We’ve all heard the term work life balance many times. But how many of us actually achieve it?
Work life balance means different things to different people. It’s possible to get the balance that’s right for you – but it does take some planning.
What is work life balance?
Simply put, work life balance is about balancing the amount of time you spend on work and career commitments with the amount of time you spend on your personal life. This could include time spent with loved ones, enjoying creative pursuits, sport and other leisure activities, studying, giving back to your community and taking care of you and your family’s health and wellbeing.
Are we out of balance?
While there’s a perception that we’re getting busier than ever and working longer hours, the average number of hours that Australians work has actually fallen over the last 30 years – mainly because more of us are working part time. And while the proportion of people working 50 hours a week did increase from 14 per cent in 1979 to 19 per cent in 2008, the percentage of people working this many hours each week fell to 15 per cent after the GFC.
It could be that greater connectivity is making us feel like we’re always at work, as we’re contactable during evenings, weekends or even while we’re on holidays. At the same time, technology means that many of us can work almost anywhere, giving us a more flexible workplace. And with unemployment on the rise, some of us may feel pressured to put in long hours. However, working more hours doesn’t necessarily mean we’re being more productive.
What works for you?
The ideal work life balance is different for everyone. For some, it might be about limiting the hours they work, or never taking work home. For others, it might be more about having flexible working arrangements so they can attend their children’s school events, start work later, or work from home. And some people want a mix of the two.
What’s more, your ideal work life balance may change. For instance, you may want to work more hours now to pay off your mortgage more quickly or advance your career. Alternatively, you may be bringing up young children or taking care of elderly parents, so you’d prefer to work less – at least for now.
To decide the right work life balance for you, take a good look at your life and decide what you value most. Then use these values as a guide of where you want to spend most of your time – taking into consideration what you can afford.
If your goal includes working less, you’ll have less income, so you’ll need to go through your budget and decide where you can cut back.
Remember that working fewer hours is likely to affect your super down the track. So before you decide to cut back to part-time, it may be wise to salary sacrifice some of your income now. Other strategies include having your spouse contribute to your super, which could earn them a tax offset if you earn under $13,800 that year and satisfy other eligibility requirements. If you earn under $50,454 you could also make an after tax contribution up to $1,000 to your super and you may be eligible to receive a co-contribution from the government of up to $500.
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