“Men and women are increasingly pressed for time and, as a result, struggle to meet their work and family responsibilities.”
So stated a June 2014 White House report entitled Nine Facts About American Families and Work. The report revealed that 46% of working Americans said their job demands interfered with their family life “sometimes or often,” a figure that increased from 41% in 2002.
It’s the same story in the United Kingdom. A Mental Health Foundation survey found that a third of UK-based participants were unhappy about the time they devote to work, with more than 40% of employees saying they were neglecting other aspects of their life because of work.
What’s interesting to note is the UK is actually below the world average in terms of hours worked each year. The U.S. is above the average. Both countries are way below the long hours worked in Mexico, Greece and Chile.
We’ve taken a look at some statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Better Life Index, which looks at the amount of hours people in countries across the world work in a year and, in contrast, the “life satisfaction” percentage of those countries.
How to improve your work-life balance
The OECD says an important aspect of work-life balance is the actual amount of time a person spends at work, and there is evidence that “long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress.”
If you feel you’re struggling with work-life balance, the Mental Health Foundation has some important advice:
- Take personal responsibility for your work-life balance. Speak up when expectations and demands at work become too much.
- Try to “work smart, not long.” Give yourself a certain amount of time per task, and don’t get caught up in activities (such as long, drawn-out meetings) that affect your productivity.
- Take proper breaks at work. Take at least a half-hour break for lunch, and take a walk outside the workplace, if possible.
- Draw a line between work and leisure. If you need to bring work home, finish it in an area of your home designated for work that you can leave once it’s complete.
- Understand that work-related stress and mental health are linked. Try to reduce stress through exercise, relaxation or hobbies.
- Keep track of your working hours over a period of weeks or months, rather than days. Also log hours spent worrying or thinking about work when assessing your work–life balance. These indictate work-related stress. Talk about work–life balance with your colleagues and, if possible, with your manager. “The more visible the process, the more likely it is to have an effect,” the Mental Health Foundation says.