5 Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance

And how to ease stress and boost productivity while you’re at it.

By Miriam Salpeter | Contributor

stress relief
Taking care of yourself will help you in both your personal and professional lives. (iStockPhoto)

Work-life balance is a topic on the minds of many professionals and job seekers. WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for forward-thinking human resources professionals, and CareerArc, a global recruitment and outplacement firm, recently announced the results of the 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study. They surveyed 1,087 professionals nationally, both employed and unemployed, and 116 HR professionals.

Interestingly, 67 percent of human resources professionals think their employees have a balanced work life, yet 45 percent of employees believe they don’t have enough time each week to handle their personal business. Plus, 20 percent of employees surveyed spend more than 20 hours per week working during their own time.

Yair Riemer, chief marketing officer of CareerArc, suggests the following tips to help employees achieve work-life balance while reducing stress and increasing productivity.

1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. “Prioritization is the key to success and is a lesson that can be applied across a wide variety of industries – not just startups where product and engineering teams often prioritize tasks weekly,” Riemer says. When you identify the most important items on your to-do list, it’s easier to know where to start and when you can finish for the day or week. Prioritization helps you focus on what is really important and decreases unnecessary stress that comes with an urgent focus on less timely or unimportant tasks.

It’s a good idea to touch base with your supervisor if you have multiple projects and need help deciding which one is most important.

2. Be proactive – not reactive. “When you’re reactive, you lose touch with what’s really important,” Riemer says. “And thus, you fail to operate at peak capacity, causing stress.” When you take the time and effort to plan ahead and anticipate what your colleagues or managers may request, you’ll be better prepared to juggle multiple tasks and schedule your time. “With your schedule planned, you can attack those tasks proactively, rather than waiting for external inputs to land on your desk, increasing your stress levels and leaving you overwhelmed,” he says. Hopefully, this will prevent you from bringing a lot of work home on a regular basis.

3. Use your vacation. The average American takes only about half their paid time off per year. “That’s not enough time to recharge,” Riemer says.

Plus, studies show that many workers don’t disconnect from work, even when they’re on vacation. They are still glued to their devices and screens to check work email and keep up with colleagues. Riemer believes taking a vacation and truly disconnecting is key to recharging and getting re-energized once back at the office.

4. Trust in your peers. “The best managers trust their employees, and the best employees have trust in their company’s leadership,” Riemer says. “If you believe in your colleagues – in their intellect, in their work ethic, in their skill set – then share the load.” Even if you believe you have to do everything yourself, it’s unlikely you’re expected to carry the entire burden at the expense of all of your personal time.

If you work with a team, be sure to collaborate on projects, and don’t own tasks for the sake of ownership. “You may be a Type A perfectionist or love control, but winning organizations are made up of teammates, not individuals,” he says. “Your work-life balance will improve significantly with a little bit of help from your friends.”

5. Exercise. Don’t put off taking care of yourself. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to exercise. Even a brisk walk in the morning or at lunchtime can be invigorating and help clear your mind. “Research shows regular exercise helps keep you clear-headed, which improves control of work-life balance, reduces stress and increases self-efficacy,” Riemer says.

The 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study found that 75 percent of employees ranked workplace flexibility as their top desired benefit. Whether or not your employer is actively seeking ways to enhance your flexibility, use these steps to protect your personal time and to make an effort to tip the balance in your work-life hours.