How can we improve the quality of life in today’s notorious 24/7 work culture?
Last updated on: June 13, 2022
“If yourself is a pie, how big of a bite does your work take out of it?” – Lieke ten Brummelhuis and Nancy P. Rothbard in “HBR Guide to work-life balance”
If you visualize your life as a pie and imagine pieces of it as diverse parts of your life, you should have an equal (or almost equal) slice of pie dedicated to work, family time, leisure time, and other personal activities. As you know, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, you end up taking a large bite of work due to an expected issue at your job.
Now, whether you’re satisfied with your work life will impact your overall quality of life. In this blog post, you’ll first learn about the quality of work life and its importance. Then, we’ll go through some expert tips on how to enhance your quality of life.
What is the quality of work life?
According to J. Lloyd Suttle, the Vice Provost at Yale University, quality of work life is “the degree to which members of a particular organization are able to satisfy important personal needs through their experiences in the organization”. This implies that employees should be able to engage in problem-solving and decision-making. When workers have more freedom at work, they have higher levels of self-development, which can lead to better work-life quality.
In general, the quality of work life encompasses one’s feelings about his/her job and work dimensions such as working conditions, security, organizational and interpersonal relationships, and rewards and benefits.
Some authors claim that the major element of work-life quality is work-life balance. And, these two terms surely have one thing in common – they both benefit your quality of life.
💡 Check out our in-depth article on work-life quality and balance around the world, including key statistics and facts, as well as future predictions.
Why is the quality of work life important?
Enhanced work-life quality has positive effects on employee’s quality of life. Apart from that, the advanced quality of work life also benefits the company.
The quality of work life is important due to these reasons:
- Better productivity
Keeping a proper balance between work and private life means that employees focus on their tasks only during the workday, but not outside their working hours. This way, employee productivity will be increased. Furthermore, this ensures that workers are more committed to work and loyal to the company.
- Attraction and retention
Many companies offer suitable work-life strategies (the ones that ensure proper work-life balance), such as flexible working hours. For some employees, having flexible working hours is invaluable, because flexibility provides them with better work-life quality. Thus, employees are less likely to leave the company.
- Decreased absenteeism
Companies that offer family-friendly work practices have reduced absenteeism. These work practices help workers deal with work issues more effectively so that employees don’t have to take unplanned leave.
- Improved quality of life
Work-life balance can lower stress and fatigue at the workplace. Besides, when employees have clear boundaries between professional and personal life, these two areas won’t blend. When it comes to setting boundaries, that’s one of the most common challenges for remote workers.
Once workers learn how to separate work time from free time, they’ll be able to manage both aspects of their lives with ease and have an increased quality of life in general.
- Job involvement and satisfaction
When companies keep their focus on employees and employee work-life quality, their workers will be more likely to show flawless performance. Plus, when employees feel appreciated and protected, they’ll be content with their job.
What are the dimensions affecting your quality of life?
Let’s get back to the pie metaphor mentioned at the beginning of this article. If you want to achieve higher levels of work-life quality, try not to have a too big “slice of work”. However, often you’ll have no other option but to burn the midnight oil. That’s normal unless you make a habit out of it by overworking yourself on a regular basis.
💡 If you’re interested in learning more about healthy and unhealthy work habits, we recommend reading our detailed article on workaholism statistics and facts.
But, work isn’t the main problem. Sometimes, we tend to preoccupy ourselves with too many activities for one day.
For instance, I used to go to extremes by having an after-work schedule that consisted of working out, having a drink with friends, paying the bills, reading, doing some household chores, and all in one afternoon. As a result, by the time the weekend comes, I would already feel extremely exhausted. Now I try to be more realistic and even admit to myself that I can’t do everything I want to in a day/a week.
So, in order to achieve a more balanced lifestyle, you should first identify your major dimensions of life. In the HBR Guide to Work-Life Balance, Eric C. Sinoway and Howard Stevenson defined seven dimensions of one’s life:
- Family: your parents, children, siblings, in-laws.
- Social and community: your friends and your community involvement.
- Spiritual: religion, philosophy, emotions.
- Physical: your health and well-being.
- Material: your possessions.
- Avocational: hobbies and other non-work activities.
- Career: both short and long-term plans.
Now, Sinoway and Stevenson suggest carefully reviewing each dimension by asking yourself these three questions:
- Who do I want to be in this part of my life?
- How much do I want to experience this dimension?
- How important is this dimension relative to the others?
These questions will help you decide how you want to spend each of these seven elements of life. Besides, whenever you need to, you can tweak some of your areas in order to better manage your professional and private life.
