LIFESTYLE

National Work-Life Week: The Myths About Doing It All Vs The Reality

22/09/2014 08:30 BST | Updated 22/09/2014 08:59 BST

You want to impress your boss but you also really really want to go for cocktails with your friends - so, what do you do?

Establishing a healthy work-life balance is something we all struggle with, and all too often we cut corners in order to cram everything in.

But by skipping the essentials (sleep, lunch, exercise) in an attempt to save time, we're actually taking one step forwards, two steps back.

To limit stress and avoid burnout as part of National Work-Life Week, here are the myths about work-life balance that need to be debunked.

eating lunch at desk

Myth #1: Skipping your lunch break will mean you can leave earlier.

Fact: One in five people work through their lunch every day, but lunch breaks are there for a reason. Eating at your desk makes you less productive in the afternoon, meaning you can probably get the same amount of work done by 5pm if you pop outside for 30 minutes.

Skipping lunch breaks also has a negative impact on health leading to employees take more time off sick - that doesn't sound too productive to us....

Myth #2: You can cheat on the amount of sleep you get.

Fact: According to the Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety.

The idea of "catching up on sleep" at the weekend is flawed. According to Dr. W. Christopher Winter of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, if you slept poorly last night, going to bed early tonight will mean you'll probably make up for the sleep you lost. However, you can't make up for the sleep you lose over a long period of time and will eventually burn out.

Myth #3: Work-life balance is something only adults need to think about.

Fact: A study by the NSPCC found that academic worries were the biggest cause of stress for nearly 50% of children. Helping children to feel calm at home is essential for their general health and psychological wellbeing. Some are even suggesting mindfulness for kids as a way of tackling childhood stress.

Myth #4: A quick caffeine boost will help you get through the day.

Fact: Although caffeine may temporarily help you to feel energised, you may also feel a crash when its effects wear off.

Commenting on a previous study, psychology professor Laura Juliano said: "The negative effects of caffeine are often not recognised as such because it is a socially acceptable and widely consumed drug.

"And while many people can consume caffeine without harm, for some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning, and can be difficult to give up, which are signs of problematic use."

man drinking coffee

Myth #5: Checking social media sites at night is totally normal.

Fact: Social media is addictive - 5-10% of internet users are unable to control how much time they spend online.

Although checking Facebook and Twitter in bed may seem like a good way to spend your downtime, it's easy to get carried away and seriously lose out on sleep because of it.

Myth #6: Checking the odd email on holiday will lesson the stress of a backlog when you're back in the office.

Fact: It'll stress you out more than it's worth.

Previously speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Neil Shah, founder of the Stress Management Society, said: "Even a simple request, email or quick text can take you out of the holiday mindspace and reconnect you with the stresses and pressures of work."

computer by pool

Myth #7: Stretching your legs in the office is a waste of time.

Fact: Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and increase brain function, therefore exercise throughout the day (even a quick stroll) can improve your productivity.

Myth #8: Burnout is psychological.

Fact: It's tempting to tell ourselves that burnout is a "mind over matter" issue, that if we power through hard enough, we'll never have to slow down. But failing to establish a healthy work-life balance will eventually lead to physical, as well as emotion, exhaustion.

Founder of The Huffington Post Arianna Huffington has said: "The moment I knew I needed more sleep was four years ago, when I learned the value of sleep -- the hard way. I'd just returned home after a week of taking my daughter on a tour of colleges, and the ground rule was no BlackBerry during the day, so I stayed up very late to catch up on work.

"Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, bloodied. I had passed out from exhaustion and banged my head on the way down. The result was a broken cheekbone and five stitches under my eyebrow."

Implementing work-life balance may not seem important until you reach dire circumstances or have a wake-up call like Arianna. But a better way might be to prevent yourself from reaching that point. You don't have to radically change all of your working habits but try starting with just one - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

SEE ALSO:

10 Ways to Maintain Your Work-life Balance

Employee Wellness: The Companies That Prize Wellbeing Over Burnout

Countries With The Best Work-Life Balance