Work-life balance, ABBA style!
Work-life balance is often talked about but rarely experienced in “Anglo-American” workplace cultures. The long-hours worked by many in these cultures actually lead to less, not greater productivity; and less, not more life satisfaction.
Over the last few years, research has consistently shown significant correlations between work-life balance, social cohesion and economic prosperity. In the OECD How’s Life survey, only 1.1% of Sweden’s workers work very long hours and in a recent HSBC survey, Sweden ranked first in the world for its flexible approach to work-life balance.
At an organisational level, the Stockholm-based communications giant Ericsson values “Balance” as one of the core values in its culture, stating: “You can maintain a healthy work-life balance. Above all, you can have a positive effect on the people closest to you and the wider world around you.”
So how do we improve our work-life balance? The Mental Health Foundation offers these tips:
- Take personal responsibility for your work-life balance
- Try to “work smart, not long”
- Take proper breaks at work
- Try to ensure that a line is drawn between work and leisure
- Take seriously the link between work-related stress and mental ill health
- Recognise the importance of protective factors, including exercise, leisure activities and friendships
- Watch out for the cumulative effect of working long hours by keeping track of your working hours over a period of weeks or months rather than days
It’s interesting to note that “not reading or acting on work emails” for example isn’t specifically included in this list and that’s because our lives are generally improved when we are guided by principles rather than when we slavishly comply with rules.
From a personal perspective, having been self-employed since 1998, I have been lucky to have the flexibility to manage my own time to sustain what I call work-life “harmony” rather than “balance”. This philosophy allows us also to do the work we love.