Are you feeling stressed about your work-life balance? It could be an aspect of your life that you should take a closer look at because almost a third of UK workers feel as though theirs is poor. There is no denying that it’s becoming an important issue to address. Not only does it affect our relationships and home life happiness, but it can also take its toll on our mental health. Read on as we investigate the best way to manage a good work-life balance and take some tips from other countries.
Overworking amongst employees
You aren’t alone if you feel as though you’re 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. The task of juggling a family alongside a job is also difficult for many to manage with statistics revealing that 75% of working parents suffer stress and anxiety as a result of their work-life balance management.
Although a workforce that works long hours may be good for productivity, it can affect the happiness levels of employees. However, research found that as a person’s weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness. Of course, this is no surprise. Even for those who don’t work long hours, there is still the issue of ‘switching off’ and disconnecting from what’s happened at the office. In fact, one third of European workers said that a bad day at work affected their personal life.
When workers lose a lot of time to their jobs, they often feel like there’s not much they can do.
Taking tips from other countries
Research has shown that Britain has the worst work-life balance in comparison to other countries in Europe. So, what can we learn from our foreign neighbours?
Something that other countries appear to focus on is the amount of free time that employees have to themselves. In Belgium, employees have an average of 8.6 hours of free time per day compared to their 7.4-hour work days, and Netherlands are enjoying the shortest working week at only 30.3 hours. Denmark only spend 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 3pm 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.
Employers in the UK usually provide their employees with one half an hour break per day. But, in foreign countries, employees 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 11am.
Could we take note of regulations from other countries? These 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
Making your own changes
Think about some small changes you can make yourself to improve the balance of your life.
Consider the layout of your breaks throughout the day. Research has proven that taking regular breaks can improve your productivity, and it therefore could be something that they will support. Split your hour break up into half an hour and two 15-minute breaks to decrease the amount of time spent at your desk at one time. Get some fresh air or spend time talking to family on the phone, taking a small action like this could reduce your stress levels.
Re-evaluate your commute — a lengthy commute to and from work can increase stress levels. This is one reason to propose flexi-time at your office, where you can skip the traffic at each side of your day and do something more productive. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone. You could make your commute feel more productive though, by listening to a podcast or audio book that can reduce the stress of rush-hour traffic. Alternatively, going to a gym class near to your work can mean that you miss the bulk of the busy traffic and allows you to fit some exercise into your day as well!
Make a conscious effort to leave work at the office. Think of the long-term issues that mixing home and work life can have and aim to check your emails only for ten minutes on an evening instead of an hour. 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. This can not only affect your mental health but can lead to employers expecting this behaviour at all times.
Make the most of your annual holiday allowance! We’re all guilty of using our holidays to run errands or do something that we’ve been putting off, 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.
Try implementing these small changes to make a big difference. 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.
Research for this article was carried out by men’s suits retailer, CT Shirts.