Work-life balance is certainly a valuable consideration throughout your working life.
Sometimes this phrase that can throw us out, however. Speaking about work-life balance can give us an image of a scale with two sides that are 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.
Aiming towards finding the right level of balance or integration for your life can help reduce stress, increase your job satisfaction, and give you more time to pursue the things you enjoy. It’s a proactive step you can take towards looking after your mental health.
Below are some ideas for finding a work-life integration that works for you:
If you’re starting a new job
Some jobs are more difficult than others for finding a good element of work-life integration. If you have any choice in the job you’re taking on, it’s worth giving this some thought. “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 on your home life when you’re at home is a big step towards achieving a greater 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 transitions you have between the two, and find some ways to help your mind make that switch. It’s the little things that can make a big difference here, and including a small ritual into your day that helps your mind switch from work to home or vice versa can be useful. This could be as simple as taking a deep breath and reminding yourself to be present as you take your shoes off to step in your front door.
What do you need?
Everyone’s idea of balance is different, so it’s important to find some ways that work for you. Landy suggests that in doing this, you can 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 in order to function well during the day, while others have a morning cup of tea ritual that helps keep them grounded.
There’s a third ingredient
Two of the major aspects of work-life integration – work and family – are talked about a lot, however there’s one thing missing from the conversation: you. Are you getting some time to yourself, to do the things that you enjoy or find a lot of value in doing? What do you wish you had time for? What could you do that will motivate you more? What are the things you’ll feel calm after doing?
Get specific with yourself, so rather than thinking that 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 that you’ll be checking your emails at a certain time and give yourself a break until that time. “That takes some self-discipline,” Landy adds.
Do an annual review
Although getting your work life and personal life to fit together well requires constant check ins, it’s also 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.”