November 11, 2018


Asma had been feeling the pressure — trying to fulfil her professional responsibilities and managing household work, supervising children’s homework, giving her husband time and trying to find some ‘me time’ for herself. She had no time for friends and recreation, for hobbies or to chase her dreams. She had always believed that life was a beautiful journey to discover, dreams to chase, goals to reach and many people to meet. But here she was, stuck in a rut. Sometimes she got so overwhelmed that she felt she had taken too much on her plate and thought of quitting her job, but financial constraints kept her from doing so.

Like Asma, for most people, juggling between work and domestic plus social life is becoming difficult by the day in this fast-paced world. In today’s competitive world one has to concentrate on one’s career to support their family and afford all the amenities and some luxuries of life but, on the other hand, family life is also important.

Work-life balance is a state in which one has to be capable of simultaneously managing the multiple demands of living today and living a well-rounded life, while renewing and refreshing one’s creative energies on a regular basis. This is a continuous process and takes a decent amount of time, patience and grace to develop in the right way, varying for individuals, depending upon the nature of their job and their lifestyle.

Not letting work and leisure encroach upon each other is important for your well-being and productivity

While organisations are paying good salaries and benefits, they also demand more effort and time. Nowadays we see more people working extra hours in order to meet the challenges of their job, or having to bring office work home. Due to globalisation, work is no longer limited to the workplace and, in order to remain in touch with relevant people in various time zones, work hours seem to have stretched. With the use of laptops, smart phones and tablets, telecommuting is on the increase. But in this process people often fail to give adequate time to their personal and family lives.

Time management is the most important thing in attaining a proper balance. One has to set priorities in life and work, to make effective use of time accordingly. If someone asks you to do something and you think you do not have enough time or if doing that would upset your schedule you should politely refuse. An important thing is to learn to say ‘no’.

Time management expert and author of several time management books, Laura Vanderkam, is quoted to have said, “Time is highly elastic, and while we cannot make more time, we can accommodate priorities in the time we have.”

Azra Bano, a fashion designer, says, “I always plan my day and prioritise my activities by making a to-do list. At the end of every day I do a brief assessment of my daily activities. While I am working I try to eliminate distractions (mobiles, conversations with friends, etc) to save time.”

“Some companies want a person to be accessible all the time, even answering emails late at night,” says Syed Kamran Hussain, assistant manager at a technology company. “With such expectations from bosses it is hard for people to find a healthy work-life balance. One thing I have learned is that I cannot do everything on my own. Trusting others and working as a team will not only help me manage my life but people also give me suggestions to improve my quality of work.”

For women, creating a balance between work and life becomes more difficult because of a lack of support and facilities at home and workplace. Nadia Hussain, a famous TV actress, model, dentist, beautician and a mother of four kids, shares her experience, “I have to compromise on many things and I have struggled a lot with many issues on a daily basis. The only way I managed was with the assistance of my family who made sure that I fulfilled my dreams. One must prioritise their work and in this respect time management is very important. The key in is making better choices regarding how we spend our time and mental energy.”

Work-life balance is a state in which one has to be capable of simultaneously managing the multiple demands of living today and live a well-rounded life, while renewing and refreshing one’s creative energies on a regular basis.

Tehseen Samad, strategy and account manager at Adcom Zenith, says, “Sometimes the pursuit of balance will put you off balance but that’s okay. Have a realistic approach to life, set boundaries beforehand for yourself as well as others. I convince myself by saying that I am the mistress of my own destiny, I can make my own routine. Offices have lesser resources for working mothers — there are no day-care facilities, nor long maternity leave for a new mom, etc. Once back home we constantly receive emails and work-related texts that demand an immediate reply.”

For men there are different challenges. In some cases, men have to work overtime or do double shift to make both ends meet. They are also expected to help in household chores, babysit the children, etc. The downside of the problem is they find little time to devote to their own mental and physical well-being.

In many countries, organisations are taking many steps to help employees maintain a healthy and stress-free environment by introducing flexitime, childcare, maternity and study leave, etc. But in Pakistan, we are still struggling to recognise work-life balance as a problem, although in some organisations steps are being taken to help employees in maintaining a better home-life balance.

Long working hours and a highly stressful job hampers a person’s ability to harmonise work and family time and are associated with health risks. One should understand that to lead a happy, healthy and productive life it is very important to make time for yourself.

“You must understand that in order to achieve better outcome at work, you need to spend some time away from work, with just yourself,” advises Dr Hussain at Qatar Hospital. “Allow yourself the freedom to pursue your own ideas, apart from what makes money, as prolonged work-related stress can lead to poor mental health, heart diseases, back pain, gastrointestinal disturbances and several minor illnesses. If your life feels too chaotic to manage, talk to a professional, such as a counsellor or other mental health provider.”

Tips for Healthy Work-Life Balance

Play to your strengths: Focus on your strength and don’t try to do everything yourself

Prioritise your time: If you have too many tasks you need to prioritise accordingly

Know your peaks and troughs: If you know you perform better in the morning, schedule tough tasks for the morning so you can get them out of the way and have time for other tasks

Plot some personal time: If you don’t make time for your personal life — your “me” time, including your family and your health — you won’t have a business to go back to

Have set work hours – and stick to them: Set work hours for yourself and do everything in your power to stick to them. Otherwise, before you know it, you’ll be working until midnight every night.

Manage your time, long-term: Create a timeline of your activities. Include family commitments — such as holidays, birthday parties, etc. — so you don’t forget that you are unavailable for work on those days.

Tap into technology: If possible use Skype or other conferencing technologies instead of driving to a meeting.

Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do thing: Ensure exercise is given as much priority as your clients and making money. A healthy body means a fresh mind, which means you will function better and complete tasks in less time.

Do what you love: Make time for something you love — other than work – and give it the time it deserves. It will energise and refresh you, and enable you to nurture the creative thought that is essential to every business owner.

Be realistic: At the end of each working day, perform a little self-analysis. Ask yourself what worked today, what didn’t, what went wrong and how the issue can be fixed.

Step out: Working for yourself can get lonely, so schedule some phone calls or coffee time with like-minded business owners to discuss ideas and offer each other support.

Manage your mind: When fear or self-doubt or anxiety creeps in, do some work on your mental health such as meditation or reading a business book. Alternatively, spend time with someone who will lift you up and support you.

Take a break: Remember to take time out throughout your day. You may not be able to do it every day but do your best to give yourself a lunch break. Also, make a point of getting up and stretching every 15 minutes. It will help you become clearer, more focused and more productive.

Have that holiday: Make time for a holiday and breaks, at least quarterly. Even a long weekend every quarter is better than nothing.

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 11th, 2018