Establishing a healthy work-life balance is something that I continually struggle with. I work from my home office which can be very difficult (impossible) to get away from; but also, since I am self employed, I rarely stick to a rigid 9-5 routine. Of course this isn’t a problem unique to home-workers. Having worked for large companies too I remember how unusual it was for myself and my colleagues to leave the office on time. If we managed on the odd occasion to get all of our work done within our contracted hours, it was a rare and wonderful thing.
Category Archives: Work-Life Balance
Our brains are designed to handle just one cognitive task at a time, but today’s hyper-connected culture combined with our assortment of tech devices creates the growing temptation to try and do several things at once. We might be working on an important presentation, but at the same time we will check our emails, hop onto Instagram, reply to a text message and also have our favourite Netflix series playing in the background. It’s this constant task-switching that neurologists say is having a detrimental effect on our productivity, as well as our wellbeing.
In Japan, where there’s no legal limit on working hours, there’s an accepted phenomenon called ‘karoshi’, which translates to ‘death by overwork’. The Japanese government compensates families who have lost loved ones due to employment-related exhaustion or suicide. According to Labour Ministry data, claims for compensation for karoshi rose to a record high of 1,456 in the year ending March 2015, however it’s believed the true figures could be 10 times higher than official records.
December can be one of the most challenging months of the working year, and keeping employees engaged and focused on their work can be tricky. According to a recent study, two-thirds of employees will use paid time to do their online Christmas shopping at their desks, meaning that businesses could stand to lose hundreds of hours in productivity. There often ends up being fewer man hours to get the same volume of work accomplished, and for some, end-of-year targets need to be met and budgets and planning for the year ahead finalised. Juggling work with personal family commitments can create a number of pressures and distractions, and so it’s no wonder that during the festive season, employee morale and motivation can dip.
I’m aware there’s a certain irony in me writing this post, as I still have an awful lot to accomplish before Christmas! I’m sure it’s the case for many, and so before we get swept up in the usual Christmas panic, here are some ways in which we can maintain our normal pace of work, and focus on the things that really matter. Once we’ve cleared the decks, it will mean that we can leave the office with a clear conscience, switch-off from work and have a truly restful Christmas…
Maybe you’ve just enrolled in some extra coursework toward an advanced certification at your job. Or maybe you just need a distraction-free place at home to get some serious spread sheeting done. Whatever your reason for designing one, building a workspace that harnesses your wandering mind and boosts your productivity is key.
The Christmas season gives many of us a chance to take a break from routine, spend time with the family and recharge our batteries. As January looms and the start of a new year is upon us, it’s an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities and set goals for the year ahead. That sense of a fresh beginning and new challenges has never been lost on me, and now is a good time to be evaluating whether you’re consistently performing at your peak, or whether day-to-day distractions and the demands of others are too often getting in the way.
Are you the sort of person who bounces out of bed when the alarm goes off, excited to begin your day? Or maybe you’re a little more like me…hitting the snooze button, dashing around the house frantically trying to get everyone organised, running out the door, and needing a strong coffee before you can really get started with your day? Well at least that’s the way I used to be, but recently I’ve been working hard to become more of a morning person, and I’ve discovered some valuable lessons along the way.
Co-working is a fast-growing trend.
Initially, it was the domain of start-ups who’d outgrown their bedroom-based offices and needed a flexible, affordable space for their growing business. But over time the popularity and number of co-working spaces has blossomed, with more and more professionals wanting to decide for themselves how and when they work, so that they can spend more time with family, waste less money on travel and operate from an environment that inspires and motivates them.
The workplace has been steadily evolving over the past year or two, and big changes have come afoot in the first part of 2016. In the UK, the shift towards co-working has exploded, which has been led in part by the increasing number of individuals choosing to go freelance, who want more flexibility and control over where and when they work. Currently there are 1.4 million freelancers working in the UK, and the continued growth of virtual collaboration tools and technology, as well as the increasing acceptance of remote working, has given the freelance economy a tremendous boost.
When Katy Tuncer decided to launch Ready, Steady, Mums, a fitness business aimed at new mothers in the UK, she didn’t leave her day job at a consulting firm. Similarly, Gabe Haim and Ryan Schlotter, who launched their own micro-brewery outside of New York City, didn’t leave their jobs working at a car dealership. Like Katy,they liked their day jobs and they appreciated the financial rewards and the stability that came with full-time employment. They also didn’t want to put their families’ lifestyles at risk for a chance at building something of their own.
Do you love the job that you do, or is it just ‘okay’? If you’ve been working in the same profession, or job, for 10 years or more, it’s likely that you’ve become a little bored or disillusioned with certain aspects of it, and maybe your output is no longer your best. Often we continue to ‘make do’ simply because we worry that making changes could be risky, or push us too far outside of our comfort zone.
Some days it seems almost impossible to be productive.
There are beeps and buzzes coming from your phone and calendar notifications on your laptop for upcoming meetings. These are just a few of the distractions that small business owners and employees experience on a daily basis. To fight the distractions and stay on top of things we try different productivity hacks. Most of the time they’re ineffective.
You only need to look back in history, or at some of today’s most successful business people, to see that coaching and mentoring has been around for quite some time. Plato was mentored by Socrates, Harper Lee was rumoured to be mentored by Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn was mentor to Elizabeth Taylor, Marissa Myers is mentored by Larry Page and Marc Benioff was mentored by Steve Jobs. These people sought inspiration and the greater wisdom of others, and it paid off!
As our work lives become gradually more flexible, more of us need to be productive outside an office. Whether you’re a freelancer or remote worker, chances are you’re going to want a change of scenery every once in a while. Cafes and co-working spaces are the perfect place to caffeinate, refuel and focus with other like-minded individuals.
There is a lot to be said for being your own boss. I made the break from full-time employment in 2006, one month after getting married! I had a single client in place before handing in my notice, but it was still a big gamble, and particularly as I was hedging my bets on the emerging social media space. When I think back though, the nerves were minimal. Excitement and anticipation overwhelmed any feelings of doubt, and I couldn’t wait to be in charge of my professional future. I had created a tiny work space in my bedroom, within our one bedroom flat at the time. I was young, determined and raring to go.
Self-improvement should be a constant ongoing focus for anyone who is keen to progress in their career, but unfortunately it’s often something remembered at the beginning of a new year, only to slip in priority once workload mounts. If you set out to learn a new language in 2015, enhance your coding skills, gain a new level of fitness or maybe even write a book, the chances are it never really happened. Apparently just 8% of us achieve our New Year’s resolutions, despite more than 40% of us setting goals for self-improvement.
Now that the countdown to Christmas is in full swing, it’s always nice to reflect on the highs of 2015, and in our case, the blog posts that really got our readers thinking and sharing. So just before we kick back with a glass of mulled wine and call it a wrap for 2015, we thought you might like our Christmas Top 10 of the posts that grabbed the most eyeballs this year…
Four years ago, the first edition of The Smart Working Handbook was published, designed to offer best practice advice in transforming organisations through smart working techniques. Its success was unprecedented, with more than 100,000 copies being downloaded and shared. Its advice has been adopted by numerous organisations including the UK Cabinet Office, as the official guide to Smart Working for the UK’s 440,000 civil servants.