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The Elusive Balance

By Anna

Written by Kelly Ho and Tasha Broomhall


Many people cite non-monetary reasons for why they love their work. When they feel engaged they have satisfactory autonomy, a sense of mastery, and are able to learn new things. However, many find work overwhelming, draining and dissatisfying. Some people feel stuck in their current roles and unable to make the changes that would help them be happier(1). We generally spend a large chunk of our week at work, so optimally, we want to be positively engaged. Or at the very least we want to minimise any harm.

Balancing Work with Life

Impending deadlines and highly demanding workloads can lead to overworking with minimal rewards. Elevated stress levels and reduced resting periods can lead to burnouts.

Key features of burnout:

• Emotional exhaustion.
• Becoming cynical and loss of compassion.
• Reduced efficiency .
• Lack of a sense of achievement(2).

What you can do to help yourself:
  • Finish work on time. Wherever possible limit how many extra hours you do a week, especially if work hours are beginning to creep into consistent extra time.
  • Move away from your desk or usual work area. At lunch time either move to a lunch room, sit outside, or go for a walk. A change of scenery, and a little movement and socialisation, can help you get through a long day and come back to your tasks refreshed and ready to push on.
  • Unplug when you’re out of work. Don’t check emails. Block work notifications outside of work hours. Try not to let work overtake your time at home(3).
  • Meditate to relax and help ease your mind. Even if you can only fit in a couple of minutes before/after work, before an important meeting, or during a break.
  • Limit procrastination to boost productivity and reduce work stress. Apps to block the usage of social media can be useful (e.g., the Forest App(4)) and enable you to focus.
  • Prioritise family and other loved ones for positive and supportive relationships(5). Sometimes it is useful to set up a standing arrangement (such as every Wednesday night, or the first Sunday of the month) as a set catchup with family or friends. A schedule helps you to ensure you prioritise and keep in touch with the people that are important to you.

Strategies, such as the above, can help to increase your sense of control in situations. This can have positive benefits on your mood and how you cope with challenges. If strategies like these aren’t working for you, or if you can’t manage to make any positive changes, then that’s a good time to go have a chat with your Employee Assistance Provider, GP, or other mental health supports. They can help you to make some changes that will hopefully work for you and make you feel better.


1. Blair-Loy & Cech, 2017
2. Work-life balance. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/work-life-balance
3. At work. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.headsup.org.au/your-mental-health/taking-care-of-yourself-and-staying-well/at-work
4. Livni, E. (2017). Cut your phone dependence with an app that plants trees as a reward. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1112713/urb-tech-dependence-with-an-app-that-plants-trees-as-a-reward/
5. Lee, D. (2014). 6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahlee/2014/10/20/6-tips-for-better-work-life-balance/#3c6c20b129ff

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