Successful work-life balance

Work, family, friends, hobbies – we only feel good when all areas of our life are balanced. Are you happy with your work-life balance? Tips, a quick check and a self-analysis for your inner balance.

12.01.2021

Daniela Schori

Work-life balance means maintaining a healthy relationship between your work and personal life. This is only possible when your personal needs are in sync with those of your work. 

While the term work-life balance is well established, it has its critics; the contrast drawn between work and life suggests that real life takes place outside of work. The phrase “life-domain balance” may be a better fit. This includes work, social life, our bodies, meaning and self-realisation. All these areas are key to staying healthy and productive. People must decide for themselves whether there is a healthy balance between their jobs and personal lives. Do you have enough time for the things that make you happy? 

Work-life balance central to health

If one aspect of your life is constantly neglected, it takes a toll. An unhealthy relationship between work and free time can impact energy, quality of life, satisfaction – and damage your health on every level.

Without balance, day-to-day life becomes a burden. This makes us sick in the long-term; cardiovascular diseases, depression, burnout, anxiety disorders and heart attacks are typical consequences. Sleep problems, headaches and back pain, or stomach issues may also be signs of a faulty work-life balance. Don’t take such symptoms lightly. Talk to your doctor about this.

Quick check of your work-life balance

Signs of imbalance include:

  • The feeling of never having enough time
  • Major pressure and stress
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • No mental separation between personal and work life
  • Good relationships, family, partnerships are neglected
  • Psychosomatic problems such as headache, stomach troubles and back pain
  • Sense of inner emptiness and meaninglessness
  • Changes in personal behaviour (e.g. irritability, cynicism, forgetfulness, withdrawal)

On top of your work-life balance?

There’s no sure formula for a good work-life balance. What might work for one person could be overwhelming to another. Work-life balance is also dynamic. Always keep in mind: how satisfied are you with your life? What are you neglecting? These eight golden rules will help you to maintain balance:

Schedule personal time for things that improve your mood. What do you enjoy? Whether it’s sport, yoga, meditation, reading, music, nature, cooking, writing, crafting, dancing – mindfully enjoy your time for yourself.

Stress is normal – as long as it’s temporary and followed by relaxation. However, chronic stress can make us sick. It exhausts us both emotionally and physically, weakens the immune system and can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. To do this, you need to know your stress traps. What triggers stress for you? 

Take the stress test Seven strategies for handling stress

These days, many professionals are able to flexibly structure their working time and location – often by working from home. Flexible work models, teleworking and working from home offer opportunities and greater freedom, improve motivation and create greater unity between family and work – but also come with risks. Not everyone is good at managing the blurring of boundaries between work and free time. If you are unable to disconnect and really relax, it can take a toll on your productivity and health. Workers need to mindfully establish boundaries between work and personal life, observe the results, and dynamically adjust the boundaries to suit new situations. This is called boundary management. How can you mindfully manage the boundaries between work and personal life? Check out the podcast on this issue by Birgit Werkmann-Karcher of ZHAW Zurich, Institute of Applied Psychology.

Wie Boundary Management gelingt (podcast in German)

No one can do everything at once and meet all expectations, even their own. Perfectionism is a killer. Focus on the important stuff. And delegate! Which tasks can be passed on to others? Who could jump in to help give you more freedom? Are you able to give up responsibility? What can you strike from your schedule? Saying no isn’t a crime; it’s a healthy part of self-management. Maybe your employer (or someone else) offers a course on the topic of time management?

Time management for family life

Regularly press the pause button – both figuratively and literally. Taking a break in the fresh air can inspire new ideas. Also pause for meals. Don’t read the news at the same time, and leave your work desk to eat. Short relaxation exercises can also help. Meditation, mindfulness training with MBSR, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing breaks – relax in your own way. Depending on your insurance coverage, Helsana helps cover various health promotion courses. 

The best methods for relaxation Health promotion from supplementary insurance COMPLETA

Social contacts are an important resource. Do you regularly put off meeting friends due to lack of time or energy? Instead, set a fixed time window of 8 to 10 p.m. This will allow you to come home and still have a social evening. This is sure to improve your quality of life!

We admit, it’s hard to exercise at the end of a strenuous day. But the extra effort is worth it. Jogging or taking a walk after or even during work can help clear your head. Take your bike instead of the car. Sport can help to relieve tension and release endorphins. Afterwards, you’ll feel more awake and more content.

Ideas for making exercise fun

Do you often feel overwhelmed by too many tasks, obligations and deadlines? Create a to-do list. This will help you to structure and prioritise your tasks. Set realistic daily goals and sub-goals for bigger tasks. Do the most difficult things first to get them out of the way. When planning, keep in mind your personal performance curve – when are you most productive? Do one task after the other and set a time limit for each one. Avoid multitasking, which just makes us feel nervous and lose focus. 

Do you have questions about your health?

We can provide you with answers to all of your health-related questions quickly and easily, whether you’d like advice on nutrition and exercise or coping with stress. 

Is your free time really free?

We have more free time than ever – at least statistically. But how relaxing is our free time really? Our schedules fill up quickly with inauthentic free time, or “pseudo-free time”. This might consist of housework, doctor’s visits, bureaucracy, and familial and social duties. Pseudo-free time is determined by third parties. This does not really allow us to relax. So, make sure that you always plan some activities that you really enjoy in your free time, things you want to do. Which activity will help you to relax really depends on the situation. How do you feel right now? Maybe irritable, tense, exhausted – or perhaps under-challenged by your job? Listen to your gut. Your free time is for you alone. 

Conclusion: keep going!

Life changes constantly – and so does your work-life balance. Make a regular habit of conducting the self-analysis above. Learn how to set boundaries, prioritise and delegate. This will reduce stress in your day-to-day life, so your free time really stays free.

Health Expert Sandra Schwendener Health Expert Sandra Schwendener

Health Expert Sandra Schwendener

Sandra Schwendener (work psychologist, certified stress management trainer, specialist in medical progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness interoception SGMEV ad interim) has worked at Helsana since 2016. As a specialist in occupational health management, she helps people cope with stress, learn relaxation techniques and establish a good work-life balance. She offered advice and input for this article.

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