Look around you, the case for work-life balance and positive well-being is everywhere. But do you have the skills to make either a reality for you?

Over the last two articles I have written some uncomfortable but perhaps relatable words. I painted a rather blue picture in my first article of the chaotic and puzzling lives we are increasingly accepting as normal; I summarised in the second those popular, yet not-so-useful coping techniques we too often choose to use in order to deal with such discomfort. And throughout them both, I began to hint at the idea that something needs to change. But what? And how?

Work-life balance: definition #1

(Noun / Need / Desire)

An individual’s perception of how harmoniously they are balancing their attention across all the domains of their life.

If you’re a little frustrated with my elusive nature please forgive me, I just thought a different approach might be useful. See, there’s no point in telling you how to change, if you aren’t sure of, or understand, what exactly needs to change. Worse still, if you don’t think anything needs to change at all.

Work-life balance: definition #2

(Noun / Need / Desire)

Balance is subjective and personally defined. You, your partner, sister, brother, boss, friends, children all have a different idea about what balance entails. Which also suggests a single magic formula does not exist for achieving it (insert thinking face here.)

When something in your life feels needed, loved or serving, it can be very hard to see the need for any type of detachment. We can also easily start to think (or convince ourselves) that a ‘harmoniously, balanced life’ is one in which said core aspect should heavily dominate. This core aspect is more often than not, work. Why not, it pays the bills, keeps you social, makes you feel motivated, gives you a sense of accomplishment, meaning, contribution, it’s something that you love …

Work-life balance: definition #3

(Noun / Need / Desire)

A subject of ongoing interest and concern to the academic and business world, and to people like you and me, given the known and felt impact of imbalance in work and life on health, performance and turnover.

As such, my intentions were to get you acquainted with some possibly suppressed or unexplainable feelings, and trigger an openness to a mental shift, especially with regards to that space where love and work often stand side by side, or are increasingly expected to anyway.

With that part done, you can now make yourself a cup of tea (peppermint or chamomile is good if you’re a little frazzled).

Let’s get to know each other a little better.
What do you do? 

Pretending for a minute that life and work are not the same (challenging, I know, but just try).

How is life for you outside of work?

What do you do?

What do you like to do?

What would you like to do?

Are these likes a part of your life, and to the degree would you like them to be?

Are you investing more time in work, which means doing less of these likes in life?

Are you placing (feeling) pressure for work to be your everything: your friend, your income, your purpose, your life-long love?

If so, are you open to the fact that this might be causing some problems for your head space and life?

Rest assured you’re not alone.

When you’re in a positive state of mind you produce happy vibes; work is better, food tastes better, trees look greener, you’re also nicer to be around and are almost certain to have better relationships. When you’re not caught up internally on negative or distressed thoughts, and acting on ‘threatened’ or ‘fear-based’ instincts, you have the ability to think with an open, relaxed mind, and can receive the benefit of life just as it is.


“A state in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Beyond Blue, 2017

The benefits of such mentality on work place performance have long been recognized in the academic world, and today’s work place is slowly catching up. With work-life balance now understood to be a subjective concept (and often perceived as difficult to control), a focus on ‘well-being’ captures the mental and living state in which performance can be optimised, without the impact on an individual’s health.

Cue in well-being based programmes, flexible working structures, increased internal communication efforts, options within remuneration packages, and major culture change efforts all in support of your state of mind. Look around you; wellbeing, mindfulness and stress-free living are everywhere.

Negative Well-being 

A state in which distress (the nasty kind of stress) negatively impacts on a person’s self-perception, confidence, ability to work and cope with the normal stresses of life, and their contributions to society.

A longitudinal study released in 2016 assessing organisational well-being in Australia and New Zealand, found that whilst a positive well-being was indeed one of the most critical aspects effecting work (and life) performance, several core ‘individual life coping skills’ played the most beneficial role in achieving this desired positive state. In essence, unless you have certain skills to cope with what life and work throws your way, most efforts on the organisation’s part, or any quick fix advice you have come across, will be of little benefit to your wellbeing and performance, in work… (and life).

The most common everyday causes of such a state include: job insecurity; a lack of role clarity or poor communication; working long hours or overtime, working through breaks or taking work home; time pressure, working too hard or too fast, or unrealistic targets; conflict with colleagues or managers; bullying; discrimination whether based on gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality; work that’s monotonous and dull, or which doesn’t use your range of skills and previous training; and roles where you have low levels of control or inadequate support from supervisors and/or co-workers.

What! It’s up to me!!

Now before we get carried away here, there is one blurry line that should be clarified. As family structures increasingly shift to having both parents work (for a multitude of positive reasons), well-being based efforts such as flexible working structures, paternity leave and a culture which embraces family duties as a part of work and life, need to be recognised as a need, not a nice to have. As such, these particular efforts are more than just important well-being considerations to improve staff retention and work performance, they are changing standards to create socially accepted norms for a better functioning society.

Accepting this, what the research and I are talking about, is enhanced understandings about how organisational efforts as well as your own, can positively contribute to achieving a healthy state of well-being.

But it’s still up to me?

As a starting point, yes. But it makes sense when you think about it. If your company is offering flexible working structures and other activities to support your well-being, yet you don’t pay attention to them (or yourself), or know how to create the needed mental barriers between work and home, or you continue to put that pressure on yourself (and others) to be perfect, how will such efforts genuinely be effective for you and your state of mind? Same goes for those who sit there being critical of others who are making a positive attempt.

What we’re starting to learn is that a core set of skills plays a critical role in helping you yield the best results of all these well-being based movements that surround us.

So what are these critical skills you ask?

Quickly summarised they include your ability to:

+ have a positive attitude

+ manage boundaries

+ create an enriched life outside of work

+ have a consideration of others

+ have a platform of emotional support

They sound pretty straight forward, but over the coming months we will explore the nuances of each, and how to engrain them within your everyday work and life. In the meantime however, to satisfy your need to do something that starts the change process …

Quickly think of 5 things you like:

I like ….

I like ….

I like ….

I like …

I like …

And take one more minute to write down 5 things that you love:

I love …

I love …

I love …

I love …

I love …

Dive deeper:

+ when was the last time you enjoyed any of these things?

+ what’s stopping you?

+ what can you do this month to bring these back into your life?

+ what can you do this week to bring these back into your life?

+ what can you do today to bring these back into your life?

Share your insights and experience with us through the comments below. Would love to hear your stories of work-life balance and well-being.


Words by Charlotte Marie Brady




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