Things for teams to try: Improving Work-life balance

Most people have the odd busy time at work, but it’s important to look after the work-life balance of you and your team. Here are some ways you and your team can improve your work-life balance.

6 Work-life balance - team

1. Identify where your work-life balance has gone awry

Sometimes work-life balance isn’t just about keeping the hours we spend working vs the hours we spend relaxing and recharging in check. Our experience of work-life balance is also affected by other things – like job intensity, role strain (not working to our strengths), relationship strain (with managers, colleagues or other teams), and our personalities - which mean we worry about work into the evenings and weekends. What are your biggest triggers or combination of triggers?

2. Do an audit of your work boundaries

While it's true that our working habits are affected by the expectations set by the organization we work for and the wider industry we inhabit, it's still worth asking ourselves: “Where do I have freedom to shape things a little differently? How can we use the science of peak performance to help each other find greater balance?”

We like these five questions for teams:

  1. What is the team norm about taking time off?
  2. Have we successfully established digital boundaries for ourselves?
  3. Are there things we can do to work more efficiently?
  4. Does the organization have policies in place around flexible working which could be put to better use by members of the team?

If you've identified opportunities to delineate work and life a little better, make a plan and check in with one another to see which improvements have been easy and which have been more difficult to make.

3. Develop an ethic of care with your own team happiness manifesto

As our lives change (e.g. moving and altering our commute, becoming a carer), we should review how we're working. As work changes (e.g. more digitalisation, more remote working) so to should we review how we're living. It's better for individual wellness and team performance that we proactively identify opportunities to improve work-life balance than accommodate the often competing demands of work and life.

If you put this into a manfiesto then you have a shared understanding of how you all need to work here and now, to protect each other and the goals of the team. Making the manifesto visible helps to reinforce the unwritten rules that shape what we expect of ourselves and each other. It gives us the permission to do our work and thrive, presenting a cultural counterpoint to the worldview that work is at the expense of ourselves. We love this illustrated example from the Frida Fund

4. Educate yourselves on the signs of burnout.

The World Health Organization’s International Disease Classification (ICD-11) describes the symptoms of burnout as:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

It is not classified as a medical condition, but as an occupational syndrome requiring changes to the workplace or work environment - including workflow efficiency, teamwork and leadership. By knowing the signs of burnout, you can put in place practices to help avoid or recover from it. See our tips for recovering from burnout here

5. Build small acts of self-care into periods of heavy work load

It's very common for teams to encounter busy work periods - where projects, customer demand or deadlines all coincide. And it's on these occasions when our healthy work practices go out the window. Just when they have never been so important!

At these times, it’s important to make self-care a priority – but also to do it in a manageable way. Gift yourself time when work is not on your mind - take micro breaks, turm off email alerts after hours, rest more than you usually would, treat yourself, spend time in nature, remember what and who else is important in your life, book a holiday, write everything down that is concerning you and then switch off. You will come back stronger and more energised.

6. Play to our strengths.

To promote mental health and prevent burnout at work, it's important to pay attention to each team members role fit.

Our sense of balance between the time we spend working and the time we spend on the rest of our lives is affected by how much energy we are giving work. When we play to our strengths, work feels more effortless - we get through tasks with greater energy, focus and ultimately speed, which lessens the need for us to overcompensate with longer hours.

How can the type of work each person is doing in the team become a better "fit" for them and their way or working?