How to create a healthy work-life balance for better mental health

At the start of this year more than half of UK employees were unhappy in their current job roles. 

12,000 UK workers were questioned about their happiness at work and three quarters felt stressed about work, whilst two thirds sought a better work-life balance.

A separate TUC report found British workers are putting in more hours than the EU average, equating to full-time workers working up to an extra two and a half weeks per year!

UK workers are not happy!

Feeling stressed at work occasionally, or working overtime every now and then is a part of normal working life.  Perhaps you have urgent deadlines to meet or have a disagreement with a coworker.  Maybe you need to make revisions to work already completed.  These are things that happen.  They are small and temporary annoyances.

However, if you continuously work a job you absolutely detest, in an overly demanding role that leaves no time for your family or passions, or within a toxic work environment, then your mental health may begin to suffer.

From sleepless nights, to feeling stressed and anxious about work, to full-blown anxiety attacks and depression, a toxic workplace environment can worsen an existing mental health problem or it may even trigger a mental health issue.

If your job is affecting you negatively, then you need to take action. If you want to create a healthy work-life balance to improve your mental health and your life, which should always be a priority, then take on board the following tips.

Improve your mental health with a better work-life balance

How to create a healthy work-life balance for better mental health

Consider changing roles

Firstly, it’s important to address the job you do and your workplace environment.

Considering we might need to work full-time for 40-50 years of our life, from around 20 years of age right through to our 60s or 70s, it’s vital we find a career we love.  Our lives are short and we spend far too much of them working to waste time in a workplace that has negative consequences for our mental health and wellbeing.

If your job is currently causing a great deal of stress, you feel undervalued or it’s simply not something you feel remotely passionate about, then it’s time to take action.

If your mental health is deteriorating because of work then the job might not be worth it.  You either need to take steps to be mentally healthy at work and change your outlook or work practices, or you need to reassess and change your career path.

Let your mental wellbeing be your priority and find a job you love.  Don’t waste another second working a role you hate!

Not only should we try to find a job we enjoy doing each day, but we also need to create a healthy work-life balance.

How to create a healthy work-life balance for better mental health (2)

Request flexible working

If the current coronavirus pandemic can have any positives, then being able to work remotely has to be high on that list.

Many employers and employees have realised that most office based job roles can, in fact, be completed just as efficiently at home.  In some cases, even more so – you may even find you’re more efficient working at home without office distractions. You can work the hours you’re more productive, perhaps first thing or during the evening, rather than being forced into a working pattern of 9-5.

Working remotely doesn’t only have to happen during a pandemic.  Providing you have worked for your employer continuously for 26 weeks, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements.  This includes the ability to work remotely if it will benefit you and have no negative consequences for your employer or the business.

If working remotely betters your work-life balance, improves your productivity, reduces commute pollution and can potentially improve business efficiency, then there’s no reason your manager should not seriously consider the request.  In fact, they have to seriously consider all flexible working requests and adhere to the ACAS Code of Practice.

Even if remote working is not possible for your role or not something you desire, you can make other flexible working requests such as working your existing hours over a shorter number of days, changing your start and finish times, reducing your hours or requesting flexitime.

Changing your working pattern through a flexible working request might be all you need to improve your mental health.

It can stop you working next to colleagues you don’t get along with, prevent you sitting for hours commuting each day, save money on work uniform or travel costs or even allow you more time to spend with your loved ones.

How to create a healthy work-life balance for better mental health

Monetize your passion

In the digital age it has never been easier to follow a passion project and really do what you love!

There are so many of us following our dreams and setting up business on our own.  In January 2020 figures for self-employment in the UK hit 5 million self-employed individuals for the first ever time.

The internet means we can connect with people all over the world in an instant through social media and video platforms.  We can use online marketing to reach our target audience, no matter where they are based.  Our business can always be open and available to view through websites, blogs and online selling platforms.

Businesses can be started as side projects whilst you maintain the security of a wage from an employed job and built up in your spare time.  Or, if you are able to take the risk, you can dive right into your passion project.

There is plenty of free knowledge available online from YouTube tutorials to blogs that share exactly how to run your own business, start a passion project or to even begin to learn a new skill such as SEO or digital marketing that can amplify your business.

You can also invest in online courses from those who have already followed their dreams and found a better work-life balance doing what they love.  Learn the secrets of those already doing it or strategies to take your business to the next level.

Taking the plunge into self-employment for a better work-life balance is exactly what we did.  Both my husband and I are self-employed and sure, it’s hard work, but it’s rewarding hard work.  We have two children and being self-employed offers us so much flexibility.  We can be there for school drop offs and pickups.  We never need to miss school plays or tournaments.

We get to do what we love each day.  My husband makes furniture from reclaimed wood and I offer online marketing services.

If you really want to improve your mental health at work, then why not turn your passion into your career?

Getting to do what you love every day is a great way to improve your happiness and quality of life!

If you have a passion for vegan desserts then why not work on a vegan dessert cookbook, start a vegan dessert blog or start a local vegan dessert business?

Think about what you love to do and all the ways you can monetize it.  Then, stop dreaming and start doing!

How to create a healthy work-life balance for better mental health

Don’t let work takeover

One of the most important ways to achieve a better work-life balance is to ensure you have a life outside of work.  Friends and family you see out of work.  Hobbies and activities you can pursue that take your mind off work.

If you are always working and never take time to do anything else, then you can never truly switch off from work!

You need to take time off work and go and do something other than sitting and thinking about work, or talking about work.

Here are some ways you can stop work from taking over your mental health:

  • Exercise. Staying active and exercising is a great way to destress and take your mind off work. It’s also proven to be great for mental health, as well as physical health.  Try an exercise class, get out into nature for a hike, join a gym – find an exercise you love and stick with it.
  • Switch off. France are on the ball with this one by giving their workforce the ‘right to disconnect’ which allows employees the legal right to avoid work emails outside of their working hours. You need to learn to draw a line between your working day and your personal time. Leave work at work.
  • Take breaks. Don’t let work takeover whilst you are at work.  You are legally entitled to breaks and they are important for your mental health.  Don’t work through your breaks.  Take time away from your desk.  Go for a walk.  Sit outside.  Do something other than work, so your mind is refreshed.
  • Say no. If you already have plenty to do at work and no time for more projects then it’s OK to say no. Don’t take on more work than you can handle.  You’ll only cause yourself more stress or end up working more than you should.

Final thoughts

If your mental health is suffering because of work then you need to find a way to better manage your mental health at work.

If this is not possible or you detest the work you do, take action and pursue a different career.  Search for a new job, retrain or launch your own business.

Life is too short to be unhappy at work.

It’s definitely too short for an unhealthy work-life balance that affects your mental health.

Make your mental wellbeing your priority.  Take action, make changes and choose a career you are passionate about.

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How to create a healthy work-life balance for better mental health
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