Work-Life Balance, Why Should We Care?

Work-Life Balance - a term we've all heard, we're all aware of the idea and its importance, but how many of us actually achieve it successfully and without guilt? In todays over-demanding, social media driven, 24-hour world probably very few of us.

Following on from an interesting event that I attended last week I wanted to take a look at this subject in a bit more detail and share some really interesting points that I learned - points that I hope will be interesting and useful to you as readers too.

The event was held by Global Marketing and Technology Agency DigitasLBi at their offices on Brick Lane in conjunction with Bupa UK. We were invited to listen to talks by Amanda Walderman from the organisation Mindapples, Julie Falconer who runs the hugely successful blog, A Lady In London and finally Stuart Haydock, Specialist Health Risk Manager from Bupa.

The insight and ideas provided were thought provoking and definitely worth considering in much greater detail. In fact I've spent the greater part of this week so far thinking over and trying to put into practise some of the tips and tricks that we were offered. 

The first talk by Amanda at Mindapples broke down the context of our mind in more detail and more importantly looked at how we think about our own mental health.

Amanda began by asking us to shout out what immediately came to mind when she said the words 'Mental Health.' Now, unsurprisingly I think, most of the immediate responses were negative ones - depression, illness, darkness, unhappy etc. Yet on the flip side when asked to do the same for the term 'Physical Health' people shouted out much more positive responses - fitness, staying healthy, well-being, exercise. 

As Amanda went on to point out - why should this be the case? Why does mental health have to indicate something negative and why shouldn't we think about our mental health and indeed about looking after our minds with the same positive and nurturing care as we do our physical well-being? This is a subject close to my heart - so I was intrigued!

Similarly she went on to ask us - if you are asked to point to you, to yourself where do you point?  

Most people pointed to their body somewhere near their centre, their chest/heart area. Rarely does someone point to their head, their mind - yet the mind is just as big and important a part of what makes up you as anything else within your body. Its health and well being is equally, if not at times, much more important. 

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We looked at the mind in more detail and its evolution, the primal, emotional and rational sides of our brain and how all of these areas affect our daily lives and decisions. Helping us to see in greater detail how we work and why taking care of this part of us is so important.

We were also invited to take part in filling in our own apple for the Mindapples tree! To list our five-a-day for our own minds - five things that make us happy. Things that we can take time out to do in the day to re-adjust and care for our happiness and well-being. Be that having a glass of wine, reading a book, walking the dog or as I think Amanda herself had written - eating a packet of cheesy wotsits! Anything that lifts your spirits and allows your mind time to breathe.

We hear so much from Government initiatives and advertising about getting our five-a-day for our body, eating healthily, exercising - there are so many health drives and positive ideas out there for the physical and yet when it comes to the mind there is still very little positive inspiration.

Next Julie took to the stage to speak to us about life as a professional blogger and how hard it can be to achieve a decent work life balance when you are your own brand - because in that scenario, especially in this digital and social media driven age, work never stops.

For us bloggers in the room this was especially helpful, although equally relevant to all sorts of people taking up all number of different careers.

As a blogger it's obviously so very important, to keep your social media channels updated daily and regularly, to be engaging consistently, to maintain an exciting and up to the minute online presence that is relevant to you and your brand. It's crucial - but it's also very draining, time-consuming and the demands of which can quickly turn negative if you don't allow yourself time to switch off and say no now and then.

As Julie put it - the world won't come to an end if every now and then you just sit back and enjoy a meal with friends instead of taking photos, making notes and sending your latest post to Instagram! Yet equally when you do need to be switched on and working, it's important to surround yourself with people that understand this is your job and that sometimes for you work doesn't stop.

Julie shared tricks for how to get a balance and take care of yourself without hurting your business and brand - and most importantly told us that when your career takes over so much of your own life then you must: 'Love what you do or leave it.'

Simple things like learning when to say no and taking time out for yourself to de-stress and switch off. One very interesting point that came out of a discussion about saying no is that you don't always have to give a reason. Know yourself and trust your judgement - saying no shouldn't always require justification, sometimes that's just how it is - take it or leave it! 

For a few more tricks on saying no here's a previous post that I wrote on the subject.

When Stuart from Bupa took to the stage he provided us with some really useful insight into why good balance is beneficial not just to the individual but to the employer as well. He also showed why employers need to take this on board and be the ones who do their part in handing this ethos down to their employees by creating healthier working expectations.

Longer hours DO NOT necessarily equal greater productivity.

When people are over-stressed, over-worked and too tired they begin to make poor decisions. Case in point with the current economic crisis - a crisis brought on by people under such great pressure to do better, make more money, produce higher and higher return that ultimately poor decisions were made, laws were even broken and now we're all feeling the crushing effects of such a negative and excessive mantra for working life.

Stuart shared some really useful tips for coping with stress when things are getting unavoidably hectic. We all face problems and challenges that lead to unmitigated stress. If you feel that you're facing this right now then check out this advice in more detail here.

In all this was such a fantastic event with so much to take on board. You do not need to work yourself into the ground. In fact for a longer, healthier and more productive working life you would be wiser to pace yourself and work smarter than burn yourself out. Sit back and reassess what's really important. You must make time for you, you must care for your well-being not only physically but mentally as well. It's a topic that is getting more and more attention which is a great thing, but let's embrace the positives and not just the sadness and the negatives. You can take control of your own life, continue to be equally productive but also find a balance to keep yourself well. Look after your mind as well as your body.

DigitasLBi was such a great co-host for this event. In fact their own work ethos is very much on having a good work-life balance, they aren't encouraged to spend all of the hours that god sends in the office. The office itself is much more unique than most work places offering places to rest, relax and unwind and they are currently running the 'Summer of Love' where all employees get to leave work at 1pm on a Friday afternoon to spend that afternoon doing something for themselves - what a fantastic idea!

For more information and resources please check out the links below and why not do a little work-life audit of your own. Where can you make some vital improvements toward a more productive and happier you?