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Work hard, play often?

30 June 2018

4 mins

Hammocks in the library? Revision lectures in the pub? Sure, start-up culture and modern company values imply office ping-pong tournaments and free beer in the name of “work-life balance”, but what does that magic buzzword mean… and should I care.

For this blog post, I’ve consulted some of my friends and colleagues on their methods of balancing work with play and ensuring high performance without a cut to one’s mental health. I’ve found that some people are fully sold on ideas like “no emails after 7pm”, while others work when necessary, increasing workload closer to their deadlines.

The most common complaint was feeling “overworked”, a sensation of high stress from studying too much and lack of time to pursue the things you care about. Work-induced migraines or other physical reactions to stress are not unheard of. Sadly, this is something that can relate to a lot myself. I used to struggle from stress and routinely found myself stuck in an endless guilt-loop as a result of procrastination and 12hr library sessions. While I’ve learned to how to deal with this over the years, I looked to my friends for their solutions.

I love trying new skills, recently I went to a bee-keeping workshop to procrastinate away studying for the June exams.

Performance and work-life balance:

Some of my (subjectively) highest-performing friends all reported “trying to work at 120% all the time” and yet achieving happiness and balance. Their magic tips?

Ensure a longer day to DO THE THINGS YOU LOVE by wasting less time. Yes, procrastination is difficult, but make it “useful procrastination”. (This may sometimes require copious amounts of coffee and less sleep, of course).

Don’t enjoy preparing your lunch in the evening? Wake up earlier and cook it in the morning, so that you can play guitar for longer in the evening.

Find yourself pointlessly scrolling through Instagram to pass the time? Become aware of it and force yourself to “JUST DO SOMETHING” value-adding, even just 10 push-ups.

I personally found that many of my most successful friends don’t actually struggle to find balance – they already have great control by having a schedule and constantly doing a variety of activities and social events that they love alongside work.

Mental health:

However, not everything is always as smooth on the road towards work-life balance. As a student, in particular in an engineering school, my reality resembles Dolly Parton’s; working 9-to-5, what a way to make a livin’. Actually, make that 9am-2am, if you want a 1st and a busy social life. Luckily, Loughborough hours are very good compared to other institutions, which definitely helps us top the charts in student satisfaction.

One of my incredibly busy friends suggest using the NHS’s 5 Steps to Wellbeing:

  1. Connect
  2. Be active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep learning
  5. Give.

This can help you get the most satisfaction and “fun” out of your social activities and enabling yourself to be your best self. You may find that the quality of your non-work life is more important than purely the time you spend outside of work. Finally, I personally would suggest trying a free meditation app like Headspace, which can help you achieve calmness and re-adjust your mindset for the work-day in front of you.

My fellow blogger Charlie has published written a blog sharing his journey out of procrastination, you can check it out here. 🙂

Last year I had a ridiculous urge to travel and found myself on a cheap weekend break to Lisbon that was more than enough to get my mind off work!

How can the University help?

Further research:

I performed a study on employee wellbeing on my placement year in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering. The study found that some professionals struggled “to find their work life balance, with longer hours perceived to help with their career development and progression”. I, however, disagree with this statement, based on my experience. While longer hours are necessary on particular occasions, efficiency and quality of the delivered work is preferentially rewarded.

As a result of looking at academic research and interviewing multiple individuals for this blog post, I have a lot more to share than what can fit in this blog post – please contact me to find out more!

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