Work-Life Balance: Can you work out your ideal life?
“Work-life Balance” gets mentioned so much these days that it could be part of an office bingo pool.
Unfortunately, while everyone seeks balance, actually achieving it can seem a formidable, if not impossible goal.
To start, your idea of work-life balance may be completely different from your partner or next door neighbour. And, as your career develops, may change many times over your working life.
If you feel the wheels coming off, or sitting on a one sided see-saw, it might be time to re-evaluate. Don’t be afraid to make changes based on what’s important to you.
What is the biggest “Work-Life Balance” Problem?
You may find the problem right in front of you. Too many hours. Too long to and from work on the bus. Or, maybe you need to provide childcare either through a centre or a relative. Transporting them back and forth each day on top of your already busy schedule.
Then again, sometimes it may be something more inward such as wanting to write a book. Maybe you are studying for a qualification or change in career. Or, maybe you just want to free up some time. Only once you’ve identified the source of the anxiety will you be in a position to figure out a plan of attack.
“Work-Life Balance” Suggestions?
Everyone’s different, and what may be right for you, may not be right for your neighbour. It really depends on what’s available for you with your employer and their attitude to change. Maybe it’s the type of work you do or something else that should be taken in to consideration.
Some quick ideas:
Does the trip to and from work drive you crazy every day, or do you need some flexibility to assist with taking care of your children?
Speaking with your boss about flexible hours, even a day a week working from home could be a huge step.
Do you want to move down to a 4 day week or to have a day off every fortnight to pursue study, hobbies or just some down-time?
Are you able to approach your employer with a plan and benefits of allowing you a more flexible schedule?
By the time the weekend rolls around, are you too tired to or don’t want to do housework or gardening?
Look in to the cost of a cleaner or gardener, either on a regular basis or even via an app such as airtasker.
“Work-Life Balance” Tips”
One big tip is to put tools down when you leave the office each day. It’s too easy to get caught in the cycle of working weekends, evenings and holidays, even if it’s as simple as checking emails. Most emails can probably stand to wait to reply for 12 hours until the next day. Obviously, not all, but certainly many can.
Many choice and large employers especially, are actively trying to help employees maximise work-life balance. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it reduces absenteeism, retains staff, boosts morale and creates a more positive work environment. If you know what you need, speak to either your boss or HR. They may accept your reasoning and plan, or even help with other suggestions. If you get knocked back, you may need to think whether this is a job you want to stay with anyway.
How does it affect you financially?
If work is taking up more than reasonable overtime and leading to stress, anxiety or depression, any decent employer will be accommodating in dropping back to something that works for you both and is sustainable over the longer term. If however, you reduce your hours and pay to less than your current levels, ask yourself the following:
- How long and what could you afford?
- Will dropping your own hours allow or require your partner to increase their own?
- What about tax and any childcare implications?
- What will be the impact on your nest egg or retirement savings?
- If available, and over 55, would a transition to retirement pension assist in balancing the loss of income earned?
These are all questions that we can help answer for you.
Through history, traditionally women may have taken time off to look after children, which has often left it harder to stay on the corporate ladder for their careers. Slowly, this is changing with employers understanding this as a necessary part of life for many, and in more recent times, employers have seen more men taking flexible time or changing to maintain their work-life balance. It is worth noting that the longer time not at full pay or on a full wicket, may lead to financial stress in the longer term. As such, it’s a trade-off only you can make.
Ultimately, you only have one life to live, so do what is right for you. For some that may mean a better work-life balance, and hopefully less stress at the expense of 100% financial earning power. This is where a financial advisor can assist in coaching and mapping out a plan that works for you and what you want out of life.
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