Do you find yourself working excruciatingly long hours and struggling to find time to spend with friends and family?
Do you feel constantly stressed that you’re neglecting your family because of your workload? Or, do you worry that taking more personal time will mean you’ll get in trouble with your manager for not being dedicated enough to your work?
This is a common concern, particularly for workers in Hong Kong, where research from UBS has revealed that Hong Kong employees work, on average, 50 hours a week. This is the highest amount for any city in the survey, out of 71 cities around the world. In comparison, Parisians put in just 31 hours a week.
Poor work-life balance can have adverse effects on health. It can cause stress, unhappiness and even lack of sleep. In Japan, there's even a word which has been coined to describe death by overwork, “karoshi”.
It’s therefore no surprise that a positive work-life balance is becoming increasingly important. In fact, Robert Half’s Salary Guide reveals that work-life balance is the key reason why employees decide to leave a job.
If you feel you need a better work-life balance, here are some effective methods to get started today.
5 effective work-life balance strategies
1. Understand your perfect balance
Your ideal work-life balance can look completely different to someone else’s.
It’s therefore important to take some time to decide what your own work-life balance should look like. How much time do you need for work? And how much time do you want for your personal/leisure time?
2. Take ownership of your work-life balance
Sometimes you just can’t do everything or be in two places at once. By understanding what your key priorities are though, you can ensure you make time for the most important things.
At work, create a list of tasks and consider delegating some of the less important responsibilities. At home, you might need to stop some activities, to focus on other, more important ones. Of course, this does mean saying “no” from time to time. Whilst it may seem hard initially, if always saying “yes” leaves you feeling unhappy and stressed, it’s a necessary step.
3. Consider your work arrangements
Perhaps one of the most obvious steps to take to create a better work-life balance is to reduce your work hours, such as by becoming part-time. Of course, this isn’t always feasible, especially if you have a family to financially support.
Although you may be reluctant to sit down with your boss or reach out for help, this is the best way to find out whether there any other options available to you, such as flexible working and working from home. These are all methods that have been shown to considerably increase job satisfaction, productivity and lead to higher motivation. Working from home also has the added benefit of saving time from your usual commute.
A study into working from home found that introducing working from home as an option for employees resulted in a 13.5% increase in calls compared to those who remained in the office, demonstrating that alternate ways of working can have a positive impact on employee productivity.
4. Benefit from using technology
To help create a better work-life balance, get the most out of technology. Mobile devices can allow you to easily communicate and collaborate with colleagues, even if you’re working from home, from one of Hong Kong’s many coworking spaces, or whilst on the go.
Some tools you could try include DropBox, Google Drive, Skype and Slack. Technology can also help you work more effectively, enabling you to work through your to-do list quicker. This can leave you with more valuable time to spend with your loved ones. Some tools include Trello, IFTTT, Buffer and Evernote.
Of course, whilst technology can be a huge help, the “always-on” mentality can make it even harder to create a good work-life balance. Do you find yourself checking emails after work, answering calls on your day off, or doing work when you’re on holiday?
To avoid this, it’s important to set clear boundaries, to know when to focus on work and when to switch off. Important lessons can certainly be learnt from France, who, in order to protect employees’ personal time, have recently passed a new law, requiring employers to set times when staff should not check or reply to emails.
5. Make time for family time
Do you find that your personal time becomes an afterthought? If you fit in leisure activities around your work, stop. In the same way as you’d schedule a work meeting, schedule in time to spend with your friends, family and even yourself. This way, it’s in the diary and needs your attention.
Of course, this not only requires you to be physically present, but mentally too. Therefore, switch your laptop off and mute your phone, so you’re not tempted to dip into work when you should be relaxing.
What to do if finding a balance is still a struggle
If you’ve tried these above suggestions and are still struggling to juggle your work and personal time, or the company you work for doesn’t value this balance, it may be time to consider looking for a new job.
There are lots of businesses out there that support and actively encourage employees to create a better work-life balance. If you need some help, get in touch with Robert Half Hong Kong.