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Work-life balance: Can mixing business with pleasure affect you?

Have you ever taken your laptops, phones and other work related devices with you during vacations? Do you maintain clear boundaries between work and recreation? How you manage this important aspect of work-life balance may have a huge impact on your sense of well-being according to a study published December, 12,2017. According to the authors of the study, employees who do not clearly separate work from free time are less likely to use free time to recover and refresh themselves. This potentially leaves them exhausted em0tionally and physically.


In working life it’s now almost expected that employees answer work-related emails after hours, or take their laptops with them on holiday. But the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life can affect people’s sense of well-being and lead to exhaustion. This is according to Ariane Wepfer of the University of Zurich in Switzerland who, together with her colleagues, published a study in Springer’s Journal of Business and Psychology

Wepfer and her colleagues recruited 1916 employees from a broad range of sectors in German-speaking countries to take part in an online study. Most were married (70,3 percent) and their average age was 42.3 years. Half of the participants (50.1 percent) worked 40 hours or more per week, while 55.8 percent were men. They were asked how well they were able to manage the boundaries between their work and non-work lives, for instance, how often they took work home, how often they worked on weekends and how often they thought about work during their time off. 

Participants also indicated whether they made time to relax after work to socialize or to participate in sports and other hobbies, and how diligently they made sure that their work did not interfere with their private lives. To measure a person’s well-being, the researchers considered participants’ sense of physical and emotional exhaustion as well as their sense of balance between work and non-work. 

The researchers found that employees who did not organise a clear separation between work and free time were less likely to participate in activities that could help them relax and recover from career demands. They were therefore more exhausted and experienced a lower sense of balance and well-being in the different key aspects of their lives.

“Employees who integrated work into their non-work life reported being more exhausted because they recovered less,” Wepfer explains. “This lack of recovery activities furthermore explains why people who integrate their work into the rest of their lives have a lower sense of well-being.

Wepfer says that within the contexts of occupational health it is important to understand the findings, the mechanisms behind them and the factors that determine to what degree people are able to draw a line between their careers and their personal lives. She believes that companies should have policies and interventions in place to help their employees to segment different aspects of their lives better, to their own benefit. 

“Organizational policy and culture should be adjusted to help employees manage their work-non-work boundaries in a way that does not impair their well-being,” says Wepfer. “After all, impaired well-being goes hand in hand with reduced productivity and reduced creativity.”


Related: Which comes first? Family or work


The growing demands of organizations put a lot of pressure on employees who are often expected to be available beyond traditional work hours. Many have devices that automatically generate email notifications and keep them mentally and emotionally attached to work during work free periods. Since emotional exhaustion could lead to burnout and decline in productivity, organizations may need to do much more to protect their employees.  It is also easy for entrepreneurs and persons that are self employed to  struggle in maintaining work-life balance.

Tips for maintaining healthy work-life balance

Work smarter , NOT harder

According to the Mental health Foundation,  “This involves tight prioritisation – allowing yourself a certain amount of time per task – and trying not to get caught up in less productive activities, such as unstructured meetings that tend to take up lots of time.”

Learn to Say No

Remember you do not have more than 24 hours in a day. So, you just can say ‘Yes’ to every request. According to a life Coach, Allen “If you tend to say yes without thinking when you’re asked to do something extra, stall. Don’t answer straight away. Say you’ll get back to the person asking, then use that time to think clearly about whether to say yes or no. If you want to say yes, fine. But if you want to say no, say no and keep saying it. Don’t justify your actions or give excuses. There’s no need to be nasty or rude.”

Take that break

Remember to take time out regularly to refresh yourself.. This may be just a few minutes to stretch or engage in a fun activity. Be sure to inform clients ahead of your vacation to reduce the risk of interruptions.

Do what you love

When was the last time you made time for other activities you enjoy? Time spent on such activities pays off because it energizes and refreshes you, making you more productive.

Although setting clear boundaries between work and non-work activities is ideal, it may not always be realistic. Nevertheless, having a set of principles may guide you in devising your own formula for maintaiinng a healthy work-life balance and reducing the risk of work related exhaustion.


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