True work-life balance takes effort, but it’s worth it

Jonathan Orchard, Wavemaker
By Jonathan Orchard, Wavemaker | 31 July 2019
Jonathan Orchard

Our employers should be doing all they can to facilitate meaningful work-life balance, writes Wavemaker’s Jonathan Orchard, but there are personal changes we can make to relieve work pressures.

When it comes to achieving work-life balance, a lot of us make it harder for ourselves.

We add our work emails to our personal phone, even though no one requested us to. We work outside of hours, even though no one expected a response on the weekend (most of the time). We take our work troubles home with us and ruminate for hours until we make the situation worse in our heads than it really is.

The day-to-day is manageable, but the unexpected requests with short turnarounds add a cloud of stress that make it challenging to complete everything on time. You’re working on your monthly reports, then you get pulled into a pitch briefing; you’re activating a new campaign, then you find yourself working through a brand protection issue; you’re crafting a presentation, then a publisher offers a limited time deal you need to take advantage of. Unexpected requests are just part of the job.

As an industry, we’re aware of these challenges and certainly we’re looking for a better way. But while employers should be doing all they can to ensure their staff aren’t burnt out and close to falling down, there is much we can do ourselves to relieve the pressure. 

From my own experience in my quest to enhance the balance between work and life, I’ve discovered three things that can help the life side of our scale:

1. Make time for mindful rest
There are many ways to relax and reset. For a lot of people, meditation is an effective practice to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing – but if that doesn’t resonate with you, find something that does.

I’ve taken many walks with nothing but my house keys, and you’d be surprised how many things you pass by. I recently discovered a fantastic restaurant on one of those walks. (Pino’s Vino e Cucina in Alexandria if you’re curious.)

Studies have shown that exercise, being in nature and spending quality time with family and friends can all be beneficial to our mental health. So be certain that you’re planning that time into your schedule along with work commitments.

2. Be purposeful with your time outside of work
If you’re heavy on screen time at work, be light on screen time outside of it. You don’t have to give up your Instagram addiction, you just need to pace it to balance out what else is happening in your job. Turn off your notifications, for everything. If your house is on fire, it’s unlikely someone is going to let you know through an emoji-filled Facebook chat.

Think about how you’re managing your time. Since having a son, I’ve become acutely aware of when I’m wasting time and not giving him the attention he deserves. So I consciously make an effort to give him my full attention before he goes to bed, even if I disagree with his methods of play. He’s two years old and finds it hilarious to direct me to sit in his tepee then charge at me full speed. 

3. Remove yourself from stressful situations
When the pressures of meeting a deadline feels like you’re about to be hit by a train, it’s important to not add to those stresses with what you can control – such as avoiding a flustered commute or getting in an argument with a stranger over something that will have no positive outcome. Look for ways you can minimise stress in your everyday or cut it out completely. 

One change I’ve made is to get on the quietest train carriage, not the closest to my exit, and take my time walking the platform when I get off. By the time I reach at the stairs, the crowds have gone and I'm not stressing about jostling for place, just for an extra minute or two at most. As a bonus, this strategy means I’m starting the day at my desk with calmness instead of anger and frustration.

I’m not advocating anything crazy here. But I can personally vouch for the fact that reducing your stress outside work, makes it a lot easier to manage the stress that comes with the job and giving yourself room to breathe.

Jonathan Orchard is National Head of SEM and eCommerce at Wavemaker Australia.

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