March 12, 2019

Mama Life || Work V Life

*Collaborative post with CT Shirts

In the UK, one in three people feel they have the balance of their home life and work all wrong. Not striking the right balance can have a huge effect on our lives, not only effecting our own mental health and well-being, but our relationships and family dynamic too. With this in mind, it's vital for anyone feeling the struggle to make some changes, so I thought I'd share some information from around the globe that can help us do just that.

Right now in the UK

Generally here in the UK,  our workers feel over worked and this is particularly an issue the older we get. Younger workers seem to get the balance right, perhaps it's less responsibility both in work and in their home life? Whatever the reason, they feel that work is a less important factor in their life, whereas the older we get we focus a lot more on our jobs, possibly as we climb the career ladder and feel the pressures of bills and debt. Those of us with children are said to find the balancing act harder than ever, with a bigger home to keep running, kids to feed and a LOT to pay for, there's far more stress in day to life which in turn makes our jobs even more sacred as we strive to save for holidays and keep our homes functioning well. In turn, this added stress can cause anxiety, depression and often more stress than we can cope with.

It's not just us here in the UK struggling with this juggling act, but across Europe, one in three people say that a bad day at work affects their personal life which comes as no surprise as our hours increase, bills rise and the pressures of daily life pile on. With the increase of work pressures, we have less time, energy and head space to really invest in the things we love, getting out with our families or taking time out to indulge on our hobbies. This really takes it's toll and many of us feel that this is just 'life' and nothing can be done, but can it?

Do other countries cope better?

The answer to this is yes. When comparing the UK to other areas of western Europe, the UK has the worst work life balance by far, so we may be able to learn from them to relieve some of the stress we endure.

The main difference we see when looking to Europe is the hours worked, with Britons working 325 more hours in a year compared to workers in Germany, Denmark spending 6.6 hours on average a day in work and the Netherlands getting it totally right with around 30.3 hours in work per week, freeing up much more personal time to unwind from work, see our family and do things we enjoy.

Lunch breaks are another area where we have it so wrong. It seems that much like the Spanish siesta tradition, most European countries opt for multiple breaks and even a 1-2 hour lunch break over in Finland. In fact, there seems to be lots of sociable and relaxing breaks offered to staff elsewhere, like the 'fika' in Sweden where you all break for coffee together around 11am. Keeping staff happy, giving breaks and reducing hours would surely keep us all happier which ultimately would make us more productive, something other countries seem to have mastered but hasn't quite made it across to us just yet. Here's a few more examples of overseas regulations helping with the work life balance;

  • In Belgium they can take a full month off to cover school breaks.
  • The Spanish have 30 days holiday per year.
  • In France a new law was introduced in 2017 allowing workers to disconnect from work emails out of hours.
  • In Sweden, workers are entitled to 16 months of paid family leave!

So what can we do?

It's impossible to suit everyone, with people working night shifts, travelling over seas with work and opting for lots of over time, we all work in very different businesses, which are often very different in terms of perks such as holidays depending on the owner or size and purpose of business. There are some things we can try though...

Adjust your break times. It's well proven that more frequent but shorter breaks can improve productivity when compared to longer lunch breaks. This option may well be supported by your company as not only will it improve your productivity, but you'd be available through the longer breaks of others. You could ask if you could divide your break into a few 15 minute breaks away from your desk, with time to call friends and family and grab some fresh air more often.

Another area may be a simple one to improve is your commute. According to one study, a long commute each day can lead to stress and depression, particularly if you're stuck in rush hour back ups and school traffic. You could suggest some kind of flexi time to be introduced, allowing you to leave earlier or later to avoid busy times, reducing the amount of time you spend sat in traffic and in turn reduce the stress of your day. Although this isn't an option for a lot of industries, you can make your commute more bearable by sharing lifts reducing costs, or listening to good music or podcasts to make the time go quicker on the way to and from work.

Another thing many of us are guilty of is thinking too much about work when you've finished, checking our emails and working late. Where possible, leave the inbox until the morning and try and distance yourself as much as you can from work when you're at home, whether alone or with family. By all means talk about work, have a brain dump or finish something that will bother you if it's left, but then leave it be. After all, you're not getting paid for that extra stress and real life is more important. Try and stick to the hours in your contract so work doesn't creep in and take over, or it'll soon impact your mental health and home life negatively.

Often the way we dress can also have an impact, but work clothes don't have to be boring. Invest in things like men's casual shirts that can be dressed up or down, style women's dresses that make you smile and if it's a uniform you're required to wear, make sure to get changed as soon as you're home to take that reminder away while you relax. Lastly, be sure to use your annual leave wisely. Make sure you spend that time doing what you love, with the people you love and try to get all the boring home jobs out the way before hand so you can truly unwind on your time off. 

Clearly, here in the UK we have it all wrong when it comes to the working world. There are small changes we can make and even if our hours are rigid, holidays are ungenerous and we work for a super demanding boss, we can use our own time better and make our working day as bearable as possible to decrease the stress on our hectic lives.

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