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Work/Life Balance: 4 Tips From a Counselling Psychologist

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Robbie Pearman  |  Counselling Psychologist

March 18 2021

With an entire workforce being moved into their homes to perform their jobs, work/life balance has been harder to define, let alone achieve, than ever before. On top of the necessity for online access through smartphone messaging, emails, video calls, and other general workplace tasks that need to be completed, people have to simultaneously attend to parts of their personal and family life, which now compete for existence in the same physical space.

When people used to leave their physical office at the company headquarters to go home, there was a natural transitioning from ‘work mode’ to ‘home’ or “family mode’, as they made the journey home. This is simply not happening in many households around the world now.

Ironically, the new work-from-home generation that has quickly sprung up is better placed to create a healthier work / life harmony than ever before. But with this all being very new to most people, some pitfalls are being observed.

What Exactly is Work-Life Balance?

In basic terms, it is achieving harmony (or as close as possible) in terms of emotional, physical, mental, and emotional investment in our work or careers and that of our family, personal, or home life. For most people, harmony does not mean equal in terms of these finite resources. Most people have to work with some constraints in this pursuit.

How Does an Unbalanced Work-Life Impact Individuals?

Working provides an individual with set daily goals and a structure to their week, along with meaning and purpose, a community of like-minded people to interact with, and financial security.

If not managed correctly, work can dominate our finite physical, mental and emotional resources, impacting our quality of life negatively. This can lead to burnout, stress, and other mental and physical health issues. This can not only affect you, but it has a long-lasting impact on those who care for you, such as your family and friends.

Work/life balance can become unhealthy when you consistently mix work activities with or instead of, what would have been quality family or personal time. With no obvious ritual of leaving the office and commuting home like we had in the past, this is a bad habit that is very easy to slip into whilst working from home.

Managed correctly, work-life balance can lead to enhanced performance, a feeling of being in control, better decision making, closer relationships, feeling less overwhelmed and stressed, and experiencing a greater sense of well-being. This is a topic that can be significantly expanded upon moving forward, but for now, here are some short pointers to help protect a healthier balance in the new work-from-home generation.

Have a dedicated place in the home for working

Avoid communal areas where distraction is likely. A room that you can use as a private workspace would be ideal. If you have a cottage or something separate from the main house even better. This just adds to the sense of separation between being at home ‘working’ versus being at home with the family, and will help with making a clean cut from one to the other. When you are done for the day lock-up/ close down that space. Some people may not have the luxury of a secluded space or room. What can work well is to have something you can cover that workstation with (like a sheet or blanket). This removes it from sight and creates a physical barrier that makes it harder to quickly log back onto the laptop in order to do “one last thing”.

Commit to a knocking off time

It was commonplace for people to leave the office at a set time. Office hours were bookended between time A and time B. Nowadays, people complain that they feel obliged to respond to messages or emails as soon as they look at their phones or devices (which unfortunately is the first thing they do in the morning). This creates a dangerous president that people will not hesitate to take advantage of. Set clear boundaries in terms of availability times. Let your colleagues and team members know. They were fine with your start and end times when you worked at the office, there’s no good reason they shouldn’t be now.

Let your family know your boundaries

It can be confusing, especially for younger children, to know when someone is working or on a break or done for the day. Let your family know what times you going to be available consistently moving forward. This will give them re-assurance and keep you from being interrupted throughout the day

Schedule some solitary recharge time

Another thing the office naturally provided us was physical separation from our family environment, and some time to recharge. Many people miss this separation working from home all the time, but feel guilty verbalising it. Your family deserves the best version of you when you have stopped work for the day. If in order for you to achieve this, you need to spend an afternoon working from a coffee shop, spending some time at your old physical office, or taking a 30-minute walk after shutting down your home office, then do so.

How can Counselling Help for Better Work / Life Balance?

Counselling for work-life balance focuses on the unique and individual circumstances that you are facing both in your personal life and career and looks at ways to adapt and create a greater sense of control over these circumstances. Challenges can be different things at different times, such as managing stress or anxiety, work overload, spouse or partner challenges, lack of confidence in your abilities, etc.

If you are constantly feeling stressed or overwhelmed and don’t know how to cope or manage currently, speaking with a psychologist can help plot a way forward and bring some order to our lives.

I’m a Counselling Psychologist situated in Blairgowrie, near the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, such as Rosebank and Sandton.

I work with individuals, couples, families, and small groups to address current challenges with a solution-focused approach. These challenges may include some more common complaints such as depression, and anxiety, or those trying to come to terms with trauma or bereavement.

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