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Work Life Balance: Wellbeing Solutions to Implement in the Workplace

The work we do can be a source of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in our lives. But when we forget to prioritize our wellbeing and take time for ourselves, even the livelihoods we love can feel like they’re asking too much of us. When the demands of a career are at odds with what you need to live your best life, both personally and professionally, these perspective and habit shifts could make all the difference. 

Wellness at Work

Whether you work from home, in an office, or in an environment all your own, keep these tips in mind to ensure your personal wellbeing is as much a part of your daily to-do list as your inbox. 

  • Look after your body by making your health a priority. Meetings may run long, or certain projects might put great demands on time, but without giving our bodies the care they need to carry us through the work day, we put ourselves at risk of not only facing the dreaded afternoon energy crash, but higher stress levels and lower professional performance. To stay on top of your game, bake time into your schedule to prioritize your physical needs.

Incorporate movement into your day. Whether it’s climbing the stairs instead of the elevator or biking to work instead of driving, it’s important to keep our bodies active as we take care of business. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Sitting is the new smoking?” If your profession has you anchored to a chair most of the day, it could potentially have adverse effects for not just your physical health, but your mental health as well. On the other hand, exercise is known to boost immunity, mood, and wellbeing overall. Plus, the stress reducing benefits of physical movement have been linked to both greater work performance and a reduced risk of burnout. 

If your workplace doesn’t offer exercise facilities, try adding a standing desk to your workspace or invite colleagues to join you for walking meetings. While we often hear that we need at least 10,000 steps each day to stay healthy, according to Harvard School of Public Health, as few as 4,400 could greatly reduce the risk of many health concerns. 

You can even consider speaking to your workplace’s administrators about creating wellness programs for staff to promote work-life balance and employee wellbeing, like fitness challenges with initiatives, occasional in-office yoga classes, or an active, monthly group volunteer day. 

Don’t skip meals. As busy as some days may be, attempting to save time by skipping meals can not only cost your body valuable nutrition and plummeting blood sugar, but can lead to higher stress due to spikes in cortisol levels, lower immunity, and poorer work performance due to decreased focus and less savvy decision making. Unnecessarily high stress levels in the workplace can often linger long after work hours are over, leading to poor levels of balance between life in and out of the office

For greater productivity, more energy, better focus, and a stronger immune system (hello, fewer sick days), try eating a high protein breakfast before work, like this five-minute sandwich, and be sure to stash healthy snacks in your desk drawers to stave off the hanger on days with a later lunch break.  

  • Give yourself grace. Drive and ambition may take us far professionally, but pairing our appetite for success with extreme pressure to achieve professionally can have the opposite effect in the long term. Overwhelming expectations on productivity often lead to unmanageable stress, and in turn, the experience of burnout. Be sure to cultivate supportive skills and perspectives that will help you maintain balance and wellbeing and mitigate avoidable stressors.   

Ditch perfectionism. Often, the highest pressures and most unreasonable expectations are of our own making. While striving for perfection can be a motivator toward high achievement, it can also come with levels of anxiety that may at times feel crippling and ultimately prove counterproductive

Perfectionism often stems from beliefs that we will not be valued in the workplace unless we can perform at a superhuman standard. But the negative impacts of this world view on mental health can permeate every area of our lives, manifesting in many forms, from symptoms of depression to trouble sleeping

To help yourself drop the fallacy of perfection in your work, try celebrating even your smallest successes. Practice shifting your focus to what you are doing well, and keep a list of all the good feedback you receive – even if it's a seemingly small comment in passing– to reach for as a reminder in moments when the pressure to be perfect rears its head.

And remember, we often learn the most when things don’t go to plan. Check out these tips from CEOs for turning mistakes into learning opportunities.

Ask for support. No one in the world knows when you have reached your limits, except for you. Be mindful of your own limitations on energy, time, and capacity, and be willing to advocate for yourself if you find that any one of these areas is nearing a level of concern. While seeking the help of others in the workplace can at times feel like an admission of defeat in the face of high-piled task lists, the practices of seeking additional resources, delegating, and searching out the  guidance of trusted colleagues will take you farther than folding under an unmanageable workload ever could. And, you’ll thank yourself for sidestepping unnecessary stress that might have taken an enormous toll on your health and wellbeing both on and off the clock. 

To build in guardrails for situations when overwhelm in your professional life has  you unsure where to turn or how to proceed at work, seek out a mentor. Having the support of a trusted fellow professional as a sounding board can not only help you to navigate difficult moments in your career, but to see more beneficial and practical paths to your own goals through the lens of their experience. Getting started, according to Harvard Business Review, is often as simple as sending a quick note via email.           

  • Communicate boundaries. Learning to set boundaries, and to effectively communicate them, can go a long way toward preventing stressful work/life imbalances. 

“Boundaries,” says TIME, “are limits or personal rules that protect your time and energy and allow you to perform at your best.” Whether with your time, space, or another aspect of your professional (or personal) life, communicating boundaries will help to provide clarity and can be, “...key to increasing productivity and wellbeing.” They will also allow for greater separation between your professional world and personal life, allowing you to more effectively decompress and recharge outside of the office. 

To help you maintain a reasonable workload, lower work-related stress, raise productivity, and reduce the risk of burnout, says Indeed, try sharpening your communication skills to build strong professional relationships, establish clear limits, and set a schedule that supports your wellbeing in and out of work.    

  • Be intentional with your time. One way clear boundaries help to promote a better work life balance is by giving you the ability to use the hours in your day to not only be more productive with exciting projects, but to meet your own needs.   

