A solution to work-life balance – allowing personal time at work

Krista Krumina 12.12.2019

Work-life balance is the notion that you can maximize productivity while still retaining time for family, friends, hobbies, restful sleep, and more. However, that harmony is hard to achieve – according to one study, 66% of full-time employees in the US said they don’t have a work-life balance. 

An ideal balance means something different to everyone. Most can agree, though, that poor balance equals too much time with work on their minds. What’s the cause of this recipe for burnout?

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For most, it’s an overbearing boss, one who expects long hours from each employee. Others aren’t able to request time off. Some deal with long commutes, adding hours of frustration onto an otherwise productive day. Many bring work home with them, answering phone calls at the dinner table and checking emails on their smartphones. 

What’s the solution? A utopia world with a two-day workweek? Probably not, but work-life balance is still achievable. 

Homing from work

While some people have flexible work opportunities, most are confined to the office from nine to five. Regardless, 93% of professionals say they take care of personal needs throughout the workday, a tactic called ”homing from work”.

Activities might include checking your personal email, shopping online, running to a doctor’s appointment, and picking up groceries. Some workers admit to exercising during the workday – a practice known to reduce stress and improve mood

Five years ago, this behavior in the workplace would qualify a worker as lazy. Today, however, managers realize the potential to boost attitude and productivity through outlets like homing from work. Plus, they’re aware that employees put effort into work-related tasks outside the office. 

A new path to success 

According to Stewart Friedman, professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the primary destroyer of productivity is the inability to focus on tasks. 

Allowing employees the freedom to perform personal tasks throughout the workplace allows them to reduce psychological interference. The freedom and flexibility also lead to a better sense of control over their lives. 

Instead of focusing on hours spent in the office, Friedman argues companies should look at results. Giving employees the ability to choose how to achieve a goal will lead to a more efficient workforce than one confined to a strict set of procedures. 

Practice in creative scheduling 

For employees to effectively blend work and personal time, they’ll need to practice creative scheduling. For example, if you’re in an online MBA program, you might watch video lectures at lunch or listen to recordings during your commute. 

Take a few minutes each morning to sip your coffee and respond to emails from peers and professors. If you’re not a student, you can read the news and text back friends.

Your personal life might be just as hectic as your professional one. Learn how to prioritize tasks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You can maintain an ideal work-life balance if you create a game plan and stick to it. 

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The rise of remote work

In the US, employers lose an estimated $1.8 trillion each year in productivity. However, remote work can improve this issue. 

At-home employees experience less lost time due to distractions than office counterparts — 27 minutes compared to 37. With flexible options, employees have more freedom over their schedules. They can complete tasks from anywhere in the world.

Why are remote workers more productive than their office-sequestered counterparts? For one, they’re free from distractions like chatty co-workers, inefficient meetings and long commute times. In the UK, 55% of employees said they felt more stressed as a result of their commute. 

People who telecommute are more satisfied with their jobs. About 76% are willing to work overtime, a result of their heightened sense of company loyalty. Remote work has moved beyond a fad and transitioned into a way to successfully achieve work-life balance. 

The need for lunch breaks

It’s not uncommon for a worker to skip lunch or grab a bite to eat at their desks. However, work-life balance comes from incorporating personal time into the daily grind. If you routinely skip lunch, switch out the practice for some afternoon me-time.

According to one study, workers who take a lunch break each day score higher in engagement metrics like job satisfaction and company loyalty. This personal time allows employees to decompress and focus on their interests. Students can review notes for a big exam, and parents can read a book in silence. The time is yours to do with as you please.

More companies understand the importance of personal time at work. However, some bosses still look down on employees who regularly take breaks, an ill-conceived bias illuminated during evaluations. To retain skilled workers, it’s crucial to recognize the role of personal time in the workplace. 

A time to get physical

Employees spend a large chunk of time in the office, which has a significant impact on physical and psychological well-being. People can take advantage of the time by exercising with co-workers. According to a recent study, working out with colleagues proves more beneficial than doing so alone at home. 

During the study, employees worked out in small groups. In just 10 minutes each day, five days per week, they were able to improve vitality, both in body and spirit. Despite an increased work pace, those who exercised at the office saw a significant improvement in pain management compared to those who worked out at home.

Companies can promote workplace wellness by allowing meditation and yoga during office hours. Some managers schedule physical activities, such as basketball and badminton, to get the blood pumping and encourage team collaboration. Ask employees to set wellness goals, whether it’s weight loss, improved focus or a new sense of contentment. 

An excuse for some sleep 

According to one study, a person’s performance deteriorates throughout the day. However, a 30-minute nap can stop the deterioration, and a 60-minute nap can completely reverse it. A high-quality snooze comes with some of the same benefits as a full night of sleep. 

Sara Mednick, associate professor of psychology at the University of California in Riverside, says a daytime nap, between 20 and 60 minutes, is just enough to enter REM sleep. Daytime snooze can improve memory, creativity, and perceptual processing. 

Sleeping at work used to be a strict no-no, but today’s companies should encourage it. For workers who want to boost productivity with naps, try to find a private, quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Dim the lights and, if necessary, invest in earplugs. Aim for 20 minutes, just enough to clear the mental fog. 

A trial-and-error practice

An ideal work-life balance doesn’t manifest instantly. Instead, it takes a dedicated effort and a willingness to improve. Companies might offer flexible work opportunities to boost productivity. While many are up to the task, you’ll find some employees need the structure of an office.

Businesses can promote work-life balance in the workplace by encouraging physical exercise. Add a daily meditation session anyone in the building can join. You can also take a lesson from Google and NASA by allowing workers to take naps while on the job. 

Employees have a hand at improving work-life balance, too. You might not succeed at first — some things may distract you more than others. However, if you persist, you can boost your performance while achieving a harmonious balance. 

Today’s workers spend a lot of time in the office — more than the traditional 40 hours per week. It’s no surprise that many feel they lack a proper work-life balance. They might be performing at work, but they don’t have time to spend with family, take care of themselves, go back to school and accomplish their dreams.

Luckily, there’s a solution to achieve all this — allowing personal time at work.

Is work-life balance possible?

Watch this with Robin Wauters, Editor-in-Chief of Tech.eu!

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