15
Jan
2017

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list – Michelle Obama

Do you have times when you feel overwhelmed by all the demands in your life, especially work? Do you struggle with juggling work and other areas of life? It is certainly not easy to achieve ‘work-life balance’, as quite often they can get out of balance! This is because we may at times have to focus more on one area in life, such as work or home, more than another area.

A newer, and perhaps more helpful term, is work-life integration. This refers to the relationship between your work and the commitments in the rest of your life, how we blend them together, and how they impact one another[1]. Integrating the different areas of life can include having time for family, friends, work, exercise, leisure and adequate sleep. Integrating work and life means creating harmony between different aspects of life, where benefits gained from each area can support and strengthen the others[2].

Integration of work and life commitments varies between individuals, as we are all different and have varied commitments to work, family and leisure activities. Finding a good blend may shift over time but it imperative to our health and well-being that we continue to look at how work and life activities are interacting with one another. In addition, work that is meaningful and enjoyable can create a sense of wellbeing and contribute to good mental health[3].

Some benefits of healthy work-life integration include:

  • Reduced stress levels at work and at home – greater ability to live ‘in the moment’
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Improved health and well-being
  • The opportunity to participate more fully in family and social life[4]
  • More time to pursue personal goals and activities such as hobbies or leisure[5]

Who finds it difficult to integrate work and life?

The Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) is a survey that measures the interference of work on other areas in our lives[6]. It suggests that certain groups are more affected than others when it comes to work life integration:

  • Women are more likely to experience worse work-life outcomes than men, taking on more caring roles and domestic work[7]
  • Parents, particularly mothers, and even more so for single mothers[8]
  • People with caring responsibilities such as sick, elderly or disabled relatives. Also those who care for children as well as parents[9]
  • Certain occupations that require persons to work long hours and take on greater levels of responsibility
  • Those who work out home can actually experience negative work-life integration as it can be easy to become distracted and fall behind

Some tips for work-life integration:

Balancing the demands of a busy lifestyle is not an easy thing to do, but is best managed by regularly reviewing your priorities[10]. Here are a few ideas to help you integrate your work and life commitments:

  • Put your health and well-being first. Regular exercise and meditation have proven benefits for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Go to bed and wake up at about the same time everyday, participate in actives you enjoy, eat healthy food, drink in moderation and avoid illegal drugs.
  • Practice mindfulness or being fully present in the moment. You can try mindfulness of everyday activities, mindfulness meditation or walking mindfulness.
  • Reduce multi-tasking where you can, as we actually achieve more when we focus on one task at a time.
  • Work on the relationships in your life. Ask yourself who is most important to you, and spend as much time with them as you can. This can include friends, family or a pet. Having positive relationships and social support help build resilience to cope with stress[11].
  • Consider your values and set goals around what you value highly. Spend some time thinking about what is important in your life and how much time you actually spend on those important things.
  • Reflect on what you passionate about? Spend time focusing on your passions. While all work can be stressful and not enjoyable at times, if you are really struggling with life at work, consider working part-time, changing jobs or even careers.
  • Working on your time management skills can assist, including keeping track of where your time goes, having job lists with high priority jobs at the top, and planning your day/week. Some people limit when they check emails to twice a day, rather than responding to emails throughout the day.
  • Set time limits on your work as well as other aspects of your life. You may like to use a timer, especially if you are a person who enjoys working to a routine.
  • Going Internet free for periods of the day is also important, as is taking regular breaks during work hours.
  • Build a good support system—support is great, and learning to delegate is a vital skill, as we all need a little help sometimes!
  • Learn to say ‘no’ (you don’t have to do everything, or please everyone) when reasonable to do so, or when you need to.
  • Create a pleasant work place – plenty of light, some plants, good coffee, or some treasured items on your desk.
  • Consider your finances. Research has shown that once our basic needs are met, a higher income does not lead to happiness. Spending less money could mean less work hours and more time for a richer life[12].
  • Take some time out. Rest periods are important to recharge the batteries at times. Schedule a regular time for yourself each week, and relax by reading a book, doing nothing, or an activity you enjoy[13].
  • Let go of perfectionism. If we have unrealistically high expectations of ourselves and expect everything we do to be perfect, we can end up being very unhappy. Be kind to yourself.
  • Focus on tools, such as gratitude, which can help you feel happier. Play to your strengths in life, and develop skills that help you think in positive ways.
  • And check out a book by Angela Lockwood called ‘Switch Off How to find calm in a noisy world, published by Wiley in 2017. It has some great ideas about slowing down!

We hope that some of these ideas will be helpful to you. Enjoy your work and your life, and take care of yourself!

References:

Work Life Balance. Mind Health Connect. Updated 2014. http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/work-life-balance.

Work Life Balance & Stress Management, Queensland Government. Updated 2013. https://www.qld.gov.au/health/mental-health/balance/lifestyle/.

What is Work Life Balance? Safe Work SA. Updated 2012. https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/worklifebalance/wlb_show_page.jsp?id=111580.

[1] What is Work Life Balance?, Safe Work SA, Updated 2012, https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/worklifebalance/wlb_show_page.jsp?id=111580.

[2] Work Life Balance, Mind Health Connect, Updated 2014, http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/work-life-balance.

[3] ibid.

[4] Work Life Balance & Stress Management, Queensland Government, Updated 2013, https://www.qld.gov.au/health/mental-health/balance/lifestyle/.

[5] ibid.

[6] Work Life Balance, Mind Health Connect, Updated 2014, http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/work-life-balance.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] Work Life Balance & Stress Management, Queensland Government, Updated 2013, https://www.qld.gov.au/health/mental-health/balance/lifestyle/.

[11] Work Life Balance, Mind Health Connect, Updated 2014, http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/work-life-balance.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

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