Alton was chatting to a friend last week who was worried about the impact work was having on his life. He told Alton that he ‘worked to live’ rather than ‘lived to work’.
I have heard people say this so many times and it got me thinking; is there really a dichotomy between these two statements? Many of us love our work and it’s an important part of our lives. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A good job with lovely colleagues (like the bunch at Rambutan) can give you a sense of purpose in life, fulfil your social needs and yes, pay the bills. The danger comes when work takes over and the other aspects of your life – such as family, leisure and sleep – take a back seat. This can lead to a negative impact on mental health. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2017/18 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of all working days lost due to ill health. The really worrying stat is that the rate of work-related stress has been increasing over the last few years. Clearly, we all need to address this problem.
It’s common to hear people talk about improving their work-life balance when talking about the impact of stress at work. However, this also seems to imply that it’s either one or the other and can also cast work as the dark side and life the light. In reality, they aren’t so easily separated. When you finish the working day, you don’t stop thinking about it; when you’re working, life doesn’t go on hold. This is why I prefer the concept of having a work-life blend. The focus here is on knitting together all the aspects of our complex lives so that it works for us and we feel in control. As we’re supporting #WorldMentalHealthDay during this #WorkLifeWeek here are a few ideas to get you started:
• accept that there’s no perfect solution to creating a good blend. Like life itself, there has to be give and take and things will always be a bit messy. Accept that truth and take some of the pressure off yourself
• think about the things that are important to you, whether that’s time with family, healthy eating, chill-time with Netflix or time to think through a work-related issue. Schedule time in your calendar and do your best to stick to it
• learn when to say no or when to ask for help. Nobody can do everything and if you try, you’ll end up being less effective and your personal life will suffer
• don’t feel that every hour at work needs to be productive in a traditional sense. You don’t need to keep ‘churning out stuff’. Try to shift your mindset to the value you bring. This can take the pressure off and reduce feelings of guilt if you need to take time out to go to the dentist, deal with an issue with your kids or just have lunch away from your desk
• recognise your own symptoms of stress and think about how best you can deal with them. Mind, the mental health charity, has a brilliant tool on their website called a Wellness Action Plan. This helps bosses and their team members recognise and manage stress
For more ideas, schedule some time to Google ‘work-life blend’. It’s not easy but it’s possible to have a fulfilling work and personal life.