Unfortunately, a third of UK workers feel that they have a poor work-life balance. Not only does this imbalance affect their relationships and happiness at home, but it can also take its toll on their mental health. Therefore with the help of CT Shirts, a leading supplier of men’s casual shirts, we’re going to investigate the best way to manage a good work-life balance, taking some tips from other countries.
Why do we find it so hard to maintain a work-life balance?
Statistics show that the younger the employee, the less likely they are to identify work-life balance as an important part of their job, perhaps this because they are fresh to the field or because many young employees are yet to begin forging families to go home too. The issue of family in the importance of a work-life balance cannot be ignored with statistics showing that 75% of working parents regularly suffer from stress and anxiety as a result of their work-life balance management.
But having a family isn’t the only thing tipping the delicate balance between work and play over the edge, the simple matter of time spent at work plays a big part too and research has found that as a person’s weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness.
Even for those who are fortunate enough not to work long hours, there is still the issue of ‘switching off’ and disconnecting from their working days with one-third of European workers saying that a bad day at work can follow them home affecting their personal lives.
It seems that in short, the more we work the less time that we have to spend with the ones we love, the less time we have to focus on looking after ourselves and the less time we have to pursue our own hobbies and interest. The sad thing is that many people feel like there’s nothing they can do about it.
What are other countries doing?
Unsurprisingly, Britain has the worst work-life balance in comparison to other western European countries, so what can we learn from our foreign neighbours?
Firstly it seems as though workers in other countries have more free time to spend outside of work. In Belgium, employees have an average of 8.6 hours of free time per day compared to their 7.4-hour workdays, and the Netherlands are enjoying the shortest working week at only 30.3 hours. Denmark only spends 6.6 hours at work each day with 8.8 hours each day to spend how they wish, and Austrians are encouraged to start the weekend early with 3 pm finishes implemented around the country. These may not seem like drastically shorter days but all of these extra hours add up with Britons working 325 hours more per year than workers in Germany.
While at work UK workers will often only take a half an hour to an hours break per day whereas in other European cultures this would be seen as nothing more than a stop for a coffee. The Spanish are famous for their midday siestas with many stores still closing for a few hours at the hottest time of the day before reopening later in the evening. In France, it is normal for workers to take a long lunch break giving them time to sit down and eat a proper meal with colleagues. Finland also takes the approach that more and longer lunch breaks are good for everyone, stopping for a morning ‘Fika’ at around 11 am and then taking an extra-long lunch break which can last as long as two hours.
In addition to many European workers spending less time at work, there are also some other regulations that help them to maintain a better work-life balance.
- Belgians are able to take a full month off work to coincide with school breaks helping them with childcare and enabling families to spend quality time together.
- Spanish workers have a holiday allowance of 30 days which is above the UK minimum.
- France introduced a law in 2017 to give workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from after-work emails helping them to switch off at home.
- And Swedish workers enjoy 16 months of paid parental leave for each child with an additional 180 days if you have twins.
So what can we do to change our own balance?
We may not be able to change the regulations of our workplace or take additional paid parental leave but there are some things that we can do to help manage our work-life balance.
Split your break
You may not be able to get longer breaks but you could enquire with your employer about splitting it. Research has proven that taking regular breaks can improve your productivity, and it, therefore, could be something that they will support. Split your hour break up into half an hour and two 15-minute breaks to decrease the amount of time spent at your desk at one time. Get some fresh air or spend time talking to family on the phone, taking a small action like this could reduce your stress levels.
Reduce your commute.
A long commute can lead to stress and depression according to one study. This is one reason to propose flexi-time at your office, where you can skip the traffic at each side of your day and do something more productive. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone. You could make your commute feel more productive though, by listening to a podcast or audiobook that can reduce the stress of rush-hour traffic. Alternatively, going to a gym class near to your work can mean that you miss the bulk of the busy traffic and allows you to fit some exercise into your day as well!
Stick to your contracted hours
Try to remember the effects that mixing home and work can have on your work-life balance and aim to check your emails only once for a maximum of 10 minutes in the evening. Unless entirely necessary, make sure you are sticking to the number of hours that you’re contracted to, continuously working above and beyond your contracted hours can have a big impact on your mental health and may become expected by your employer.
Use your holiday for holidays
Use your annual holidays to recharge and spend time with family. We’re all guilty of using our holidays to run errands or do something that we’ve been putting off, but this isn’t always helpful for our work-life balance. Although we need to do this now and then, annual leave should be used to recuperate, relax and enjoy time away from the office so try to focus on that.
As most of us know, the current situation is not great for UK workers. But, there are some small changes that you can make. From splitting up your break to making the most of your holidays, being conscious of finding a good split between the office and spare time is the first step to improving your work-life balance.