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.
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.’
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.
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:
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, it’s time to improve your work-life balance.
You can easily spend the right amount of time on your work and personal life by:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer page.
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.