How to create a better work-life balance | Education Support Partnership

How to create a better work-life balance

For education staff to be able to perform well at work and be productive over the long run they need a good work-life balance ensuring that they get the right levels of sleep, nutrition and exercise. This can be a complicated balancing act for people in education because of the emotional and practical demands of the work.

In our 2018 Teacher Wellbeing Index 74% of respondents said that the inability to switch off from work is the major contributing factor to a negative work-life balance.

The dictionary definition of work-life balance means the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family or friends and doing things you enjoy. This description splits us almost into two beings and so for a genuine work-life balance we need to bring the two together and think more about how we integrate both.

Different people will have different ideas of what this integration or balance looks like and one person’s work life balance could be another’s nightmare. It is important to work out your individual blend and then decide how you can achieve this given the realities of life, that there are only 24 hours in a day (minus what you need to sleep to be productive).  

The process of creating your work-life balance helps reflect on what is important and therefore, where you want to prioritise your time. When we feel like we have more meaning in our lives, have more control over our future, and are spending time on the things that we want, we are more likely to feel fulfilled and consequently resilient.  Having a balanced life where we work out what our focus should be helps us feel motivated, energised and in the zone (where we can work effortlessly). We may not be able to function in this way all the time but taking control of our work life balance means we are more likely to have this more of the time.

Knowing when something is wrong

If you answer yes to several of the following questions and would prefer the answer to be no you probably need to reassess your work life balance. We often continue with the way things are purely as we are used to it. To make changes, even if they are small steps, the first thing is to realise that things are not working as well as they can and then believing that we do have control to do things differently. 

How many of these do you agree with?:

  • I spend much time away from school looking at my work emails including when I am with my friends or family
  • I find it hard to switch off from school when I am not there
  • I do not sleep well as worry about school
  • My friends and family say that my work gets in the way of me being there for them
  • I would like to spend more time with friends and family, but work gets in the way
  • I find it hard to take breaks and holidays from school
  • I often feel stressed and overworked
  • I would like to exercise but cannot find time to do so
  • I would like to do more hobbies or have more interests, but work gets in the way

Benefits of work-life balance

Steward D. Friedman a life coach and trainer quoted these results from his programmes that help people create a better work-life balance:

Workshop participants assess themselves at the beginning and the end of the program, and they consistently report improvements in their effectiveness, as well as a greater sense of harmony among the once-competing domains of their lives. In a study over a four-month period of more than 300 business professionals (whose average age was about 35), their satisfaction increased by an average of 20% in their work lives, 28% in their home lives, and 31% in their community lives.

Perhaps most significant, their satisfaction in the domain of the self—their physical and emotional health and their intellectual and spiritual growth—increased by 39%. But they also reported that their performance improved: at work (by 9%), at home (15%), in the community (12%), and personally (25%). Paradoxically, these gains were made even as participants spent less time on work and more on other aspects of their lives.  (Quoted in Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life Stewart D. Friedman)

What can you do?