Comms professionals are typically an enthusiastic bunch: we graft hard for the causes we care about and love seeing the hard-won results of our work. But sometimes this can be to the detriment of our personal lives and wellbeing.
Having a healthy work life balance, where we fit in the things we enjoy doing around our busy jobs, is essential. It makes us happy, keeps us motivated, and stops stress and burnout.
Of course, there are times when you might have a big project on or you’re preparing for an event that means you need to work a few extra hours. But when work is regularly eating into your home life and you’re feeling frazzled, it’s time to take action.
Try out these tips to help you achieve a healthy work life balance:
Set boundaries between your work and personal life
For communicators who are often online as part of their jobs, it can be hard to switch off from work. But it’s important to know when to call it a day: for starters, try not to check your work emails in the evenings or on weekends. This can be tricky especially when you’ve got deadlines but regular emailing out of office hours can set a precedent, as your colleagues may start to expect you to respond around the clock.
Track your time
Many of us are prone to procrastination, it’s only natural. But this means we tend to work longer hours because we end up playing catch up later in the day. Keep track of your hours and where your efforts are being spent, and you might find that you can reduce your time on less urgent tasks. If you find yourself being unproductive, step away from your computer for a short while: it’s important to have breaks and refuel. You’ll find yourself more motivated and able to crack on with work when you get back to your desk.
Managing social media 24/7
There’s no denying the power of social media and the enormous benefits it has for charities. If you’re responsible for your organisation’s different platforms, it’s important to develop some clear guidelines for how you manage social networking media out of hours. Otherwise, you may find yourself replying to comments late into the night on a regular basis. If you’re part of a larger team, you might decide to set up a rota to manage your different accounts or for a small organisation, you might decide to pre-schedule content ahead of time to keep your feed active on the weekends or out of working hours.
Flexibility and remote working
Speak to your manager and HR team to see what flexible working policies might be in place for staff. The chance to get your head down at home in the peace and quiet one day might give you that focus you’re looking for and help you tick another project off the list. This will also save on travel time to and from the office, giving you some extra time in the day to enjoy the things you love doing.
Set time aside for you
Plan time every week to do something you enjoy doing. This can be anything from reading a book to having dinner with a friend. When work is demanding a lot of your energy, time out will help you to recharge and prepare for another busy day in the office. It will also help you to switch off from work for the evening and focus on your friends and family. When the lines blur between work life and home life, this can affect your relationships.
Looking after your mental health
The links between physical activity and wellbeing have long been proven so make sure you’re getting in some regular exercise. Whether it’s a 30-minute run around the park, playing five-a-side with your local football team or practicing yoga, sport helps you to unwind, relax and, most importantly, can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Learn to say no
It can take years of practise for some of us, but once you’ve mastered the art of saying “no”, you’ll have a lot more control over how your working week looks. It can be especially difficult for those just starting out in their careers who want to show willing. But it’s not a bad thing to say: “No, I’m sorry but I don’t have time to work on that today, as I’m doing x, y and z.” After all, we’re only human.
Of course, it’s important to not be aggressive or sound unreasonable. Simply be honest with your manager: most good bosses are likely to be understanding and, if the task is urgent, they may take something else off your list so you can fit in the work.