The truth about work-life balance

If you feel like work dominates your life, you’re in good company. Australians clock up some of the longest hours at work in the developed world, meaning our work-life balance is seriously out of balance. So why is work-life balance important? Dr Kieran Kennedy, a medical doctor and psychiatry resident, says balancing work and life – think: family, hobbies and passions – is essential for mental wellbeing.

“[Time outside of work is where] some of the building blocks for mental health are made,” he says. “It’s also where we find some of the real movers and shakers when it comes to mental health – regular exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation and social connection are some of the biggest foundations to our mental wellness.”

Is work-life balance possible?

Unfortunately, the busier work gets the more likely we are to let non-work activities fall by the wayside. This leads many people to give up on work-life balance completely, but Kennedy says busyness is what makes balance more important than ever.

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“No matter how busy the schedule, it’s not only possible but even more important to carve out time conducive to relaxation, basic health needs and other passions,” Kennedy says. “It’s vital we remember that blocking out and protecting time for sleep, exercise, health checks, hobbies and social time is just as important as – and ultimately benefits – our career.”

What’s work-life integration?

An alternative concept that’s been getting momentum in recent years is work-life integration, which is all about blending your professional and personal lives.

“This might include career choices that align closer to our family schedule, how we spend our time or passions, or schedules that allow for a mixture of work and life across the day,” Kennedy explains.

“While this might work well for some careers and schedules – such as those who have flexibility with their time or are their own boss – it’s less likely to work for those with traditional nine-to-five work or little control over their work-day routine.”

If work-life integration won’t work for you, reframing your ideas about balancing work and life might be a healthier approach.

“My sense is that overall, we still need balance regardless of how things are juggled – whether our day has distinct blocks of ‘work’ vs ‘life’ or a path where the boundaries are more mixed, it’s vital we’re putting just as much time into our health, rest, internal drivers and passions, and social time as we do our work,” Kennedy says.

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