This week is National Work-Life Week. But what exactly does that mean? Despite a ton of links to websites offering suggestions and tips for the week, it's difficult to decipher the core values for my favourite named week in September. I've been trawling through Google and still haven't really gotten to the bottom of the phenomenon. However, off the cuff, the fact it exists serves as a testament to reclaiming personal time, lost to work and evaluating our individual work-life balance.
With the advent of modern technology, modern workers can make anywhere an office. Sometimes having to head to the post office at lunchtime isn't the biggest waste of time, queuing can serve as the perfect time to catch up on emails or check your diary for the rest of the afternoon. This freedom liberates a little 'working' time to do personal errands and chores, while still taking care of business. We can leave work a little early to get a more convenient train because we can work on the train, or squeeze in a hairdressing appointment during the day while typing out status reports.
National Work-Life Week to me isn't about raising awareness that we're all working longer than ever before, because that's not the case. Instead it's the need to find the balance between work and life now that technology has extinguished the traditional boundaries. Work emails have crept into home lifeand leaving the office is no longer the same as leaving work. In this respect, we are all always on call. There's no real excuse to not read an email or listen to a voicemail, it's simply a choice not to. The real challenge is learning to respect the boundaries between home and work, forcing yourself to implement compartmentalisation regularly in your schedule.
A recent survey of London based office workers points to how serious people are about achieving this balance. 82% said that their priority was their wellbeing, and not career progression. It isn't just time spent at work that impacts on this balance, but the offices themselves. In most large corporations you'll find gyms with free personal trainers to hand, and in tech and digital arenas, pool tables and soundproofed music rooms are becoming the norm. In our offices we encourage staff to get outside in our outdoor areas, covered terraces and bathing our offices in natural light.
After a long day in the office comes the dreaded commute. The average UK employee who commutes now spends almost 53 minutes per day on the journey to and from work. This accounts for four hours and 24 minutes per week for the typical full-time employee. As this doesn't count towards working hours, it is a grey area for employees. It counts as personal time, lost to their travel to work. Unsurprisingly Londoners have the longest average commute at 75 minutes.
Although work can be demanding it's crucial not to let it become all-consuming. You need to take on different challenges outside work that test you and put the working day in perspective. These aren't distractions from work, they make you more productive. Boxing and meditation play a huge part in keeping me sane, keeping me focused and ensuring I get a healthy sleep.
With nine per cent of all employees working 40 to 48 hours in a usual working week, six per cent working more than 48 hours and two per cent working more than 55 hours it's important to understand what motivates you both inside and outside work and harness this.
Today is 'go home on time day', part of National Work-Life Week's scheduled activities. If flexible working isn't for you, and you don't take my advice on any of what I have already mentioned - make sure you leave the office as soon as your hours are up. Reclaiming just twenty minutes or so in an evening can make all the difference in making your day balanced.