How ‘hard’ do you work? Pretty hard? Studies show that Londoners work longer and harder than much of the rest of Europe – a point of pride for employers and employees in the metropolis. Put it this way, if the Euro 2016 tournament next summer were a competition based on ‘hard work’ rather than football, our chances of tasting some long-awaited success would be considerably improved.
That said we may already be pipped to the post in our ‘hard work World Cup.’ A recent survey found that Americans take fewer days off each year than anyone else. 40% of people surveyed chose not to take all their allocated annual leave, while some didn’t take a single day off all year. When the BBC spoke to the American public about these findings, they were greeted with patriotic endorsements of their nation’s devoted work culture.
Uncle Sam has not always been right
But is this necessarily something to be proud of? While Uncle Sam may be happy with this commitment to the economy, there could be disruptive consequences for personal and collective wellbeing. Uncle Sam has notoriously not always been right.
OK so hands up, we’re not keen on the phrase ‘work-life balance’ – it peppers self-improvement manuals and corporate training events. It was created in the 1880s by the anthropologist Paul Krassner, but didn’t enter popular vocabularies in the UK until the late 1970s. Since then, countless authorities have waxed lyrical about how to achieve the perfect equilibrium between labour and living. The term ‘work-life balance’ has swept through workplace HR departments in much the same way that hummus has swept through eating establishments.
What can I do to feel more like my weekend self?
What does ‘work-life balance’ actually mean? To start with, it presupposes a divide between paid employment and ‘life’. Are you not fully alive when working? The idea is to make sure you feel you are – even first thing on a Monday morning. If you don’t feel alive at work, ask yourself “what can I do to feel more like my weekend self during my working day?” There is a lot your workplace can offer you, but if you’re left sans inspiration, our blogs are filled with ideas to help you do just that – from adapting the room you sit in to the food you choose to eat.
At the core of a ‘work-life balance’ is the question of how we choose to live our lives – the priorities we place on pursuing certain activities and experiences. London’s high-pressure work environment monitors productivity and performance more than ever before. Performance reviews and a competitive labour market are driving many to devote extra time and energy to work. But equally, we are definitely starting to see more of a focus on worker happiness, wellbeing and mental health. Did your last performance review address how happy you are at work?
What is clear is that actively reflecting on a work-life balance is a valuable exercise in itself. There may be no ‘one size fits all’ work-life balance to aspire to, but taking time out of your day to think about it, then making change happen, can have untold benefits for all aspects of your being.
Looking for a new workplace that meets your happiness needs? The Telegraph produced this list of top employers for a good work life balance on the 24th July 2015