The importance of a good work life balance

Research carried out by the mental health charity Mind has found that work causes the most stress in people’s lives.

One in three people say they find their job more stressful than debt, financial problems and health concerns. One in five people develop anxiety as a direct result of workplace stress, and 10% of people said they’d had suicidal thoughts.

57% of people say they need to have an alcoholic drink after work to unwind and 14% even turn to drink during the working day in order to deal with the pressures they face in the office. Other coping mechanisms used include smoking (28%), taking antidepressants (15%), over-the-counter sleeping aids (16%), and prescribed sleeping tablets (10%).

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact source of workplace stress, it’s thought that longer working hours and constant access to emails and work systems through mobile phones and remote working is significantly contributing to rising anxiety levels. This is the generation that doesn’t switch off.

Another relevant facet to consider is how the retirement age continues to rise; people are faced with the prospect of working until much later in life. From April 2016, retirement age in the UK will increase to 65 and by 2026 it’s expected to go up to 67.

Bearing these statistics in mind, it has never been more important to ensure a good work life balance.

Top tips for work life balance

  • Learn to say no – people are motivated and driven and want to do well at work, but when already overloaded with tasks, don’t feel bad for saying no. Overloading will lead to exhaustion, anxiety and an inability to wind down at the end of the day, all of which affects work performance
  • Stop checking your emails – mobile phones make checking work e-mail on the go simple, but if the phone is never off, the person is never off. Turn work-only phones off after office hours or, for personal phones, turn e-mail notifications off. No one should feel guilty about having a personal life
  • Learn when to let go – those who are perfectionists may find themselves retreading the same ground over and over again, particularly when rectifying errors. Being meticulous is a good trait, but if tasks are taking much longer than they should internal pressure can mount, so it’s important to let go a bit. Employers hire people they believe are capable of fulfilling a role, so be confident in it
  • Go on holiday – workaholics tend to not take their full holiday entitlement, but employers want employees to take time off. People who utilise their full holiday entitlement are more productive, stay motivated for longer, are less stressed, and are generally happier in their jobs
  • Keep yourself busy – losing focus on what’s important can be easy with a hectic work-life, so make time to see friends and family, book a holiday, or take up a hobby. Having something to look forward to and engage in really can markedly improve mental health.

Work life unbalance

When faced with life’s problems it’s easy to lose yourself in troubleshooting and not realise how hectic things have become. Try not to lose sight of the reason for working in the first place.

Signs of an unhealthy work life balance include:

  • Unhappiness with amount of time dedicated to work
  • Neglecting other aspects of life because of work
  • Working long hours on a regular basis
  • Being at work or the thought of going to work causes stress, irritability, anxiety or depressive symptoms
  • Unable to stop thinking about work in the evenings, at weekends and/or on holiday
  • Physical and mental health is suffering

If you think that you could be suffering from stress, depression or anxiety because of your job, please feel free to visit our Depression and Anxiety Treatment Programmes page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available.

How to spot the signs of addiction
Why is cognitive behavioural therapy so effective?