Are we getting the work-life balance right in the UK?
The importance of having a good work-life balance is becoming a talking point amongst employees across the nation, and recent data found that a third of UK workers feel that their work-life balance isn’t in check. Not only does it affect our relationships and home life happiness, but it can also take its toll on our mental health. Read on as we investigate the best way to manage a good work-life balance and take some tips from other countries.
Many UK adults feel overworked in their roles. Maintaining a healthy balance between home and work life seems to become more difficult as we get older, with statistics showing that the younger the employee, the less likely they are to identify work-life balance as an important part of their job. The task of juggling a family alongside a job is also difficult for many to manage with statistics revealing that 75% of working parents suffer stress and anxiety as a result of their work-life balance management.
A constant demand to maintain full productivity can become damaging for employees though. Research found that as a person’s weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness. Of course, this is no surprise. Even for those who don’t work long hours, there is still the issue of ‘switching off’ and disconnecting from what’s happened at the office. In fact, one third of European workers said that a bad day at work affected their personal life.
By not getting enough free time, people find themselves neglecting their hobbies and often quality time spent with loved ones is lessened. As we work more, we find that we have less time to spend with those we love, less time to focus on accomplishing goals that aren’t work-related and less time to pursue our hobbies and dreams. But, many of us feel as though there’s nothing we can do about it. With the help of quality mens casual shirts retailer, CT Shirts, let’s take a look at the work-life balance in countries outside of the UK.
How the situation differs in other countries
Overall, Britain has the worst work-life balance when compared to other European counterparts. So, what can we learn from our foreign neighbours?
On the whole, employees in other countries have more free time than UK workers. In Belgium, employees have an average of 8.6 hours of free time per day compared to their 7.4-hour work days, and Netherlands are enjoying the shortest working week at only 30.3 hours. Denmark only spend 6.6 hours at work each day with 8.8 hours each day to spend how they wish, and Austrians are encouraged to start the weekend early with 3pm finishes implemented around the country. Many Germans are able to relax on a Sunday too, as stores are regulated so that they close on Sundays. All of these extra hours add up it seems, with Britons working 325 hours more per year than workers in Germany.
Most UK workers often enjoy between half an hour to an hour break per day, whereas overseas, workers are encouraged to spread their breaks throughout the working day. The Spanish are famous for their midday siestas which began as an effort to sleep through the hottest period of the day in warmer climates. Although new laws mean that shops have to remain open without a break for naps, some workers still follow the siesta tradition. Or, they take long coffee and lunch breaks with colleagues — something that is widely accepted by employers. Finland also take on the approach that long breaks are good for everyone, and their workers enjoy extra-long lunch breaks that are one to two hours long! If you visited Sweden on business, you’d probably be invited to join them for ‘fika’ — this is a late morning coffee that offices pause to enjoy at around 11am.
Other European initiatives to help improve the work-life balance include:
- Belgians are able to take a full month off work to coincide with school breaks.
- Spanish workers have a holiday allowance of 30 days.
- France introduced a law in 2017 that gave workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from after-work emails.
- Swedish workers enjoy 16 months of paid family leave
How to make a change
While regulations may be beyond the control of the workforce, there are things to consider which can help to improve work-life balance.
Some employers are willing to allow breaks to be spread out across the day. Research has proven that taking regular breaks can improve your productivity, and it therefore could be something that they will support. Split your hour break up into half an hour and two 15-minute breaks to decrease the amount of time spent at your desk at one time. Get some fresh air or spend time talking to family on the phone, taking a small action like this could reduce your stress levels.
According to one study, a longer daily commute can cause stress and even depression. This is one reason to propose flexi-time at your office, where you can skip the traffic at each side of your day and do something more productive. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone. You could make your commute feel more productive though, by listening to a podcast or audio book that can reduce the stress of rush-hour traffic. Alternatively, going to a gym class near to your work can mean that you miss the bulk of the busy traffic and allows you to fit some exercise into your day as well!
The temptation to check your emails on an evening should also be curbed. Think of the long-term issues that mixing home and work life can have and aim to check your emails only for ten minutes on an evening instead of an hour. This is the same for working overtime, unless entirely necessary, make sure you are sticking to the number of hours that you’re contracted to. This can not only affect your mental health but can lead to employers expecting this behaviour at all times.
While many people use their annual holiday allowance to spend time relaxing with family members, some do not utilise this properly and return to work feeling just as stressed as before. We’re all guilty of using our holidays to run errands or do something that we’ve been putting off, but this isn’t always helpful for our work-life balance. Although we need to do this now and then, annual leave should be used to recuperate, relax and enjoy time away from the office so try to focus on this.
There’s definitely room for improvement in the work-life balance of UK workers. But, there are some small changes that you can make. From splitting up your break to making the most of your holidays, being conscious of finding a good split between the office and spare time is the first step to improving your work-life balance.
Scales Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
Stressed woman image by innerwhispers from Pixabay
Coffee break image by Steve Cliff from Pixabay
Stress/overtime/busyimage by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay