Trying to balance your career with your personal life is becoming increasingly difficult. With smartphones in our pockets alerting us to every email as it arrives and attempts to cram in just one more hour of overtime to qualify you for a promotion, trying to split work and life is hard.
The difficulty lies in the paradox at the heart of the work/life balance: you need to work in order to rest and rest in order to work at your best. So when should you be working and when should you be resting? And what about those times that make both almost impossible?
Holiday days are easy to take off, but it can be more difficult to justify taking days off for other reasons such as ill health or bereavement. Though these issues certainly need some time to get better, it can be difficult to persuade yourself to stay away from work, when all the pressure is on you to succeed there.
If you are not offered sick pay in your job, choosing to take a day off can affect your wallet as as well as your health. Lots of employees, especially office workers, don’t take time off when they are sick, preferring instead to come into work and spread their illness around. The problem is particularly rife in America, but the same principles hold in the UK too – workers feel that they aren’t sick enough, their workload is too great and they will only end up working longer hours when they are better to make up the time.
This is a clear example of the work/life balance being pulled taut and before you decide what to do, consider a few things: if you don’t allow yourself recovery time, you could exacerbate your illness and take longer to recover; you should also consider everyone else in the office as common colds and flu are highly contagious and spread quickly.
If you are looking for a compromise, working from home could be the solution you need. You will be able to take more regular breaks and won’t be infecting everyone else but also won’t have the stress of returning to a mountain of work. But really, if you are ill, you are ill and the best thing to do is stay at home and rest up.
The vast majority of workers will experience a bereavement during their career and unfortunately, lots of workplaces don’t have a clear employee bereavement leave guide to help you through this difficult time. The upside is that most employers are compassionate to their bereaved workers and will listen to you and your needs in confidence.
People experience bereavement in lots of different ways and circumstance means that there is no standard for what you will experience. This means that you need to think about what you want as well as listening to your doctor’s advice and that of family and friends. It may be that for you, going into work will help you to keep busy, but it is very common for people to take time off to grieve and then return later. Don’t feel pressured either way. It is advisable for you to get back to normality as soon as possible, but be aware that grief is a process and will take some people longer than others.
Lots of people going through bereavement need some sort of help to get them back to normality and to cope with their grief. This is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of – asking for help from a counselor, a doctor or even just talking honestly with family and friends will help you to move on and recover. The symptoms of bereavement, such as tiredness, feeling overwhelmed, crying, shock and numbness and anger, will usually pass, but if you feel that they are going on longer than you might expect or are getting worse, you should consult a doctor for more help.
Your priority at this time is to return to a normal life, and this means that though your work/life balance will be off kilter for a short while, you will gradually restore it in your own time.
With the imbalance between work and life, many mental health issues are increasingly common and one in four of us will be affected by mental ill health during our lifetimes. By far the most common issue is stress, but anxiety and depression are also prevalent.
It is important that if you feel that you could be suffering with mental ill health that you tell someone about it. A close friend or family member is often the first port of call and they will be able to listen to your concerns and help you to decide what to do next. It might be that you have a short term issue that can be resolved quickly and may not have any lasting effects, but you should also consider whether you feel that your mental health is being affected long term and if you feel that you are losing control of the situation.
For more serious issues, you must consult with a doctor to see what changes can be made to help you cope. You can take a friend or family member to the doctor with you if you feel that you won’t be able to go by yourself. Going to the doctor might seem scary, but there is no reason that this should negatively affect you at work – it should actually help you to make some changes there so that your work/life balance is better achieved.
Working is a fundamental aspect of most of our lives, but it is by no means the whole. Knowing how you can balance work and life, especially at these difficult times is paramount in feeling secure in your work as well as getting the help you need. Give yourself the time you need to be the best you can be at work and succeed on your own terms – this is what the work/life balance should really be about.