The Importance Of Striking The Right Work-Life Balance
Make sure your hard-earned professional plaudits don't come at the cost of your personal health and wellbeing
We all hope to achieve the perfect work-life balance where we can check off every task on the office to-do list before heading home at the right time to spend quality time with family, friends, or lazing around as we wish. Unfortunately, that balance proves elusive as the demands of a substantial workload take their toll. Overworked and overtired at the office, the only option left to most of us is to finish off the work at home, allowing work life to spill into personal time.
Whether it's because you're juggling a huge pile of pending work or just want to stay one step ahead of your colleagues, taking your work back home with you can adversely affect your health and wellbeing. Before you let it become part of your normal workday, here's what you need to know.
It Affects Your Health
Several studies document the risk long working hours have on your physical health. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in October 2012 suggests an increased risk of heart disease for overworked people. Similarly, a study published in Sleep in June 2009 links it to sleeping disorders while another study published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology links it to Type 2 diabetes.
More research conducted by The Australian National University published in Social Science & Medicine in March 2017 highlighted physical and mental health risks for people who work more than 39 hours a week. According to lead researcher Dr Huong Dinh from the ANU Research School of Population Health, "Long work hours erode a person's mental and physical health because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly."
The researchers suggest that a maximum of 34 hours per week comprised a healthy workweek for women, with 47 hours being a corresponding figure for men. "Despite the fact that women on average are as skilled as men, women on average have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care and domestic work," Dr Dinh explained.
Long Work Hours Don't Make A Difference
At least you're getting more work done, right? Maybe not—in a revealing study published in Organization Science in April 2015, it was found that managers couldn't tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. Erin Reid, the author of the study, also said in an article published in Harvard Business Review dated April 28, 2015, "To be sure, some men seemed to happily comply with the firm's expectations, working long hours and traveling constantly, but a majority were dissatisfied. They complained to me of children crying when they missed their soccer games, of poor health and substance addictions caused by how they worked, and of a general sense of feeling "overworked and underfamilied."
The case to shorten the average workweek is made even stronger by the results of a recent trial carried out at a New Zealand-based firm in March and April this year. Its employees worked a four-day workweek and got three days off. Levels of employee performance as well as job satisfaction improved notably at the end of the trial, reported Jarrod Haar, professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology.
Your Personal Relationships Are At Risk
If the time you're supposed to be spending with your loved ones sees you seated firmly in front of your laptop working on work projects, it may create ever-increasing gaps between you and your friends and family. Research carried out by the New Zealand Ministry of Social Development, published in Social Policy Journal Of New Zealand Te Puna Whakaaro in June 2009 highlights long working hours as one of many factors that may affect family functioning and wellbeing.
If the working conditions detailed above seem familiar to you, perhaps a rethink of your work situation is called for.