Take breaks. We lose track of time with our tasks, the day gets away from us, and suddenly we haven’t risen from our chairs in too many hours or looked away from our laptop since 8am. While it may be tempting to skip breaks in order to get more done, the opposite can actually be true. Taking regular breaks throughout the workday – and year– can help to prevent the would-be burnout and make you more productive overall. 

We already know the importance of not skipping meal breaks and making time to move and nourish your body throughout the day. But the mental benefits of setting down your work for a moment, like greater resilience when stressors arise and improved focus upon returning to our projects, can be both invaluable to our health and a driver of greater job satisfaction and performance, says the American Psychological Association.   

Try building a 15-minute break into your workday every 75-90 minutes to give your mind and body the pace for rest and renewal. Stretch your body, get outside if you can, and maybe daydream about your next vacation. In the same vein as regular breaks throughout the workday, actually using your PTO for leisure time outside of work has been shown to greatly improve professional fulfillment and lower chances of developing both mental and physical health risks

Portugal, anyone?     

Set realistic, attainable goals and timelines. Overpromising on what we can realistically achieve without unmanageable pressure creates avoidable stress and negatively impacts our work– and life–experiences. When we aren’t able to achieve the superhuman feats we’ve committed to, the stress cycle is further perpetuated. It can also lead to lower professional credibility and trust from clients and colleagues, negative reviews, lost business, and hits to professional confidence.

Try mapping out your weekly and monthly to-do’s with dedicated project management software, and use it to track the time it takes to complete various tasks. This will help you to more accurately schedule your work days and prevent unnecessary stress, overwhelm, and strain.  

Start your day with your most difficult tasks. Avoid the added stress of feeling strapped for time by beginning your day with your most taxing projects. According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, “people who worked on their most difficult tasks first were more likely to achieve their goals. This is because tackling difficult tasks early on helps to build confidence and momentum, which makes it easier to complete other tasks later on.” Often, the early hours of the workday before all systems are go can also be the quietest with the least interruptions, allowing for more undisturbed focus on challenging tasks.

Another study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, “found that people who completed their most important tasks first were more productive and had higher levels of satisfaction than those who did not. This is because completing the most important tasks first helps to reduce stress and anxiety, and frees up mental energy for other tasks. 

Next time you’re tempted to push a daunting project until later in the day or week, try ripping off the bandaid first thing in the morning instead. You’ll save yourself energy drain and frustration, and avoid negative impacts on your wellbeing.  

  • Optimize your workspace. If your workplace gives you the freedom to do so, or you work remotely, try creating a working environment designed to help you thrive.

Whether it’s creatively nourishing to listen to music throughout the day, a standing desk and treadmill setup helps to keep you moving and focused, or you rely on an array of potted plants to stay grounded and at peace, arranging your space in a way that is tailored to your personal wellness can be an unexpected way to prioritize wellbeing throughout the work day. Considerations like lighting, air quality, organization, cleanliness, and equipment preferences can all contribute to productivity, lower stress, and better overall work life balance.

If you work from home, arranging your workstation in a way that helps to differentiate it from personal space can be helpful in establishing boundaries and maintaining balance between work time and leisure time. 

According to Forbes, “workplace design that considers air quality, lighting, views onto nature and the general layout of the interior can significantly impact on health, satisfaction, wellbeing, and staff productivity.” Even simple changes to your physical space can make a big impact. Small, no-cost shifts, like clearing clutter from your desk or working in an area with natural light, can help take you from stressed to settled without spending a penny.   

Wellness at Home

While it’s important to put practices in place to support your wellbeing during the workday, professional life is only one side of the coin. Wellness habits outside of work help to set us stay balanced throughout the day. 

Incorporating mindful morning practices like journaling, intention setting, movement, or even indulging in skin care with an energizing scent can help you to feel centered and better manage stress throughout the day.

Scheduling leisure time helps to ensure that moments with loved ones, activities that bring you joy, and much needed down time won’t get pushed in favor of other responsibilities. Hobbies, socializing, and decompression have all been shown to build resilience, lower stress, and benefit both physical and mental health.    

Nourishing your body by eating a nutrient-rich diet, getting plenty of exercise, properly hydrating, and making quality sleep a priority will help to give your body the nutritional requirements and energy it needs to carry you through the day. And, ensuring your body’s nutritional and physical needs are met can also help you to manage stress more effectively, strengthen your immune system, lift your mood, and enhance your overall sense of wellbeing. 

Because it can be challenging to meet your body’s optimal nutrient levels with diet alone, incorporating support into your daily routine, like a multivitamin for complete health, a digestion and immunity boosting probiotic, or an antioxidant-rich focus and energy supplement can help to fill any gaps in nutrition and keep you balanced and energized throughout your day.       

Going tech free during off hours by unplugging from devices and turning off notifications may majorly benefit many areas of your life, says Forbes. From improving sleep, productivity, relationships, and focus, to decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression, putting away your phone and shutting down your laptop in the evenings can go a long way toward improving the way you feel in your body, mind, and life.   

And finally:

Seeking extra support when you need it can give you the foundation you need to effectively manage stress, both at work and at home. Connecting with a licensed therapist can not only help you through difficult times, but to build skills like communicating boundaries and recognizing your own limits as well.  

Which wellness at work tips will you carry into your next work week?

Finding the best recipe for prioritizing wellness at work will be a process that looks a little different for everyone. But taking a tailored approach, with small daily shifts to help fill the wellbeing gaps in your professional life, can be the first step to restoring a sense of work life balance. Or, better yet, ensuring that it’s never lost to begin with.

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