For example, the authors described Stevenson’s experience. Throughout his career, Stevenson was teaching at Harvard Business School and, in the same period, was building a company, as a cofounder. Since the professional aspect of his life was the priority at that moment, his family time was quite limited. However, Stevenson decided to be fully available for his family members whenever he was at home. So, even though his career was an invaluable dimension of Stevenson’s life, he believed that his family dimension was crucial as well. As the authors further explained, “the emotional value from the interaction would be far higher than the value of any other task”.
The word value is crucial here. For instance, you can spend an hour playing with your children, or an hour playing basketball with your friends. The value would be different in each case.
Whenever you’re unsure what dimensions to deal with first and how to allocate your time during the day, here’s one method the authors explained. Sinoway and Stevenson point out a difference between needs and wants. Needs are necessities, like food, shelter, and health, while wants are what we crave, but can live without it. You may dream of having a gorgeous lake house to spend your vacations in, but in reality, you’ll do just fine even if you don’t buy it. In most cases, options will be somewhere between our needs and wants.
Another useful method these authors suggest is thinking about your:
- Investment cost – covers the time, energy, and additional resources you use up.
- Opportunity cost – the options you sacrifice by investing the time and energy.
Let’s say that you’re searching for a new job and you want to dedicate two hours per day to your job hunt. But, remember that you’ll need to think about your opportunity costs. Since you can’t add two extra hours to your days, you’ll have to sacrifice some other life dimension. For example, instead of going to the movies twice a week, you can go only once. That way, you can use this time for sending job applications. Besides, if you consider the needs-wants spectrum, finding a proper job is surely closer to your need, since a job provides you with financial stability and helps you achieve your professional goals.
Now that we’ve learned about the key dimensions of one’s life, we’ll further explore the most practical tips that can help you achieve a balanced life.
How can you improve your quality of life?
In order to lead a more fulfilling life, you’ll need to rethink both your work habits and how you spend your after-work hours. That’s why the following tips focus on both areas.
Smart with small habits
Denise R. Green is a transformational executive coach and an author of Work-Life Brilliance. She believes that most people are already compromising their work, family, and free time because they are making decisions based on fear and past conditioning. But, here’s what Green suggests doing instead.
“If you want to improve the quality of your life, you have to take a conscious inventory of how you spend your time now. How does it align with what matters most to you? And then take inventory of the quality of your presence during that time. For example, if you spend time with family, but you’re on tech or wishing you were somewhere else, your time is wasted.”
Green recommends using math to analyze how you spend your average day. She adds that we have 24 hours in a day, out of which 10 hours of rest per day – including 6-9 hours of sleep and your preferred mode of rest, such as exercising, reading, cooking, or anything else. So, how should you better manage your time?
“Pick one area and one SMALL habit to move you in the right direction. Like turning off the TV one show sooner, or choosing the phone over Zoom for a meeting so you can walk and talk at the same time, or blocking time during your optimal thinking hour and doing your most important work during that window.”
Remember that a little goes a long way
Nigel Marsh is a management consultant, communications specialist, author, and entrepreneur. In his opinion, everyone’s hopes, dreams, fears, and circumstances are different, when it comes to work-life balance and quality. According to Marsh, here’s what’s crucial for a better work-life balance and quality of life, and what you should avoid:
- “First, it is NOT about time management. Getting more efficient if you haven’t sorted the real issues will only make you less balanced.
- Secondly, it is NOT about adopting someone else’s fixed daily routine. Particularly a celebrity’s routine from a magazine. They all lie about their real routine (and in the rare cases where they tell the truth, their lifestyle isn’t available to most of us as we haven’t got millions of dollars and an army of house staff).
- Thirdly, solving work/life balance is actually about finding meaning in your life not juggling a busy diary. Once you have done the proper reflection the path for action becomes clear. And usually involves small changes regularly applied over the long term, not a massive one-off dramatic attention-grabbing change like quitting your job or whatever.”
Don’t think about work outside your working hours
You finished all your tasks for the day and headed home. But, ever since you’ve left your office, you can’t stop thinking about those three pending tasks that require your colleague’s attention. Sometimes, we find it hard to unplug after work and focus on the non-work areas.
To avoid having work-related thoughts after your shift is over, here are a few tips that Art Markman proposes in the HBR Guide to Work-Life Balance:
- Focus on what you’ll do instead
Once you’ve done with your job assignments for the day, you are done. So, instead of worrying about work problems, aim your attention at what you will do instead of working. For example, create a plan for the following afternoon, or come up with some fun activities you can do with your friends the next weekend.
- Change your environment
“A great way to manage the temptation to work when you are away from the office is to make it hard to do that work”, Markman explains. This implies that you should turn off all devices. Besides, he adds that you should set an area at home that you’ll use only for your leisure time. It can even be a small corner of the room, where you can read, meditate, or do any other relaxing activity.
