how to achieve a better work-life balance

Having a good work-life balance isn’t a myth. It’s something all of us can achieve, with some planning, foresight and discipline. Here, we reveal the secrets to achieving a better work-life balance.

We’ve all heard of work-life balance, but how many of us can say we’ve got the balance right, especially now more of us are working from home?

You may aim to log off at 5.30pm every day, but in reality, the month-end process and other time-sensitive tasks can lead to long hours that take you away from your family and personal life. 

Having a good work-life balance is possible. 

Being aware of how much time you spend working vs. not working is the first step in achieving that balance. Keep reading for practical guidance on getting yours right, as well as how to tell if you haven’t quite mastered it yet. 

what does work-life balance mean? 

There are lots of definitions of work-life balance out there. This explanation from HRZone sums it up particularly well: 

‘The level of prioritisation between personal and professional activities in an individual’s life and the level to which activities related to their job are present in the home.’ 

why is work-life balance essential? 

A non-existent work-life balance can lead to stress, burnout and unhappiness, among many other things. 

The rise of technology, e.g. laptops, mobile phones, emails, virtual meetings, can easily upset the balance due to us always be ‘switched on’ and accessible out of normal office hours. While it may only take you two minutes to send a quick email or check your inbox via your phone after work, they’re tasks that eat into your downtime, which is vitally important. 

four signs you need to improve your work-life balance 

With many of us working from home for the foreseeable future, it's important to build boundaries between work and home. The best way to begin is by being aware of the tell-tale signs you need to readdress the balance: 

  • Do you find it difficult to relax when you’re not working? 
  • Have you neglected your hobbies and interests because of work commitments? 
  • Is your health suffering because you work long hours? 
  • Do you struggle to finish work at the correct time and hardly ever use up all your holiday?  

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, it’s time to improve your work-life balance. 

five signs you’ve struck the right balance  

You can easily spend the right amount of time on your work and personal life by: 

managing your time 

Effective time management will help you find more hours in the day to spend on the things that matter. Start by identifying your most productive time. Are you an early bird? Or do you function better after lunch? Tackle your most urgent tasks when you’re at your best; you’ll get through your ‘to do’ list far more efficiently. 

taking exercise breaks  

Instead of working through your lunch, get outdoors and stretch your legs. Exercise helps relieve stress by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins. Taking regular breaks to rehydrate and get some fresh air will help you maintain energy, focus and productivity.  

learning how to say ‘no’ 

Being assertive and learning to say ‘no’ when you're already overloaded will help you balance work and your social life. It’ll also improve your wellbeing and, in turn, your productivity. 

setting boundaries 

If your colleagues know you can’t be contacted outside work, they will be less likely to email or call you when you’re trying to relax. Make a point of letting them know when you are unavailable and stick to it. Some examples of boundary-setting include:  

  • I’ll check my emails until 6pm on Monday to Thursday, but not after 5pm on a Friday. 
  • I pick up my children from school 3 days a week. 

Keep track of how many times you stick to your boundaries. This will help you monitor if they’re working. If they’re unrealistic, change them. 

embracing flexible working 

If you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks, you’re entitled to ask for flexible start or finish times, job sharing, working from home or compressed hours. 

You can only make one request for flexible working (a statuary application) within the space of 12 months. Your application should be made in writing and include: 

  • The date – you would like it to start. 
  • A statement – that explains the statutory request is for flexible working. 
  • Details - of the type of flexible working you’d like to do. 
  • An explanation - of how the business might be affected and suggestions for how this could be managed effectively. For instance, could specific work colleagues cover your responsibilities when you’re not there, or could you offer to work extra hours in emergencies? 
  • References – to any previous flexible working applications you’ve made in the past. 

You don’t have to say why you want to work flexible hours however, the more information you provide, the stronger your case. 

Your employer has up to three months to consider your request. 

If they accept your request: 

They must write to you, outlining the new arrangements and confirming a start date. The terms and conditions of your employment contract will also need to be updated within 28 days. 

If they refuse your request: 

They must explain why in writing. Reasonable grounds for refusal include: 

  • harming the company’s ability to meet customer needs 
  • resulting in extra costs that would damage the business 
  • having a detrimental effect on other staff members 

If you disagree with the outcome, you can take your case to an employment tribunal. If you find yourself in this situation and need some extra support, contact us for help and advice. 

We also offer a range of free emotional support services to help you cope with stress, whatever the cause. Our trained counsellors are available on the phone or online 24/7. 

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Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

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If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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