Reclaiming our time

Australia’s laid-back culture isn’t influencing our work-life balance.

For working Australians, the reality is our situations are closer to detrimental than beneficial.

We work longer hours than we should, which is stealing hours away from our leisure and rest time.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

We are equipped to improve our balance of work and leisure in our lives.

What does work-life balance mean (really)?

Work-life balance is commonly thought of as when we work vs the time we aren’t working.

However, because we’re not working doesn’t mean we’re resting.

Furthermore, it doesn’t automatically equal an ideal balance between work and leisure.

But perhaps imbalance is not the enemy.

Leisure, quality of rest, salary, weekly hours worked, commute times, and quality of life are just a handful of the factors which influence our work-life balance.

What industry you work in, where you live, and your age can make a significant difference to this balance.

For example, if you are recovering from an injury or illness you’ll need more rest than you usually get.

Perhaps a significant project at work or training for a fun run may require more of your time than usual.

How we spend our time is different, our individual needs are different – meaning our work-life balance is likely not going to be the same as our colleagues or friends.

The SEEK Learning Defining Work-Life Balance Report found that a person’s priorities play the biggest role in achieving the right balance for an individual

At different times in our lives, we might well need an imbalance to have the right balance for us as individuals, to have our best quality of life.

When our balance is not working for us, it can result in burnout.

Seeing the bigger picture

When thinking about work-life balance it feels easy to simply blame ourselves, and not consider the bigger picture.

The statistics show we’re not alone in struggling to balance our life priorities.
According to the OECD’s Better Life Index:

  • About 13% of Australian employees work very long hours in paid work, above the OECD average of 10%.
  • Full-time workers in Australia devote 60% of their day on average (14.4 hours), to personal care and leisure – less than the OECD average of 15 hours.

Furthermore, Professor Gordon Parker AO, founder of the Black Dog Institute, highlights people who experience demanding home situations as highly susceptible to burnout.

One example he cites are the ‘sandwich generation’ – people who are caring for children or dependents while simultaneously caring for elderly parents.

Avoiding burnout

In their research article in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Gordon Parker and Gabriella Tavella generally define burnout as “a triad of emotional exhaustion, lack of empathy, and reduced professional accomplishment constructs.”

Our mental exhaustion, ability to empathise and our motivation to keep learning, setting goals and achieving them at work and in life, are some of the warning signs to be aware of.

Forbes recommends the following tips to prevent burnout:

  • Take regular breaks – No matter how much you have to get done, it is vital to take breaks. When you feel stressed or under pressure, pushing through without a break can make you less productive.
  • Organise your time – Try organising your time according to your energy, not what you need to get done. When they feel motivated, they work. When they can’t focus, they step away.
  • Create a dedicated workspace – Where you work can make a difference. Create a clear, comfortable space with little touches of things you like, or motivational quotes to help keep you in a focused frame of mind.
  • Analyse your priorities – We can struggle to not waste our time on the tasks that are not the most important. You can re-evaluate your priorities, set boundaries and spend your time wisely.

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