Work-Life Balance vs Work-Life Separation

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There is a growing demand for work-life balance in Hong Kong, especially as we're one of the most stressed regions in the world. More and more people are realising there is a life outside work and life isn't all about work. Companies are also realising that happy and stress-free employees are more productive workers - many companies even adopting a four-day work week!

So, we're seeing the light and we're making time for "life". We see our friends, we plan holidays, we give ourselves some self-care. We make time for ourselves but perhaps this sound familiar - you're sat in a restaurant with friends and your phone is on the table, face up. It buzzes and you glance over at the screen and it's an email from your boss. Your friend is still talking to you about what she did over the weekend but you zone out and grab your phone to check the email. Or how about this scenario - you're heading out the office for the weekend and you're at the front entrance and you check your bags and/or pockets and realise you only have your personal mobile phone on you. You're already running late to your social plans for the evening but you still run back to grab your work phone because God forbid you don't have your work phone on you at all times!

A study by the Hong Kong Clerical and Professional Employees General Union shows that about 65% of interviewees receive work-related messages after work, and 17% of those messages must be handled immediately. Furthermore, more than 50% of people are not relaxed when they go on holiday, defeating the purpose of a holiday!

Perhaps it's not work-life balance that we really need to achieve. Perhaps it's more work-life separation. Even if we're making plans outside of work to "have a life", if we're still thinking about work and responding to work-related messages, this doesn't truly help our work-stress levels! So how do we achieve a healthy work-life separation?

Tips to Separate Work and Personal Life

1. Schedule your work and personal time

Don't just identify when you need to work. Reserve personal time in your schedule too. This personal time are activities that allow you to rest and recharge. Whether it's regular exercise, a weekly date, or a social Saturday evening, make sure it's in the calendar! Having it there will allow you to see how you will use your time and it can also act as motivation for you to manage your time well.

2. Don't use your phone for work during your personal time

If you have two phones, don't bring your work phone to personal activities. If you only have one phone this may make it a bit harder, but as with any other habit, all you need to do is set yourself that task and commit to it.

3. Work hard, play hard

Some jobs don't have the luxury of structured hours. Sometimes you just have to work overtime to get the job done. You may have seasonal work as a freelancer, or it's a hectic peak season. You may have to work extremely hard during these times but when the hectic times are over or you're in-between jobs - make the most of your personal time. This recharge will help you stay more focused at work.

4. Separate your work and personal environments

If you work from home, try setting up a dedicated home office to work in. This will help your mind to associate work to a particular area at your home, so you get to relax once you “clock out”, even though you'll still be at home.

Take these suggestions and adjust them according to your occupation and job nature. Try to strike a clear separation between work and personal life, instead of just balancing it!

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Sophia Wong

Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

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