Establishing or maintaining boundaries between work and downtime/life outside of work has unquestionably become more difficult in recent years. Smartphones mean we are “always on”, email inboxes continue to fill out of hours, and ‘life admin’ can rapidly take over weekends when we should be relaxing or enjoying time spent with the family.
National Work-Life Week (7-11 October) is held every year to highlight the importance of finding the right balance in order to foster wellbeing.
With good sleep hygiene being an integral factor to achieving a better equilibrium in all areas of life, it was no better time than now really, to join forces with the experts over at Tempur who have put together the following work-life guide, aimed at setting clearer boundaries between work and downtime and enhancing sleep quality and quantity to help Brits become the best version of themselves.
Tobin James, MD at Tempur UK, tells YCB: “An unhealthy work-life balance can be defined as neglecting our personal lives for work commitments, being unable to juggle work and downtime effectively, and experiencing ongoing negative feelings such as dissatisfaction and unhappiness at work and at home.
“We’re all guilty of replying to the odd work email at the weekend or while we’re on holiday, but our constant connectedness can have a serious impact on us and those around us if not properly managed.
“Work worries can affect our health – both mental and physical – and our all-important relationships. Stress will inevitably affect sleep, in turn, leading to reduced performance at work and ensuing feelings of frustration and unhappiness. Here, we’ve provided some simple steps to restoring a good work-life balance, leading to a healthier, happier, more productive you.”
Work smart, not long
Managers have a responsibility to set an example of a good work-life balance and put policies in place to advise and support employees accordingly. ‘Work smart, not long’ promotes the idea of a streamlined working week, without the need for presenteeism. Try to schedule work calls and meetings from Monday to Thursday, leaving Friday free to tie up loose ends and plan for the week ahead. This will help you feel more on top of your workload and ensure the working week runs more smoothly.
Managing your inbox
If an email comes through but is non-urgent, ask yourself if you need to reply immediately or if a response can wait. A rushed response can sometimes do more harm than good, as items can be missed or poorly expressed. It’s good practice to always do a final read through emails before hitting send. Emails sent at the weekend or during annual leave can give the impression that you’re always available and as such, should be avoided.
Designated phone time
Smart phones enable us to connect to the digital world at the touch of a button, but it can also mean time wasted scrolling and feeling overloaded by information. Setting aside designated phone time – a half hour during the daily commute, for example – can help ensure you’re in control of screen time. Ensure phone-free time at home when you need to be present for loved ones and leave your phone in another room overnight to limit screen time when you should be winding down.
Plan the downtime
It may sound contradictory, however, it’s a good idea to plan your downtime to avoid letting inertia take hold. Whether it’s excursions or days out; seeing friends or family; theatre, cinema, museum or gallery visits; markets; bike rides; gym sessions or, indeed, simply vegging on the sofa in front of a film for an afternoon after Sunday lunch, if it’s planned and ‘ticked off’, you’ll have a greater sense of satisfaction. Fun-packed weekends can be tiring but will do wonders for the mood and overall feeling of wellbeing, whilst lazing around and getting little done will invariably make us feel blue as the week cycle begins again. Just make sure the fun is balanced with quality rest and recuperation.
Being in nature has been shown to reduce stress and increase happiness, so use free time to explore a local park, woods or coastline, rather than sitting indoors. Boredom is the ultimate trigger for aimless phone scrolling. If you can leave your phone behind, even better. During work, take a walk during lunchtime rather than eating at your desk. Even a brisk 10-minute stroll will have a positive impact on your productivity for the rest of the day.
People with good mental and emotional boundaries have a strong sense of identity and self-respect; they’re able to say no to unreasonable requests and don’t allow others’ moods to easily influence their own. Observe and learn from the positive people around you, speak up, share your ideas, and don’t take it personally if someone else disagrees. Feedback should be given constructively; see it as a chance to improve and learn from your mistakes – no one is perfect after all!
The best sleep environment
Set up your bedroom to be the best possible environment for sleep. It should mimic a cave: cool, dark and comfortable. The ideal bedroom temperature is between 16-20°C. Choose cotton and linen for pyjamas and bedding as these are more breathable, and ensure there is good ventilation. Blackout blinds or curtains are useful to block chinks of light and use earplugs if necessary to block sound.