In Nigeria, work-life balance (WLB) seems more or less like a dream than a possibility. In fact, in a 2013 study of prevalence of work-life conflicts in Nigeria by Dr. Babatunde Akanji for the International Journal of Research Studies in Management, with employees working in the service industry, it was seen that Nigerians have come to accept work-life conflicts as a way of life. The belief is, if you are not stressed beyond your limit, you have not been productive at work.
Personal coping strategies adopted seems to be used to suppress conflict rather than remove stressors. Lack of institutionalized social support systems, disregard for a culture that encourages WLB solutions and effective enforcement of employment standards by the national government make it possible for Nigerian employers to circumvent the ideals of WLB practices and policie.
According to Dr. Akanji, this is one of the reasons for poor economic performance in the country. His research was validated by a survey in 2017 from Kronos and Future Workplace, which revealed that 46% of employee burnout was responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover. Unfair compensation, unreasonable workload and too much over-time were said to be the key contributors of burnout. An unhealthy work-life balance can lead to burnout (i.e. a state of physical and mental exhaustion due to excessive stress), and consequently, problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, depression, as well as, mortality below 45 years. A healthy work-life balance, on the other hand, has been shown to improve productivity and work satisfaction, as well as, enhance retention rates within the organization.
So, the all-important question is: How do you maintain work-life balance?
1. Manage your time
Time management is a huge issue for a lot of Nigerians today- From your 8-5 job to your position at your local religious center that requires your attention at least 3 times a week, to the 3-hour commute back home each day. Without being able to organize how you would carry out your daily activities, you are bound to be stressed and on the verge of burnout.
To effectively manage your time, it is important to carry out these three tasks. One, prioritize wisely. Don’t work on a church project whose deadline is 5 months away when you have a work proposal to send to a client 9am the following morning. Knowing what to do is important, but realizing when to do them is even more vital to achieve work-life balance.
The next step would require you avoiding distractions. It is impossible to completely avoid all the calls or unnecessary Whatsapp messages, but to be able to stay on track with your task and still have time for yourself, it would be wise to temporarily block out all intrusions. The faster the task is completed, the more time your body has to recharge.
Lastly, to be able to manage your time, limit the activities you burden yourself with. People like to believe that every task is important, but they are not. Saying no to a 3-hour daily online course after a grueling 8-hour work day can save you a lot. If you have prioritized and are working with little to no distractions, whenever a new activity that may seem significant appears, you know it’s time to say no.
2. Don’t over-burden yourself with the job
It is true that as an employee, you do not control the work that is to be done. However, in most companies, you have a say as to what you can handle each day. Set realistic goals and deadlines. Visiting 10 companies in one day to pitch your company’s product and still returning to the office to send cold emails and attend a 1-hour meeting, on behalf of your HOD, may seem doable on paper. However, the likelihood of success is slim, especially when you add in the human factor in all the companies you are going to meet. Ensure to create manageable goals each day. It is quite evident that the more control you have over your work, the less stressed you would be.
3. Leave work at work
Many people fall into the trap of taking work home because of the need to finish up their weekly tasks, but this can be counterintuitive, especially if done frequently. Try to finish tasks during work hours. If it requires staying away from any “side attractions”, do so. If it entails staying an extra hour or two in the office to complete it, do so. Because, at the point work follows you home, there is a greater tendency that you would spend much more time completing tasks due to increased distractions and the brain’s tendency to “shut down” from work while at home. As such, it is important to create that boundary between work and home.
4. Take a break
Inasmuch as it’s your first time starting the business or earning the promotion, there is always the societal clamor to hustle harder. Yes, putting more effort into your work will improve output, but there needs to be a balance. Find time to rest. Sleeping by 1am and waking up by 4am daily would not just tamper with your “sleep clock” but drain your energy and reduce your work capacity. Lazy days on some weekends and regular exercises are perfectly acceptable, because not only do you recharge physically but mentally, as well. Treats like going to your favorite restaurant, reading a Wattpad novel, or hanging out with friends can be excellent stress-relievers. With a hectic schedule, it is necessary to find a way to stay grounded to keep up your level of happiness and satisfaction.
It is no surprise that in a Bloomberg study in 2015, Nigeria was said to be the most stressful country in the world. However, what people do not realize is that this leads to burn-out and a number of illnesses including heart diseases. In a fast-paced and competitive work environment like Nigeria’s, there is great need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. As posited above, to do so, a person must manage their time wisely; try not to over-burden themselves with work; leave work at work; and finally, take a break. Once you are able to do these, there is bound to be increase in productivity.