The idea of having a work-life balance is certainly valuable. Being able to focus on your work without sacrificing the time you spend with your loved ones and passions is the ideal.
Fixating on the phrase can be problematic. It’s not a scale with two sides equally weighted. “If we think of it as integration instead, we can remember it’s about how the pieces are fitting together, and they won’t necessarily be equal,” says career coach Michelle Landy.
Finding the right level of life balance can help reduce stress, increase job satisfaction, and give you more time for the things you enjoy. It’s a proactive step you can take towards looking after your mental health.
Here are some ideas for finding a work-life integration that works for you:
If you’re starting a new job
Some careers make it harder to find a work-life balance. “I really encourage people to think through those elements right at the beginning,” says Landy. “It’s not just about what you’ll be doing in the job that’s important, but how the job fits into the bigger picture.”
Switch on and switch off
Being focused on work during your working hours and focused on home when you’re at home is a big step toward better work-life integration. “The key to integration is actually being mindful of where you are,” Landy says.
The best way to do this is to think about the transition between the two and find ways to help your mind make that switch.
Including a small daily ritual that helps your mind switch from work to home or vice versa can be useful. It could be as simple as taking a deep breath and reminding yourself to be present as you step in your front door.
What do you need?
Everyone’s idea of balance is different, so it’s important to find ways that work for you. Landy suggests you consider how the various aspects of your life make you feel. “The different ways we feel that life has meaning is where we get a sense of balance,” she explains. “If we top up the things that matter to us, we feel more balanced.”
Ask yourself, what are the things that make you feel grounded and focused? Some people, for example, find they need half an hour of exercise in the morning to function well during the day, while others have a morning cup of tea ritual that helps keep them grounded.
Focusing on your needs
We always focus on work and family in the work-life integration. However, there’s one thing missing: you.
Are you getting some time to yourself, to do the things you enjoy or find a lot of value in doing? What do you wish you had time for? What could you do that would motivate you more? What are the things you feel calm after doing?
Get specific with yourself, so rather than thinking you need to do some exercise, think instead about what type of exercise you’d really enjoy and when it would fit in best with your life.
Set boundaries and expectations
Let people know when you’re available. If you’re expected to work in the evenings or weekends, then tell your colleagues you’ll be checking your emails at a certain time and give yourself a break until then. “That takes some self-discipline,” Landy adds.
Do an annual review
Although getting your work and personal life to fit together well requires constant check-ins, it’s a good idea to give it some focused thought every so often. “Every year, do a major reflection on how all the elements in your life are going,” suggests Landy. “Focus on two elements: what’s working and what needs to change.”
One way to ease the stress of your personal life during work hours is by having a plan for your finances. Having a chat with a financial adviser is a good way to get things under control so you can focus on the things that matter most to you.