The old saw about working smarter rather than harder has real merit. That’s because constantly pushing yourself is eventually counterproductive. If you’re working all the time, then you’re increasing your risk of burnout. You may already have some symptoms. It can start with reduced performance and difficulty concentrating. Burnout can become a physical problem as well –– you might experience everything from exhaustion and headaches to gastrointestinal disorders and insomnia. Around three-quarters of working Americans are currently experiencing some degree of burnout while roughly one in ten are in the throes of complete burnout.
Neglecting fun and friends is a recipe for disaster. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to make positive changes, here are six work life balance tips for employees.
1. Boundaries Matter
Our always-connected life has real consequences. I mean, if you’re texting or emailing your boss during dinner shouldn’t you just set an extra place at the table? One of the best work/life balance tips for employees is to create clear boundaries between the time you devote to the office and the time you devote to yourself. Just as companies often frown on staffers attending to personal business while they’re at work, you shouldn’t be doing work stuff at home. If your boss expects a fast response to late-night communications, it may be time for a difficult conversation. If your newly set boundaries aren’t respected, you may want to seek new employment.
2. Use the Word “No” More Often
I generally tell people to say yes as often as they can but when it comes to work/life balance tips for employees I recommend saying “No.” Being the go-to guy or gal at work means being presented with seemingly endless projects along with innumerable invitations to after-work events. The truth is saying no to things that cause you stress is ultimately beneficial not just to you but to them. Because when you’re not able to give your full attention to something you’re shortchanging them as well.
3. Use Your Vacation Time
It’s amusing to realize that not only do Europeans on average get weeks more of paid vacations than we do in the U.S. but that the majority of us don’t even use what we have. Are you shocked by a 2019 study that showed 55 percent of Americans did not use all of their paid vacation time? If you haven’t taken a true vaycay in years, you may not be. Unfortunately, not using your vacation time is an easy way to burnout. After 2020’s lockdowns, many people couldn’t wait to travel. If you weren’t one of them, the time to start planning a trip is now. Travel will recharge your batteries and comfortably take you out of your comfort zone. And as tempting as it may be, a “staycation” that’s mainly an excuse to binge-watch your favorite shows isn’t ideal.
4. Take Regular Breaks
Studies show that the maximum time we can work at an optimal level is just 90 minutes. After that, our energy flags and we lose steam. Start keeping track of how long you work on your computer –– even if you need a timer to help you. When your hour-thirty is up, step away from your desk. Walk up and down a few flights of stairs, stroll around the office park. Catch up with colleagues over coffee. Taking regular breaks will actually make you more productive, not less.
5. Enjoy Me Time
Away from the office, make exercise a part of your regular routine. Take a yoga or cardio barre class. Prep some healthy lunches and eat them at work rather than ordering takeaway. Even re-watching your favorite drama can be a good way to recharge your batteries.
6. Spend Time With Friends and Family
The ones we care about the most are often the first ones we neglect during a work crunch. If long hours have led to cancelled plans, make the effort to schedule some time with your loved ones. Whether it’s a “girls night” out or visiting relatives, there are numerous benefits to spending time with people outside of the office including improved physical health and lowered risk for depression.
No matter how much you love your job, allowing it to be all consuming will affect your performance at work. So take a step back and devote some time to yourself!
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