Work-Life Balance and Health

Effects of Work-Life Balance on Health

With the modern pressures of life coming at us from every angle, it’s easy to get swept up and forget to slow down every now and again to refocus and recharge our batteries.

We?ll admit ? this is easier said than done!

As infrastructure and mining projects ramp up across Australia, it’s important to make sure you have the right habits in place to manage your time and work-life balance. 

Why is it important?

It’s estimated that Australians work some of the longest hours of any professional in developed countries, resulting in less time focusing on personal health and balance outside of work.

Improved work life balance has been linked to increased job performance, life satisfaction and health outcomes.

Conversely, research on poor work-life balance has identified links to heightened stress, poor sleep, increased risk of cardiovascular issues, heightened blood pressure and increased risk of mental health conditions.

The reality is that work is a part of life, and poor work-life balance affects everyone differently. This is why it’s important to find ways to strike a balance and ensure you?re managing your time wisely.


What are the risks?

1.    Increased risk of burnout

You may have heard the phrase ?feeling burnt out.?

Burnout is more than just being a little tired and run-down. According to professors at UNSW, burnout can have serious consequences including reduced work performance, satisfaction with life and mental health.

It is now being recognised as a legitimate medical condition that affects a worker through:

  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Reduced personal accomplishment: feeling incompetent at work regardless of results
  • Depersonalisation: loss of empathy towards clients, co-workers, etc.
  • Cynicism towards work: ?going through the motions? rather than having any attachment to work, results or work relationships

Research on burnout is still emerging, so obtaining an official diagnosis can be challenging. Current research recommends working with a GP and your employer to find management strategies that work for you.


2.    Poor health later in life

Studies have shown a direct link between poor work-life balance and poor health later in life.

For example, a recent study in Finland followed over 1,500 businessmen and their general health over a period of 26 years.

The study assessed work hours, sleep duration and reported health issues. Of those who worked 50 hours per week and 6-7 hours? sleep per night, their physical functions, vitality and general health were reporter as lower in old age than those with a better work-life balance.

Other studies have highlighted negative effects including increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders, high blood pressure and heart conditions (as a result of increased stress levels).


3.    Poor sleep habits: increased risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and mental health effects

According to sleep researchers at John Hopkins University, a lack of sleep can have serious impacts on long-term physical and mental health.

Aside from feeling tired, groggy and unfocused, a lack of sleep increases your risk of:

  • Developing heart disease by 48%
  • Colorectal cancer by 36%
  • Developing type 2 diabetes (nearly 3 times more likely)
  • Lowered immunity
  • Dementia by 33%

Research on lack of sleep and its effects is still continuing, however it’s recommended that adults get at least 7 – 8 hours? sleep per night.

What next? Steps to improve your work-life balance

1.    Assessing yourself

Take a step back and write down how many hours you?re working in a week (out of office work and commuting counts!), how many you are spending with family, friends or personal relationships, how many hours sleep you are getting and how many hours you?re devoting to something you enjoy.

There are a couple of ways you can do this and get a better picture of how you?re tracking:


2.    Finding strategies to make it work

Once you’ve identified some areas you can make improvements in, it’s time to get the ball rolling! We’ve included a couple of resources below to get you started.


Check out our tips for improving work-life balance in the short term:

Disconnect to Reconnect: Tips to Improve Work-Life Balance



Heads Up, a Beyond Blue organisation, has designed an action plan for professionals to keep track of their work-life balance and overall wellbeing.

Creating the plan only takes a few minutes and can have incredibly positive benefits in the long-run: Wellbeing Plan Template


Work-life balance is an essential component of HSE in the workplace. If you have concerns about your physical or emotional wellbeing at work, please get in contact with us to check in. 

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