As I sit down to write this on my holiday I have just come off of a work call from the girl who is covering me whilst I am away. In all fairness it was my boss who caused her need to call me as he accidentally reprogrammed the door timer which ensures the door automatically locks at the end of the day.
I loathe being disturbed in this way on my holiday; immediately I thought of my how I would now have to reprogram it all over again when I returned to work and as a result I was thrust into work mode when I was supposed to be relaxing.
Although I work very hard whilst I am at work, I make a point of keeping my work and private life quite separate. Calls like this are quite rare and I have made a point of not syncing my phone with my work emails so I can’t access them when I leave the office.
I also have many hobbies and interests which keep my focus elsewhere when I am not working and I always take time to relax if I’ve had a stressful day at work. Despite this though, I recognized that there was room for improvement if I was to ensure I had a better work / life balance.
What followed was a great deal of research into how I might better address my work / life balance. Reassuringly I was already doing most of the recommended habits but, rather concerningly, I couldn’t help but feel I was going against the trend towards workaholism that exists in both the UK and US.
Indeed, Hamermesh and Stanccanelli cite in ‘Long workweeks and Strange Hours’ (September 2014) that 29.2% of Americans and 25.5% of Britons often work weekends, compared with just 9.6% of the Spanish following suit. The same study revealed that 26.6% of Americans and 18.6% of Britons work evenings, compared to just 6.9% of their Dutch European counterparts. Indeed, Norway was voted by the UN as the happiest place to live in the world with residents typically earning $69,000 ($9,000 more than the average American) and only working thirty five hours a week.
In addition, Americans face just ten days paid holiday on average per year, with a further ten public holidays, whilst Britons have a third more time off at twenty days plus eight public holidays, compared with the Spanish having twenty-two days paid leave and a whopping fourteen public holiday days. In light of these statistics is it any wonder that Americans and Britons are finding it increasingly hard to achieve a healthy work / life balance?
But beyond the inconvenience there lies a much more sinister side to working longer hours. Stress, anxiety and ultimately burn out can be caused by too much work and no play. Our physical health can be impacted too, with working more causing a higher risk of stroke, type two diabetes and even heart disease in more extreme cases.
Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to limit the impact work has on our lives, allowing you to claim back your life outside of work and have more of a healthy equilibrium between work and play. I can testify from personal experience that the steps I share with you throughout this series work and will help you redress the imbalance when your life is burdened by too much emphasis on work.