Working from home has its positives, but it can be a double-edged sword. You’re living at work too.
So as Australians return to the office, it might be worth reassessing your work/life balance if you’ve slipped into unhealthy habits.
“What started off as flexible hours became all hours with no switch off time,” Dr Grant Blashki, lead clinical adviser at Beyond Blue, told The New Daily.
“Jobs have a funny habit of growing to fill the time available if you let them.”
To maintain a healthy work/life balance as much as possible, here are six tips.
1. Know your role
First and foremost, it’s important to have a really good idea of your role at work.
That includes knowing what is and isn’t part of your job, as well as your rights as an employee.
“The best way to create stress for people is to have an ambiguous job where you’re never quite sure what is your problem and what’s not,” Dr Blashki said.
2. Clear communication
Dr Blashki recommends setting clear expectations with colleagues if you haven’t already.
Use the office as a way of maintaining boundaries between work and life.
As an example, try setting an email signature that details your contact hours.
“Tell people you work Tuesdays to Fridays, from say 9am to 5.30pm. That way, clients or colleagues know they shouldn’t contact you after those times,” he said.
In an era where information and connection is so fluid, it’s critical to create artificial boundaries.
3. Your relationship with technology
Do you really need your work emails on your phone? Or Slack or Microsoft Teams?
“Have a think about the technology in your life, so it’s not just an open slather of people being able to contact you at any time of day,” Dr Blashki said.
4. Keep a schedule
When it comes to your personal care, hobbies and social events, don’t leave it to chance.
“A common error is when people say, ‘When all the work is done then I’ll go and get that medical test or I’ll catch up with Mum’,” Dr Blashki explained.
“So I would be quite explicit about it, put it in your diary. Regular bookings are quite good too. So every day between 12pm and 12.30pm, I’m going to go on a walk.”
That way, you’re clearly telling yourself and others that you are clocking off.
5. Be cautious of the work myths
A common work myth Dr Blashki believes people fall for is “equating splashing with swimming”.
In other words, activity does not equal productivity.
“Even though you’re sitting in front of the computer, you might not be doing anything very useful, especially if you’re distracted or tired,” he said.
“Be clear that lots of activity on its own might not be the best use of your time.
“If you don’t have a break and you’re burnt out, then you’re going to be ineffective.”
6. Make the most of the hybrid working model
As companies embrace a hybrid working model where employees can split their week between the home and workplace, it brings with it opportunities to improve work/life balance.
“It’s pretty hard to do a one-hour walk to work every day, but if it’s twice a week, you can do it and it’s going to be really effective,” Aaron McEwan, a psychologist and vice president, research and advisory at Gartner, told The New Daily.
People can also choose between preparing a healthy meal for lunch, or actively going out for a meal with co-workers.
“If you’re going to go to the office, have morning tea with people. Have lunch with them. Use it as an opportunity to interact with people, like you couldn’t in isolation,” he said.
However, Mr McEwan said the responsibility of balancing work and life shouldn’t just rest on the shoulders of employees.
“There’s only so much they can do,” he said.
“Organisations also have a responsibility to create healthy environments that protect the health and wellbeing of their employees.”