Work life balance: Setting work life boundaries

by rodney on August 5, 2012

Now more than ever, it is hard to separate work from our home lives. The pressure to meet deadlines, goals and targets means many people have to bring our work home, and with the increase of technological advances, work also invades our home lives with work emails, text messages and the company website all accessible in our pockets.

The inability to leave work at work has people focused on work most of the day which creates emotional exhaustion, burnout and increased pressure and stress which then effects our physical health through heart attacks, obesity and lack of energy, to name a few.

But it is not only yourself who suffers; your family also feels the effects. Many partners and children often feel neglected and unloved through the lack of attention they receive due to too much time focused on work.  All too often many people have lost their families due to this feeling of neglect.

So, I hear you ask, how can we balance life AND work without neglecting the family and meeting our work commitments? I believe what will make this challenge easier is to out in place clear boundaries that separate life and work and stick to them. I know it’s easier said than done, but here are 5 tips on how to set these boundaries.

Transition

The transition from home to work and back again is the perfect opportunity to shift your focus so you can concentrate on where you need to be.  This is to be done while travelling from one place to the other whether you’re driving or on the bus/train. While going to work you can complete this transition by listening to the news, reading work documents (I don’t recommend this while you’re driving) planning or revising your to do list, anything that will help you to switch your mind from home to work. When you’re leaving work to come home, the reverse applies.  To switch your mind from work to home listen to enjoyable music, think about what you’re going to do when you get home or even read a novel or your favourite book (again, not while driving, you could listen to an audio recording of this book). The benefit of going through this transitional period is that by the time you reach your destination, your mindset has already made that vital shift and you can put your focus where it needs to be.

Turn off technology

With technology helping to blur the lines between work and home, it is vital that we don’t let it invade our work or home life. The solution is as simple as turning it off. At home, turn off your work phone (better yet, leave it at work, why do you need it at home?), don’t check work emails on your home computer don’t use remote access technology which will put you virtually back in the office. Likewise, at work disable Facebook and Twitter, don’t check your personal emails and turn your personal mobile off.

Prioritise

This is probably the most important step in helping to set the boundaries between work and home. By prioritising these parts of your life will make it easier to recognise where you need to put your focus.  When work has demands on you such as meeting deadlines, working through important business times such as tax time or Christmas for people working in retail, you need to put work as a top priority. Explaining to your family that it is a busy time at work and that you need to spend more time working for a short period. You can then ask them to support you by allowing you to do this which will help your family to understand and prevent feelings of neglect. Likewise, when your family life needs a priority because of a death, illness or even just that big family holiday, communicating this to your employer or supervisor will help them to understand your needs and allow them to support you appropriately.

“Turn off” on your days off

We have days off for a reason. Not only do they allow us to spend precious time with our family, they also allow us to recharge and rest. This is important as this resting and recharging is what prevents exhaustion and burnout. It is vital to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Too many people stay focused on work which prevents us from resting and emotionally connecting with our family. We need to “turn off” our work mind on our days off and be present to our home life. This involves changing your attitude. You need the attitude that work “Is not my problem” and that today “I don’t care about work”.  This change of attitude is mentally changing priorities. To develop this change of attitude could take some time.

Learn to say no

This step is so simple yet is so hard for some people to do. We need to learn to say no when work places demands on us to blur the lines between work and life. Can you do overtime? No. Can you take this report home to complete? No. Likewise with home life, can you bring the kids to work? No.  Saying no to unreasonable requests is not being uncooperative or not being a team player, it is simply being assertive, which is a healthy trait that we all should have.

These are just some methods you can use to set and enforce these boundaries. Depending on you and your situation you may need more or different methods. If you find yourself burning out and unable to set boundaries that will help you recover, you may find it beneficial to seek counselling for additional help and support.

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