The importance of a healthy work-life balance
Posted by The personal injury help and advice team and Tim Shaw, Minster Law
The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population. According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost three in ten employees will experience a mental health problem every year and more than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work. The recent rise in Britain’s working hours would suggest this is likely to increase, with 13% of the UK working 49 hours or more per week.
If you’re returning to work after an accident or injury, it’s important to ensure you’re looking after your mental health by not rushing straight back into your old routine before you’re physically and mentally able and easing slowly into work when you do so.
A key way to protect your mental health against the effects of work related stress is to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance. Here, Minster Law’s Tim Shaw shares his experience of adapting his lifestyle after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
“I have a (well-deserved) reputation as a workaholic. I’d arrive at the office at 7:00am to beat the traffic and often not leave till 12 hours later, on top of a commute to and from Manchester which usually took upwards of an hour each way. I could access all my work emails on my iPhone and did so morning, noon and night at work, on holiday and even sat in my hospital bed two days after the operation to excise my brain tumour. Although it did lead to occasional friction at home, in general it was accepted that this was just how I was and home life evolved to accommodate it.
When I was first diagnosed, the consultant told me that I was experiencing a life-changing event: no aspect of my life would ever be the same again. He was right, but it took a bit of time for me to adjust to this reality. I took a long, hard look at myself and we had some very frank and open conversations at home. I reviewed and reassessed my priorities and slowly but surely we have built what we call the New Normal.
I’ve deleted the ability to receive work emails on my mobile, although replacing them with Candy Crush Saga is perhaps less of a great step forward than first thought. Work is no longer the centre of my life. It’s important, of course, but having time with family and friends is just as important, if not more so.
We call it a work-life balance and therein lies the root of the problem: by using that label we are implicitly putting work before our personal life. Perhaps we should rename it the life-work balance so we can literally as well as figuratively get things in the proper perspective.
As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it
It’s an ongoing process and while my conscious mind has embraced the change, my sub-conscious is still pushing back: when I typed the word “life” in the previous paragraph, it came out as “file”. But I never claimed to be perfect. I’m getting there, one day at a time, tipping the scales back into balance.”
To find out more about how you can help yourself maintain a healthy work-life balance, click here.