How your work can support your wellness

March 2023

The average Canadian works 39.9 hours a week at their full-time job, or approximately 35% of their waking hours each week. Simply put, you spend a lot of time at work throughout your life.

With so much of your time spent at your workplace, it makes sense to want to do whatever you can to make your job work for the good of your mental and physical well-being. And that comes down to finding a work-life balance that makes sense for you.

When you can effectively balance your work obligations and your life obligations, you start to find deeper satisfaction in both areas of your life.

Burnout: an indicator of poor work-life balance

One of the biggest indicators that you are experiencing an imbalance in those roles is when you begin experiencing burnout.

Burnout is a psychological condition that occurs when a person is exposed to prolonged stress in their daily lives—most often burnout is associated with workplace stressors and is an indicator of poor work-life balance.

Sadly, burnout is something the majority of Canadians are familiar with. 84% of Canadian workers have experienced burnout, with 34% of those reporting experiencing high or extreme levels during 2021.

While burnout can manifest in many different ways, people experiencing burnout can feel exhausted, as if their energy has been depleted. Burnout is often accompanied by physical symptoms like backaches, headaches or migraines, issues with over and under-eating, and sleep.

If you start to experience any of these symptoms, seek assistance and speak with your doctor.

4 ways to work towards work-life balance

Burnout doesn’t have to be the result of working. On the contrary, you can enlist your work to support you in finding ways to improve your work-life balance.

Here are 4 ways that you and your company can work together to find work-life balance and avoid burnout.

1. Consider a hybrid work schedule

In 2020, all non-essential Canadian workers began working remotely and the remote work revolution picked up steam. As Canadians started to head back to the office in 2022, many companies began weighing the pros and cons of remote work.

Working remotely is not an option for everyone—according to Stats Canada, 38.9% of Canadians could theoretically do their job 100% remotely. But for those who can work a hybrid schedule or fully remote, the benefits are plentiful:

  1. People are more productive and find more effective ways of working.
  2. People are healthier and better able to support their friends and family.
  3. It is easier for businesses to recruit new hires and retain employees when they offer flexible work-from-anywhere policies.
  4. More people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, and mental health issues can join the labour market.
  5. It helps to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

A Stats Canada survey found that 75% of people who worked from home full-time reported being very satisfied or satisfied with the balance between their job and home life while only 61% of those who worked outside of the home said the same.

If your company has started to reopen its offices, consider speaking to your manager about a flexible hybrid work schedule.

2. Ask about flexible benefits

Another area where flexibility can come in handy is with your benefits packages. Moving to a more “flex package” for benefits lets you get the most out of your work benefits. So instead of maxing out your dental benefits or massage benefits and leaving money for eye care on the table, you can allocate contributions to the services that you need.

While this may not be an option for every person or company, it doesn’t hurt to inquire with your HR department about what may be possible in your unique situation. You won’t know unless you ask!

3. Take your vacation days

In Canada, you are legally only entitled to 10 paid vacation days per year for the first 5 years of your employment. Whether you are getting 2 weeks, or 4 weeks, or you have unlimited paid vacation time, odds are you aren’t taking all of those days off.

Only 27% of Canadians say that they take all of their allotted vacation time. Nearly half of Canadians feel guilty having coworkers cover for them while on holiday and 40% feel they need to make excuses or apologize for taking vacation time.

It’s time to start taking every one of your vacation days and not feeling guilty about it. Why? Because taking a vacation is good for your mental health. One survey found that 90% of Canadians felt more relaxed, optimistic, and less stressed after taking a vacation. Taking time off is a chance to step away from work and clear your mind, so that you can come back more productive and with less stress. 

If you have unlimited paid time off, give yourself a minimum number of days you will take each year and stick to it. And if your vacation days are set for you, be sure to take them all. Take the time to relax and recharge now to avoid burnout in the future.

4. Prioritize finding balance

Finding work-life balance is easier said than done. Your career is important and oftentimes employers expect a lot from their employees. That is why it is up to you to take the steps to find a balance that works for you.

While the above suggestions are high-level changes that may take time to put into effect, there are small things you can do to protect your work-life balance:

  1. Work during your work hours. If you work 9-to-5, don’t check your email after 5:00 pm. Turn off all work notifications and be present at home when you’re off the clock. Same goes for vacation time—no answering emails when you’re meant to be on holiday!
  2. Speak to your manager about your workload. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your day-to-day responsibilities and workload, set up some time to speak with your manager. See if there is room to delegate some of your work or extend your timelines.
  3. Say no to guilt. When you feel guilty at work for being away from home and guilty at home for being away from work, you get stuck in a vicious cycle. Instead, be present at work and present at home. Give each space your full attention when you are there. This will help you leave the guilt behind and be more productive in both areas of your life.
  4. Learn to say no. Whether you’re saying no to a new project at work or to a friend who wants to get together, learning to say no will help you protect your priorities in life and work.
  5. Set boundaries and stick to them. Whether you are ensuring you only take on work that is within your job description or you’re ensuring your family stays out of your office during workA hours, feel empowered to set the boundaries that will allow you to maintain your work-life balance.

Work-life balance may seem difficult to achieve but with some effort on your part — and the part of your employer! — you’ll find that it is something that can be done. And the benefits are certainly worth the effort.

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