How to create a healthy work/life balance

A frustrated writer sat at a laptop
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Work and life have never been so busier and, for many of us, they’ve never been so intertwined, especially with the growth of hybrid and remote employment.

The sheer speed of our lives means that it’s never been so important to look after ourselves mentally and physically. A key part of that involves developing a good work/life balance to ensure you’ve got enough time to get the job done – and enough time to get everything done and enjoy your downtime, too.

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With demanding deadlines and overbearing managers, though, creating a good work/life balance is easier said than done – so we’ve developed a guide that’ll help you save time, manage boundaries and create a happier and healthier situation at work and beyond.

If you’d like more top-notch workplace guidance, look no further: here’s our guide to smart goals and our verdict on the best job sites

Leave your work behind 

It’s far too easy to let work tasks seep into other areas of your life, especially if you’ve got your work email on your personal phone or if you work at home at least some of the time. And if you want to create a healthy work/life balance, it’s critical to prevent this.

If you work in an office or in another environment outside of your home, that’s easier – it’ll help you separate your work and your home life when you have a location to leave at the end of the day. If you want to create more of a barrier, consider removing your work email and social media apps from your personal phone. That may not be possible for everyone, but it’s a helpful start for creating a firm divide between the office and everything else.

If you do have to keep certain apps on your smartphone, consider limiting how many notifications you receive during non-work hours. This will be difficult, especially for anyone who’s used to always being switched on to workplace concerns, but stopping yourself from engaging with work emails and messages when you’re not being paid is a key part of achieving a better work/life balance.

It’s trickier if you work at home, at least some of the time. If you’re in that position, consider working in a room with a door – because then you can close the door after a shift and walk away. It’s a psychological technique, but it can convince your brain that you’ve truly left work behind at the end of the day.

Other physical actions can help represent and reinforce that separation. Shutting your computer off, turning off displays, changing into more comfortable clothes and making a commute home can all help develop a more noticeable mental gap between work and home life. Similarly, ensure you have a set time for the end of work – and stick to it.

If you control your tech, pay attention to physical activities that signal the end of the working day and develop a healthy routine at the end of each day, you’ll find work thoughts less intrusive after the day is done.

Take breaks and get moving 

If you spend all day working at full throttle and spend all evening trying to catch up with everything else then you’re just going to become stressed and burnt out – and that’s not very balanced.

When you’re at work, make sure you take regular breaks. Take at least thirty minutes to step away from your desk or office at lunchtime, and take shorter breaks throughout the day. You’re legally entitled to them in most jobs and countries, and you’ll feel fresher for giving your brain a moment to breathe.

If you’re able, too, combine those breaks with physical movement. If you leave the office or house to go for a short walk at lunchtime or on a break, that’s brilliant – this kind of movement is enough to stimulate and refresh your brain. Exercise before work can help set your brain up for the day ahead, and exercise after work is a fantastic, proven stress-reliever.

It’s worth pairing exercise with mindfulness techniques, too. Install an app like Headspace or Calm to try breathing techniques and meditation exercises – these can have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing and only take a few minutes a day.

Regular breaks, frequent exercise and a mindfulness routine can be easily incorporated into your day and can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health – and that, in turn, will make your working and home life better. It’s the calm before – or after – the storm.

Make a plan – and stick to it 

We’ve all had days that get away from us – where we’ve started with the best intentions but things go wrong and everything spirals. And that’s always going to happen.

To reduce the frequency of those stressful days – and to keep your work and home life in balance – it’s important to develop good routines and plans and make sure you stick to them.

That starts as soon as you open your eyes in the morning. You’ll know what works for you – whether it’s medication, a healthy breakfast or exercise – and so, if you know what works, keep doing it.

When you’re at work, plan how much time you’ll spend on daily tasks and try your best not to exceed those figures. Don’t be afraid to say no if people ask you to take on more work or tackle anything unrealistic.  

You don’t have to restrict planning to the office, either. You can plan ring-fenced time for your favorite hobbies, for exercise or meditation, or for spending time with family and friends – all important things that can improve your wellbeing and your work/life balance.

If you start the day right, structure your working day, push back against unrealistic demands and make time for leisure activities then your whole life will feel calmer and more relaxing – and you’ll probably perform better at work, too.

Work and play together 

Leaving work behind, having a good wellness routine and having a steady plan can all help you develop a healthy work/life balance, but there are plenty of other techniques to try too.

Eat healthily if you don’t already – your mind and body will thank you. Where possible, set healthy boundaries regarding people and activities you simply don’t want in your life, and try to speak to your manager if you’re finding that work has just become too demanding. Any good employer will acknowledge this and take steps to fix it.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to develop a good work/life balance. It’s different for everyone, it’ll take trial and error to find what works, and you’re going to have mistakes and missteps while you’re figuring it out.

It’s crucial that you persevere, though. If you develop a good work/life balance, you’ll be happier and less susceptible to mental and physical health problems at home – and more productive in the workplace. And when we’re trying to find success in every area of our lives, that’s key.

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Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.