What is the cost of work and life balance?

lifeThe pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture and fast paced digital economy is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the general population. The cumulative effect of increased working hours is having an important effect on the lifestyle of a huge number of people, which is likely to prove damaging to their well-being.

It is estimated that nearly three in every ten employees will experience a mental health problem in any one year. However the recent and dramatic rise in Britain’s working hours would suggest this is likely to increase. 13% of the UK working population work 49 hours or more per week.

Work related stress already costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year. The human costs of unmanaged work related stress extends far beyond this. A key way to protect your mental health against the potential detrimental effects of work related stress is to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance

When work/life demands increase, it’s all too easy for business leaders to go the extra mile. But it could also send the hormone cortisol soaring.

Flights to catch, meetings to prepare for, the relentless pressure of needing to boost revenue while bearing down on costs… the life of a company director is certainly no ride in the park. But while many leaders thrive on the disequilibrium often required in the workplace, they give little thought to the impact their ‘go hard or go home’ attitudes may have on their health – in particular, their cortisol levels.

Putting in an extra mile when needed might be what turns an average leader into a visionary, but it’s also what drives up levels of this potentially harmful hormone. And it can hinder both performance and wellbeing.

Chronic stress coupled with lack of sleep, excessive caffeine, poor diet and no relaxation also send the body’s adrenal glands into overdrive, meaning cortisol levels are permanently elevated. This can lead to a range of health issues, from a depressed immune system to insulin resistance and depression. It causes weight gain too – one reason many top executives suffer the dreaded ‘spare tyre’.

There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task.

This might be especially true if you are concerned about losing your job due to restructuring, layoffs or other factors. Technology that enables constant connection to work can eat into time at home. Work-life balance can be especially difficult for parents of young children; almost 60 percent of employed first-time mothers return to work within 12 weeks after childbirth.

Here are some tips to restoring life balance:

  • Fatigue. When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
  • Poor health. Stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can worsen the symptoms you experience from any medical condition. Stress also puts you at risk of substance abuse.
  • Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you’re working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm relationships with your loved ones. It’s also difficult to nurture friendships if you’re always working.
  • Increased expectations. If you regularly work extra hours, you might be given more responsibility — which could lead to additional concerns and challenges.

Some of the above tips are things that you may be doing already to juggle life, family and work – but if it continually feels a strain, take a step back and consider whether an adjustment to the approach you are taking could help. You could focus attention for a few days or weeks on one tip, before moving on to another and it may trigger other ideas for you.

A great quote by Karen Lamb:

‘A year from now you will wish you had started today.’


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