Striking a Balance: The Work/Life Dilemma

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is all about finding the right mix of work and personal life for you. The REIQ speaks to organisational psychologist Kelly Maniatis in advance of this Friday’s webinar to find out if there’s more to it than we realise.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic throwing normalcy out the window, maintaining a healthy work/life balance has never been more important – or more difficult for that matter. Even in times of relative certainty, achieving a healthy work/life balance has always been regarded as the holy grail for real estate professionals, but can it actually be achieved?

While nobody will say it can be easily achieved, organisational psychologist Kelly Maniatis says it’s not as impossible as it might seem – the real question is how. “The answer to achieving work/life balance is complicated,” she explains. “There are currently 290 papers just to define what work/life balance is, and within that they’ve come up with 233 definitions for it.”

Obviously there’s no shortage of opinion on the matter but Maniatis can offer some conclusive insights. Firstly, big annual overseas trips aren’t the answer, as her research shows that the restorative effect of a holiday starts to fade after just two to four weeks. “The simple idea that taking four weeks off a year will make everything balanced is not sustainable,” Maniatis tells.

Instead of, or rather in addition to a major holiday, we should employ what psychologists call ‘micro-breaks’. “A micro-break is when, during the day, you either stand up and stretch, go for a walk outside, have a deep breath, have a snack or a coffee, or have a chat to someone (not about work!); you physically and socially do something just to have a break.” Micro-breaks are contrasted against ‘work-related activities’ which include changing tasks, creating lists or checking emails. The problem with these types of activities, according to Maniatis, is that not all of them actually reduce blood pressure, which is the necessary cue for stress.

Even those that do work, such as learning new things, finding purpose in your work, helping colleagues and receiving positive feedback will re-energise you in the moment, but come evening you’ll be even more tired than if you hadn’t employed any strategies at all. “In the moment you might feel energised, but at the end of the day you’ll feel fatigued,” warns Maniatis. In addition to fatigue, increased blood pressure from failing to complete revitalising activities can quickly lead to increased stress which makes a work/life balance impossible to achieve.

Micro-breaks, meanwhile, tend to leave people with more energy at the end of day as well as making it easier to properly wind down and get quality restorative relaxation. Maniatis says they’re effective because they restore our energy levels and leave us with a sense of vitality which is the key to a healthy balance between work and life. “It’s this concept that regardless of what you’re doing, at the end of it all, you’ll feel energised rather than burnt out or fatigued,” she adds. “This will give you that sense of work/life balance – you want to feel energised, you don’t want to feel tired and the last thing you want is to feel like a shell of yourself at the end of the year.

“People who do micro-breaks every day feel more vital at the end of the working week which is very important for going to the next phase of the equation: life,” continues Maniatis. Just as we need to balance work time with micro-breaks, so too should we balance our tasks at home, such as cooking, cleaning, studying and childcare with activities that offer a restorative effect. Physical, creative, social and play activities, relaxation and entertainment were all found to have a positive effect on vitality.

It’s simple enough to say that you’ll take more micro-breaks and do more revitalising activities at the weekend but like most things, it’s much more easily said than done. What’s important is to actively work towards it. Consciously aiming to take more micro-breaks and do more revitalising activities will at least bring you closer to achieving the ever-sought after balance between work and life.

Want to learn more about achieve a better work/life balance? Kelly Maniatis will be hosting a free webinar on Friday, 24 April 2020. The session will focus on wellbeing and resilience, and also be recorded and made available to watch later. For more information and to register for the webinar, simply click here