If you work from home, having such a relaxing place will be as beneficial as having a dedicated workspace. Changing your environment after working hours will help unplug from work. Besides, you can try using some tools for relieving stress, like Pocket Yoga, or browse other practical work from home apps.
- Step away from work – and watch disaster not strike
If you’re truly worried that you’ll miss an important email from your boss if you turn off your devices, there’s an easy solution for this, too. Markman says that many studies show that, one of the best ways to lower anxiety is to reveal yourself to a scary situation. By doing so, you’ll learn that the situation is not alarming at all.
Markman suggests not checking your email for one night. Then, in the morning, you’ll realize that nothing terrible has happened. The next step is going through the entire weekend without checking your email. He claims that this type of behavior will help you recharge your energy and be more motivated to get back to work.
Improve your work-life balance
The Harvard Business School study on work-life balance and quality gathered 4,000 executives from around the world. According to their results, there are five major areas that ensure a better work-life balance, thus better quality of life:
- Define success for yourself
Everyone has their own definition of success. For some, it can be becoming a CEO of a prosperous company, while for others it can be raising a family.
In this survey, participants talked about success in terms of work and private life. Therefore, they identified their professional and personal success. When it comes to professional success, some answers were: “individual achievement” and “making a difference”; while they perceived personal wins as “rewarding relationships” and “happiness/enjoyment”.
Of course, your definition of professional and personal success doesn’t have to be in line with these answers. Once you figure out what success means to you, you’ll have a unique, long-term goal. If your goal is to start your own business, you’ll have to accept working late hours now and then. In those moments, remember that working towards your professional goal usually requires hard work.
However, one of the participants gave a great example of how to combine work time and free time. No matter how much work he has for the day, he always sticks with the plan to have dinner with the family at 6 pm. For him, the family dinner is equally important as a meeting with the client.
- Manage technology
Another practical advice from the survey is to decide when and how you will be available to your colleagues, but your family, too. This is especially important for executives, who usually have to be accessible all the time.
An ideal solution would be not to check your phone, emails, or take calls outside of office hours. Although, if you’re in the executive position, this probably won’t be possible. In that case, be reachable to your team, but set some ground rules, like advising your team to call you only in case of emergency. That way, you won’t miss out on family time.
On the other hand, if you’re not an executive, you should be fully available via communication channels during your working hours and turn off your notifications after work.
- Build support networks
In order to achieve a work-life balance and improve your quality of life, you’ll need emotional support from your family, friends, and trusted colleagues. When you’re dealing with a stressful situation at work, talking with your family members or friends can be helpful. It’s likely that they’ll give you a fresh perspective on an issue.
Now, if you or your family member are experiencing a health problem, you should confide in your colleagues. After all, having such serious issues can even impact your performance at work. Many participants from the survey said that, when they were dealing with these problems, their bosses and coworkers were compassionate.
- Travel or relocate selectively
Apart from managing time, work-life balance implies managing your location as well. For instance, would you accept a job offer that requires working in a different city or even a country? Of course, if the location is not too far from your current one, you’ll be able to commute. But, if it’s not, you’ll have to move.
Making decisions about relocating for work can be extremely difficult, especially if you have a partner or you’re a parent. According to the HBR study, many surveyed executives said they had to reject an international job vacancy:
- 32% of them did that because they didn’t want to relocate their families
- 28% of them did that to protect their marriages.
So, what should you do in these situations? You need to discuss this matter with your partner and also think about your long-term professional goals. This way, you’ll have a better clue about the job offer and whether to accept it.
As for the executives, this survey suggests that they should make this decision at the beginning of their career. Thus, they’ll be able to choose an industry that doesn’t require relocations and find other ways to show their ambitions for career growth.
- Collaborate with your partner
Improving your quality of life means considering not just your work habits, but other areas of your life. Aside from work-related decisions, you should discuss other significant matters with your partner, such as choices about travel, household management, and others. As a result, you’ll be able to organize your time more effectively, both at work and outside of it.
Balancing work time and personal time can be challenging. But, that’s not the reason to give up on improving your quality of life.
Instead, start small by changing at least one of your habits, like turning off the TV earlier in the evening, in order to sleep longer and feel energetic for work the next morning. In addition, no matter how much you love your job, try not to think about it after work. If needed, keep your work-related devices out of reach.
Furthermore, remember that your partner, family members, friends, and coworkers play an important role in enhancing your quality of life. Their emotional and practical support will be crucial for you, especially during tough times at work. Finally, whenever you need to make life-changing choices about your job, you should always discuss these issues with your loved ones.