Achieving a work/life balance is the new ideal for employees, because an imbalanced life results in stress and fatigue, loss of control and even strained relationships.
What happens when work takes over your life?
You feel less fulfilled
When your life gets thrown off balance, you will start to have doubts about work and may find yourself asking if this is exactly the kind of life you want. You will feel that it's getting harder to meet the increasing demands of work and life, and time is never enough. You also begin to overlook the positive aspects of work (such as the excitement brought by coping with challenges; forming friendships; self-esteem and self-worth) and subconsciously start to scrutinise the negative ones.
You may feel frustrated and confused because you have not only lost control of your life, you are unable to see an exit to the situation. Somehow, you have trapped yourself in a vicious cycle of working harder instead of feeling more fulfilled.
Hence, it's important for people to have equal enjoyment in the other aspects of their life so as to maintain a healthy equilibrium mentally, psychologically, socially and physically, or you may probably end up losing the joy of work.
You suffer from fatigue
When work begins to take priority over other aspects of your life, you take away time needed for you to rest and unwind. You will start to burn yourself out in the long run, damaging your body more than you realize. You are unable to concentrate on the tasks at hand, and are more prone to mistakes than before. Your body starts to send warning signals asking you to slow down and take a breather.
Some common signs of worn out employees include ill health, anxiety due to stress, migraines, insomnia, depression, and even high blood pressure, which often lead to an increased need for sick leave. As a result, productivity takes a sharp dive as employees struggle to keep up by doing more to compensate for their downtime. Eventually they will end up feeling even more stressed than ever, creating a ripple effect that spills over to their personal lives and relationships.
You have no time for anyone or anything else
You only have 24 hours in a day. Spending more time at work naturally means you will have less time with other people, particularly those who matter such as family, friends and loved ones. When you do not manage your work life sensibly, it can drain and cannibalize much of your energy in horrifying amounts, leaving you too exhausted to do anything else. You start to absent yourself from family dinners and outings due to work; or stay away from special occasions which would require your attention and time.
As the demands from work begin to eat away your leisure time, resentment and aversion start to build up. Many people do not see as much of their children as they would like, feel their marriage or partnership has been damaged by work and are left too tired. You may even be easily annoyed or irritated by friends and family as you feel that they do not understand what you are going through Over time, the quality of relationships with your loved ones will undoubtedly deteriorate.
How can you reset the balance?
Our brain has a limited amount of resources that it can deploy at any one time. If you try to attend to more than one task at the same time, you make more errors and overload yourself. Long periods of continual multitasking often lead to stress, and can be extremely taxing to your physical and emotional health over time.
Experiments have shown that constantly stressed laboratory monkeys are more prone to developing stomach ulcers than non-stressed monkeys. Many human studies have also confirmed that long term stress leads to high blood pressure. As such, learning to gain control of your life by sticking to one task at a time may literally save your life.
Instead of trying to do everything at once and jumping back and forth from one task to another, learn to priorities and work on the more important tasks first, spreading the rest of the work over a manageable timeline. It is counter-productive and ineffective to try and maintain a high level of activity at all times, and expect good quality work to be produced from an overworked mind and body. It would be good to start off by making full use of the leave that you have. Taking time off helps you recharge and gets you prepared for further challenges at work.
Take a break
Lunchtime is the perfect time to get a mid-day break from work, yet many people end up working during their lunch hour. When you do that, you also miss out on an opportunity to socialize and relax. The more you feel time-squeezed and weighed down by work, the more you should step away from your desk for an hour of stress-free lunch and enjoy the company of your friends or colleagues.
It may not be easy to achieve a work life balance these days, as people are constantly pushed to work faster to cope with an increasing workload. Do not be discouraged however; there are little steps that can be taken to keep your life on the right track. Even employers are beginning to recognize that an imbalanced lifestyle can ultimately affect one’s job satisfaction level, productivity and work performance.
The evidence for that is seen in the rise in the implementation of work-life initiatives such as flexible work arrangements and family-friendly programs. The challenge is to take a proactive stance and do something to your life before it is too late.