Do you feel unhappy or even very unhappy about the time which you devote to work?
If your answer is “yes” you are certainly not alone. According to a Mental Health Foundation survey, more than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work.
Further evidence in the survey showed that this may lead to mental health issues with 27% of respondents stating that they were depressed because of long hours, 34% saying they made them feel anxious and 58% claiming they caused them to be irritable.
This summer, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said: “An epidemic of long hours, stress and poor work-life balance is undermining attempts to improve job quality among UK employers.”
Its annual assessment of job quality across seven different categories from pay and benefits to job design and health and wellbeing – found poor work-life balance was a particular problem for UK workers, with many admitting their job made it hard to switch off in their downtime and caused disruption to their family life.
Three in five said they worked longer hours than they wanted to and 24 per cent reported working an additional 10 or more hours a week on top of their contracted hours.
The research, which collected responses from 5,136 employees across the UK, also uncovered evidence of high levels of work intensity, which is linked to increased stress.
One in five said they often or always felt exhausted at work or were under excessive pressure.
The Mental Health Foundation says we all need to take personal responsibility for achieving a work/life balance.
At the top of its list of priorities are to speak up when work expectations and demands are too high. This will enable employers to address pressures of which they may not be aware.
Working smarter rather than longer is also key to achieving greater happiness – therefore, a certain amount of time should be devoted to tasks. For example, meetings should be short and sharp and not meandering and time-wasting.
Many of us tend to skip breaks but these should be enshrined in the working day. You are entitled to them, so take them! At least half an hour for lunch, preferably not taken at your desk. Try to make sure that you are not taking work home. If you must – work in a certain area of your house and be able to shut the door on it.
Look after your mental health through exercise, relaxation and hobbies and recognise the importance of leisure and friendships.
Workplace managers should realise that greater productivity comes from a happier staff.
That means they should advocate work-life balance to those in the workplace and develop policies which acknowledge the link between mental health and stress.
Training in mental health first aid is widely available. The more people who can spot the signs the better.
Talking about the issues surrounding work/life balance is the key.
And, ultimately, if we are happy at work, we are happy at home.