Work-life imbalance: what it means and its effect

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Achieving work-life balance can help you find more satisfaction in your work, feel more motivated and make time for family in friends. Learning to navigate challenging work schedules with personal commitments can take constant dedication. The ability to harmonise your career goals with your personal needs can be a significant challenge for many professionals. In this article, we discuss what work-life imbalances, list some of its effects and offer tips for balancing your career and personal life.

What is work-life imbalance?

Work-life imbalance refers to the inability of professionals to stabilise their activities so they can achieve both their personal and career goals simultaneously. It often occurs in the absence of set boundaries between work life and personal life thus, increasing your stress levels and affecting your productivity level. Lots of professionals struggle to maintain boundaries between their own needs and the needs of their employers.

Signs of work-life imbalance

Learning to recognise the signs of work-life imbalance can help you determine if it's time to make changes in your routine and personal expectations. The following are some effects work-life imbalance can have on your overall well-being and productivity level:

Burnout

Working long hours daily can cause burnout, which can have negative mental affects. Burnout can affect your motivation and focus, cause confusion, increase your risk of making job errors and reduce your total productivity. Over time, burnout can have severe effects on your well-being. To help mitigate the risk of burnout, it's important to take breaks when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed at work. Talk to a supervisor if you fear your workload is unmanageable. They may have helpful suggestions or be able to reduce some of your job's demands.

Related: Coping with Burnout from Work (With Symptoms and Causes)

Reduced free time

Working too much or too hard may cause you to miss important family events such as anniversaries, birthdays or special family times with loved ones. Navigating demanding work obligations and rigorous deadlines consistently can affect your relationships with family and friends. While you might make occasional personal sacrifices to accommodate the demands of your job, it's important to still make time for yourself and those you care about.

Increased stress levels

Work-life imbalance can increase your stress levels. Continued feelings of stress can have negative affects on your health. In addition, if you experience stress at any point, you may have difficulty controlling or managing your emotions. It's important to find outlets for your stress that allow you to live comfortably and healthily. Workouts, meditation and other forms of self-care can help you reduce the stress you feel in your position.

Decreased activity

For those who work in non-physical occupations, like those who work in offices, imbalance in your work and personal life can decrease your ability to stay active. If you sit at a desk or in a chair for most of your day, try to incorporate more walks or chances for movement into your schedule. Moving and staying active can help you manage stress and reduce your risk of physical ailments.

Missed work

When you suffer from imbalances in your life, the resulting burnout can lead to prolonged fatigue. Prolonged exposure to stressful work situations or inadequate free time might even cause you to miss work or fail to meet deadlines. Poor attendance and performance can also damage your professional reputation. It's important to address imbalances early, so you're able to mitigate the long-term damage they may cause to your professional relationships.

Tips for developing work-life balance

Here are a few tips for developing a healthier work-life balance:

Restrict perfectionist tendencies

You may strive towards perfection, but knowing the difference between hard work and perfection is vital in attaining excellence. So, even though you might navigate work-life boundaries for a long time, striving for a realistic work schedule in the short-term can help you balance your personal needs with your working requirements. This also enables you to have more time and energy for your hobbies and loved ones.

Read more: How to stop overthinking and increase productivity at work

Prioritise tasks

Learn to prioritise your tasks and keep track of your productive hours while concentrating on the most critical ones. Consider writing a to-do list. Rather than multitasking or attempting to complete many tasks at once, begin with the most pressing tasks and tick them off the list as you accomplish each of them. If you don't have time to accomplish all your tasks within the day, see which duties you can do tomorrow. If you continually have more work than you can feasibly complete, talk to your manager about your workload to see if it's possible to make adjustments.

Improve your focus

Checking non-essential things such as distracting chats from work colleagues, personal mails, social media sites or mobile messages during work hours limits the time available to focus on work-related tasks. If you find yourself distracted by others in your environment or online, you can politely excuse yourself from office conversations. Certain software can also help you establish set focus times or reduce the time you spend on distracting applications. Controlling where your attention goes can help you increase your productivity and have more time for what you enjoy later in the day.

Set clear boundaries

To avoid work fatigue, set boundaries for yourself and your colleagues on your availability and leave unfinished tasks and projects at work. You can control the impulse to think of upcoming work projects or respond to business emails after work hours by ensuring the devices you use for work are separate from your personal devices. Try to use separate technologies for personal use than those you use for work.

Determine your objectives

Setting clear objectives for your professional and personal life can leave you with a sense of fulfilment, especially when you achieve those goals. Try to set a combination of short-term and long-term goals and establish strategies for accountability. By defining your goals, you can help ensure your daily actions support your ultimate vision of the future.

Related: How to develop SMART goals

Take a break from work

If it's available, consider planning a holiday away from work. Commit to shutting off your computer the entirety of your time away so you can completely recover from the stresses of your work life. If you don't have the ability to leave work, a couple of days or even an afternoon can give your brain and body the rest they need to find balance.

Know when to turn down more workload

Turning down more workload is crucial to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. However, doing that may seem complicated, especially when the tasks come from your manager. To avoid getting overwhelmed, look at your schedule and ensure there is room for extra work before accepting some more. Always explain why you can't take on more responsibility to your manager and thank them for considering you.

Related: How to avoid burnout in the workplace

Keep communication lines open

Maintaining open lines of communication with your manager is crucial to achieving a work-life balance. If you have trouble reconciling your professional life with your personal life, communicate those concerns with your supervisor. Also, if you feel working from home would increase your productivity level, be open and honest with your manager about your concerns.

Related: 7 ways to communicate effectively at work

Practise self-care

Practising self-care is ideal for work-life balance. Prioritising your overall health may be as easy as having daily meditations, good sleep, regular exercise, healthy eating and good use of holiday periods. Also, thinking therapies are ideal if you're battling anxiety or despair and you may get sick leave from your manager if you are struggling with a persistent illness. Healthy living can help you feel more cheerful, active and focused.

Make out time for loved ones

Making out time for the essential people in your life is one of the best ways to achieve a healthy work-life balance. It's necessary to spend time with people that encourage, support, love and care for your well-being. Seeing friends and family can help improve your sense of community and support. Consider taking those you care about for dinner, visiting the cinema with them or setting aside time to chat. When you're with your friends and family, ensure you're free from work-related distractions.

Outsource a few tasks

Consider outsourcing those time-consuming domestic tasks, such as ordering groceries online rather than travelling to the store. Try to find opportunities to ask for help and save time. Even if you are on a tight budget, saving quality time can prove worthwhile. You can spend the time you have saved with your family, making memories and strengthening connections.

Partake in recreational activities

Once in a while, take out time from your calendar for recreational activities you enjoy, especially if you were so enthusiastic about them before starting your current job. For example, if you love reading, having photoshoots, skating, swimming, crocheting or are an outdoor enthusiast, schedule specific times in the week for your hobbies. Recreational activities are a great way to have more time for yourself.

Related:15 best jobs for work-life balance (with duties and salary)

Cherish your career

You are more likely to be fulfilled and have your work-life stabilised if you are passionate about what you do. Having a career you love increases motivation and efficiency in the workplace. Thus, it's important you assess your passion for your current work to find out whether you're enthusiastic about your career. If you are looking to switch from your job to one that can bring you to balance, then take steps to make the transition possible and regain balance in your life.

Explore more articles