Take the stress out of your STEM role: 5 ways to support your work-life balance
Author: IntaPeople | Date published: 02/12/22
Working in STEM can be extremely stressful with intense deadlines and a 24/7 work culture. STEM graduates are six times more likely to experience depression and anxiety. But new technologies, more open communication, and a better understanding of the importance of work-life balance can help us establish a healthier equilibrium. Discover how you can improve your wellbeing, be more productive and happier through understanding work-life balance.
What is work-life balance? Let’s look at good work-life balance examples:
What do you we mean when we talk about work-life balance? Put simply, imagine a set of old-fashioned weighing scales, with ‘work’ on one side and ‘life’ on the other – are both sides evenly matched and weighing level? Or is one weighing down and dropping below the other?
‘Work’ can often threaten to overtake the ‘Life’ side of the scales. Dominating your thoughts even as you try to enjoy time outside the workplace, including time spent with friends and family, time relaxing and focussing on wellbeing, travelling or pursuing hobbies. Disruption from Covid, a long commute, the increasing cost of living or balancing caring responsibilities can also contribute to the pressure on the work aside of the scales.
That said, our work can be a force for good. Providing us with a sense of purpose and achievement needed for a fulfilling life as well as the means of security we need to pursue our interests or build a family.
Getting those two sides of the scale into balance can help us f fulfilled and healthier. – When these two aspects are in balance, we experience less worry, burnout and stress and are more productive and more engaged with the world around us.
What does healthy work-life balance look like?
- Having regular breaks where you feel you can legitimately ‘switch off’
- Working sociable, sustainable hours
- Having a manageable number of tasks with achievable deadlines Outside the workplace:
- Not feeling stress, pressure or intrusive thoughts about work
- Not having to attend to work related tasks out of hours
- Feeling content and happy
While these are tangible things to consider, an unhealthy work-life balance can take its toll on the mind and/or body without us being entirely aware.
A healthy work-life balance promotes:
- Good sleep
- Good mental health
- Energy throughout the day, rather than feeling tired and sluggish
- Strong personal relationships, as well as healthy connections at work
- The eradication of stress
Work-life balance strategies that work:
1. Establish clear boundaries
Depending on your work patterns and dynamics between your colleagues or management these boundaries may be for yourself only, or you may wish to share them. This could include boundaries such as defined time windows where you will or won’t respond to work communication, what defines an emergency work situation and so on.
2. Incorporate routine and structure beyond the workplace
Earmarking specific times for focusing on non-work activity promotes a healthier work life balance. This could be as simple as ‘spend x hours with family/friends’ to structured down time for hobbies and social catch-ups. Taking stock of time spent on hobbies and relationships, then committing to x amount of time each week has the bonus effect of ensuring it happens. Rather than leaving it as an after-thought that might get bumped off the list if other (work) priorities come in. Maintaining strong connections with people in our lives is imperative to leading content, fulfilling lives.
3. Schedule time for career goals and planning
Having defined career goals means you can set aside fixed time to focus on your longer-term ambitions. Worrying over your career can consume far too much headspace, contributing to stress and an unhealthy work-life balance. Creating space specifically for this purpose means once attended you can leave it there until the designated time to revisit it.
Achieve better work-life balance in 5 easy steps
- Analyse time spent at work, on work activities and how much (on average) thought and headspace is given to workplace issues or activities
- Do the same for your personal time including your hobbies, relationships, and downtime
- Compare the two sides of the scales. Draw up work-life balance sheet to identify where changes need to be made?
- Plan how to achieve this, including the above examples
- Draw up a commitment to these changes and communicate this to your line management and personal connections where appropriate.
How to talk to your boss about stress and anxiety
With the shift to remote working, we are beginning to have more open and honest conversations surrounding work-life balance. Although you may find it difficult to talk about feelings of stress and anxiety, it is an important step to take if you wish to overcome them. You’ll often find that it is even a cathartic process.
If you’re looking for your next role in a supportive environment, our consultants would be happy to help you find the perfect role. We can support you through your application and provide guidance as you interview.
Get in touch to find out how we can help you find your next career move.