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5 Signs Your Work-Life Scale is Off Balance

Is your work-life balance feeling a little out of alignment? Here are five signs to look out for.

Modern technology and alternative ways of working were meant to make work easier. Or at least that’s how it was sold to us. But due to smart phones, wi-fi and email, for many people it feels like the work day is never over, with no natural end point. Technology provides more opportunities and greater flexibility than ever before, but the pressure this places on people is taking a toll on our work-life balance and our wellbeing.

The latest research from the OECD’s Better Life Index ranks the UK 29thof 38 countries for work-life balance. 13% of the population reported working over 50 hours per week, with the research noting that long hours impair health and lead to increased stress.

This is backed up by recent findings by the Office for National Statistics. The data show that anxiety and depression are now the most common form of work related illness, overtaking musculo-skeletal disorders for the first time.

Is work stressing you out to the detriment of other areas of your life? Here are five signs to look out for that your work-life balance is out of alignment:

1. Being on constant call for work emails

Answering emails outside normal work hours is something many people do. Indeed, working through emails on your journey to and from work may be an efficient use of your time, especially if this means you can arrive late or finish early.

The problem occurs when you find yourself checking your messages all night, getting involved in protracted email exchanges until late and hardly ever turning your work phone off. This creates an expectation that you will always be available. Soon you feel like you can never switch off from work.

Image of business person checking emails on their smart phone

2. Developing unhealthy eating and drinking habits to cope with stress

This creeps into your daily routine when you use sugary foods and alcohol as crutches to help you deal with the long hours you are working. At the office, this can include ‘treating yourself’ to muffins, chocolate and other snacks to help you get through the day.

And when you finally get home from work, opening a bottle of wine or having a few beers becomes an ever more familiar habit to ‘help you unwind’ and reward yourself for your efforts. Pretty soon, this can turn into alcohol dependency.

Taken together, eating the wrong things and drinking too much will take a toll on your health. Negative impacts may include weight gain increased your risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers and Type II diabetes.

Image of brightly coloured frosted donuts - junk food

3. Waking up during the night thinking about work

The more hours you work, the longer work is on your mind. If you’re working late, this means your brain will be processing information about work all through the evening. So there is little time to switch off before bedtime. This is especially true if you sit in bed at night answering emails!

Put simply, your mind is working overtime. This makes it more likely you will sleep fitfully and wake up during the night, worrying about what has happened today or what might happen tomorrow.

As well as adjusting your email working hours, try a short mindfulness exercise at bedtime to help your mind unwind and switch off before you go to sleep. These days it’s simple with smartphone apps such as Headspace and Calm. They provide short, tailor-made pre-sleep meditations you can follow easily.

4. Feeling tired and sluggish all the time

Are these habits familiar to you? The effects of working too many hours in the office, eating unhealthy comfort foods, not exercising enough, drinking on weeknights and not sleeping enough combine to create one much bigger problem. You end up feeling tired and sluggish all the time.

Not having enough energy to get through the day means you do things like increasing your caffeine intake and have more and more sugary snacks to get you through.

This creates a vicious cycle which could have a significant long-term impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. It’s something you need to address right now, by focusing on each unhealthy habit one-by-one, including the root cause: working too many hours.

Image of female commuter asleep on train resting her head on the table

5. Friends complain that they never see you

One of the first things to get squeezed out if you work too many hours is your social life. Soon, you find the only time you see your friends is on social media. Weeks and months go by without seeing the people you care about most. Your Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of pictures of your friends out and having a great time — without you.

The paradox is that seeing the people you care about regularly is one of the best ways to reduce cortisol. This is the hormone released by your brain during stressful times. Seeing and talking to your friends is a better way to deal with tough times than alcohol or comfort food. It’s time to start marking out more time in your diary to see friends and family.

Do you recognise any of these five signs of work-life balance stress? If so, it’s time to act now by re-examining the relationship between your career and the rest of your life.

Click to learn more about career coaching services.

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Image of man at a crossroads trying to decide which career option to take

If You’re Not Happy with Your Career, Make a Change

Work is something we spend so much of our time doing. That means it’s important to feel happy, or at least satisfied with your career. If you don’t like what you do, there’s a good chance this will lead to negative consequences affecting not only your work, but other parts of your life too.

The idea of making a career change may seem scary. However, take a moment, close your eyes and visualise the remainder of your working life if you carry on doing what you’re doing now.

Right up to when you retire. Will you be happy if you stick with your current career path? Will these years feel rich and fulfilling? If the answer is ‘no’ then you owe it to yourself to do something about it.

There are lots of great reasons for choosing to do something different. Perhaps your lifestyle has changed, you may find your work boring or you could be experiencing too much stress. It may be the case that the longer term outlook for your industry doesn’t look good.

Or you could be experiencing burnout. You’ve been doing the same thing for years, perhaps at the same company, and it is wearing you down. You may also want to earn more money than you will be able to do if you stick with what you’re doing.

If any of this sounds familiar, making changes to your career now will serve you best in the long run.

Make Your Career Change Happen

Here are 3 steps to get going:

  1. Open up your mind to what you would like to do. Allow yourself to dream. Feel unbounded by what you are doing right now, consider all possibilities.

Make a list of careers you find appealing including, if relevant, working for yourself.

Once you have done this, do some research into what each career involves, including the skills/training required, what your lifestyle would be like and how much you could earn.

Through this process, some of your initial ideas will drop out, while others will seem even more appealing. The outcome will be a shortlist of careers you’d like to explore further.

  1. Using your shortlist, find other people who are doing what you are interested in. Speak to them about what is involved in what they do, what they enjoy and what they don’t enjoy.

Perhaps you have friends or friends of friends who can help. If not, do some research on LinkedIn and find relevant people to reach out to. Don’t be shy – you’ll find a lot of people willing to help. People generally love to talk about what they do!

Try to speak to 2 or 3 people for each career so you get more than one perspective. This step will narrow your list down further.

  1. For the remaining options, identify any gaps in your skills or educational attainment that you would need to fill for each career.

Explore what you would need to do in order to close the gap. How long will it take and how much would it cost? Can you fit any study in around your current job? Is it feasible to take a career break?

Also, thoroughly research salary expectations both at the level you could enter and in the future. If this is less than you currently earn, can you afford to do it? Ask yourself how the rest of your life will benefit from your new career, even if you are earning less.

These three steps will provide a good start to get you going.

But the best thing you can do is get yourself a coach. Someone completely unbiased and on your side to help you work out what you want to do (in your life and career) and who will help you create clear goals and actions to make it happen.

Would you like to learn more about working with me to make your career change happen? Click here to get in touch.