a 40-hour week, some might prefer to work four 10-hour days versus a traditional five-day work week. Others may feel they are more productive if they shift their daily work hours earlier or later. If your workplace can accommodate this, it might help your employees achieve better productivity and a more defined work and personal divide.

Achieving a work-life balance might seem difficult for many people, but with small changes that put your personal time on the same level of importance as your professional responsibilities, you’ll find it improves your quality of life. The bottom line is, you’re worth it!

Looking for more career and life tips? Read additional stories at Amway Discover.