By Kirsty Duffield
HR leaders have been surveyed and said they believed mental health issues such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness had increased among their workforce since the coronavirus crisis hit and most workers have had to do their jobs from home.
This has encouraged a culture where workers feel they should be online and available to colleagues as much as possible, even when feeling unwell or having already worked their contracted hours.
It is so important for those working in an education capacity to embrace, model and demonstrate a positive and healthy work-life balance. In the face of busy and demanding roles the key proviso is to acknowledge that we each have a unique work-life balance tapestry because we all have different needs.
5 key tips for this to be accomplished in the workplace are:
Wellbeing - We must all appreciate our physical and mental health through taking care of our bodies with adequate exercise, a balanced diet, enough sleep, and sufficient relaxation. Both might get knocks along the way – this is when we need to seek out appropriate support and recover through rest and recuperation.
Purpose and meaning - Aligning our values to who we are at work and what we do offers us the
connection that gels us emotionally and philosophically to our organisation. Humans are social
creatures meaning dependants and partners (if we have them) need us and we need them. Friends come in and out of our lives and we get out what we put in, that takes effort, time, and prioritising.
Work smarter - Complete a task-time tracker to reveal chunks of wasted time that could have been served more constructively and fruitfully. Learning to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is an art form and can help hugely when prioritising workloads. As we explore and embrace flexible working opportunities, we can identify ways of working more productively in less time to enjoy the reward of extra ‘me time’.
Perfectionism myth - ‘I need to be perfect!’ our internal selves often tell us. No, we do not. This is a massive saboteur to work-life balance as we feed the impossible dream. The higher the bar, the
further out of reach it becomes. Accept ‘good enough’ and the gift of learning from mistakes. The
reality is that at work we might all slip up at some time; maybe we made the wrong decision or were ill-informed. Accepting that and reviewing what happened objectively can prevent an insidious blame culture emerging, which can damage the opportunity to achieve real learning, insight and progression.
‘Stressure’ - Monitor personal levels of stress and look out for the signs in others. The secret is it is usually easier to spot signs of stress in someone else than in ourselves. If we all look out for each other, we are more likely to spot the tell-tale triggers. What is a motivating pressure to one can be a debilitating stressor to another.
Complete the little quiz below to check out if your work life balance is in check:
Do you have the right work-life balance?
1. My life and work demands often interfere with each other.
2. Someone else has control over my work schedule.
3. It's a struggle to get time off from work when I need to.
4. I spend a lot of time responding to personal emails and phone calls when I am at work.
5. I don't have time to exercise at least three times a week.
6. I have had to give up most of my hobbies.
7. I sleep less than eight hours per night on a regular basis.
8. I have frequent headaches and/or stomach-aches.
9. I catch myself making mistakes on the job often.
10. It is important to check my phone and email when I leave work.
11. It is hard to shift my focus of attention to the issue at hand.
12. I find myself worrying a lot about how I'll get everything done.
13. I work more than 40 hours a week.
14. It's hard not to be irritable and lose my temper.
15. I don't have enough time to relax.
16. I frequently have to deal with work emergencies when I am not there.
17. I am tired all the time.
18. My family and friends are routinely upset at me for not being available to them.
19. I am often needed outside of work during work hours.
20. I drink more than 3 cups or shots of caffeinated drinks per day.
Scoring - If you answered …
Mostly true: You are in serious danger of incurring a stress-related illness or injury, having a major
personal problem or endangering your job. You're taking on too much and need more support either at work or at home, or both. Act now. Even if you can sustain highly stressful situations for a period of time, over the long term, you could cause irreversible damage to your health.
Equally true and false: You may be at risk of burning the candle at both ends. Examine your
commitments, responsibilities and level of control over your life. There may be one or two simple
tweaks you can make to reduce work/life conflicts, or it might be that a significant change is
necessary. In either case, consider how you can take better care of yourself.
Mostly false: You have a good fit for work and life demands. You take care of yourself. You're at low risk of burnout and are a good role model of work-life balance for others.
Here is a quick YouTube vid for you to watch: