As many Engineers know, this profession can be equal parts excitement and stress. While complex projects with intricate details keep your brain cells firing, stringent deadlines and competing priorities can sometimes be tough to navigate.
This leads to an oft-asked question – do Engineers have a good work-life balance? Regrettably, there’s no simple answer as many factors come into play. It comes down to the industry you’re in and the culture of the company you work for, as well as what achieving work-life balance looks like to you.
Why Is Work-Life Balance in Engineering so Important?
When it comes to understanding why the work-life balance of employees is so vital, you need only turn to recent studies on the topic. One such study is PwC’s The Future of Work report.
The PwC study surveyed close to 2000 workers in Australia on their top employment priorities. While remuneration and reward took out the top spot at 25%, well-being (which includes work-life balance) came in a very close second at 22%.
There are a host of reasons why work-life balance sits so high on employees’ wants list. It can go a long way to helping with the following!
- Reduce stress and burnout
The right mix of work and play is a key factor in avoiding stress and its uglier cousin, burnout. It’s certainly something to strive for in the engineering sector, especially when you consider work-related stress in the construction, mining and utilities industries is higher than the national average at 25% compared to 16.6%. Just under half of the respondents in the same study met the criteria for being burnt out.
- Improve overall well-being, relationships and job satisfaction
An ideal work-life balance means you have adequate time to engage in activities that boost your physical and mental health, from exercise to hobbies to time with loved ones. With more time to do the things you enjoy, there’s a natural positive flow-on effect of increased job satisfaction, as well as better relationships at home and work.
- Enhances productivity
It’s well known that a satisfied employee is an engaged employee. This means you’re likely to be more focused, motivated and productive during your work hours.
- Can increase creativity and innovation
Taking time for personal activities and hobbies often gets those creative juices flowing. This can lead to innovative ideas and solutions – ones that might spill over to work.
Getting Your Work-Life Balance Right
The first step in achieving a healthy work-life balance is understanding its fluid nature. Instead of aiming for the right balance every day – something nigh on impossible in a challenging engineering workplace – spread it out over the week.
Some weeks you might hit your target, others you may not. Be flexible to adapt as necessary and be open to making up for times you worked (or played!) too hard.
Here are some healthy work-life balance ideas to consider.
- Do a time audit
Create a time log of your daily activities for at least a week. Include work-related tasks, personal activities and downtime. This helps you identify how much time you currently dedicate to each area.
Identify any time wasters with a particular focus on work-related tasks. Do you spend a little too much time on social media during work hours? Or perhaps you regularly procrastinate, leading to a work backlog.
Now draw upon your great stores of analytical skills to review your schedule. Are you allocating enough time for work and personal activities? Are they in balance?
- Analyse your time management to increase productivity
Once you have the results of your time audit, you can determine your optimal schedule, ensuring you’re dedicating enough time to work and personal activities. You can focus on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule, or a combination.
As you do this, set your priorities by evaluating which activities are most important. It’s also a good idea to organise tasks and deadlines according to their urgency. This will help you stay on track and avoid being overwhelmed.
It’s also a good idea to take note when you feel you’re at your productive best and schedule the trickiest tasks for that time frame. You can consider shifting your view on what ‘productive’ means to you. Rather than hours put in, it might be what you’ve accomplished that day or week.
When making your schedule adjustments, be sure to regularly block periods in your calendar for focused work (this means no meetings or calls). You should also schedule in your personal time, so colleagues and managers know not to contact you, which segues nicely to the next tip.
- Set clear boundaries between your work and personal time
This tip is about not allowing work hours to infringe on your free time. It might mean saying no to additional work or commitments that could add stress and interfere with your work-life balance.
Do this by setting and sharing your boundaries. This could be how many hours you work, if you will check your email on weekends or if you’ll take additional tasks and responsibilities.
Rather than extending your hours, focus on maximising the ones you’ve set to work. Sometimes, you’ll need to be flexible and work extra hours, particularly if a deadline is looming, but it will serve you well to stick to your boundaries as much as possible.
- Harness the power of technology
Think about ways you can automate your work life. From mechanising repetitive tasks to utilising time management software and calendars, to apps that record how much time you’re spending on tasks. Technology can be a very handy work colleague, so find ways to take advantage of it.
- Establish smaller goals
Setting small goals to achieve each day or week can help you have more control of your workday, giving you the boost that a sense of accomplishment brings.
When setting smaller goals, look for milestones within your projects and determine what’s most important for you to complete each day. Be mindful of deadlines, allowing yourself adequate time to achieve what you’ve set out to do.
- Speak to your manager
It’s wise to talk to your manager about the results of this reflective and analytical process. Share your goals and boundaries and ask for their input and support, particularly when it comes to communicating any changes to your team.
Your manager might also be able to offer further assistance in determining your ideal work-life balance. It might be a work-from-home day each week, flexible start and end times, job sharing or compressed hours.
- Take regular breaks
Taking regular breaks during the workday can help you recharge and avoid burnout. You might like to schedule mini-breaks into your calendar each day. You can use this time to get outside and go for a short walk, do some stretches or enjoy a coffee with colleagues. As for your lunch break, avoid having it at your desk or workspace as much as possible. Going out for a walk or enjoying a change of scenery can do wonders for your motivation throughout the rest of the day.
Aside from daily breaks, be sure to take your holiday leave too. A weekend is not the same as detaching from work for a full week or more. You’ll likely return recharged and more productive.
- Stay physically active
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve overall health. After a hard day of work, it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise, but getting active can make a big difference.
Personal and Professional Rewards
Achieving the right work-life balance for you takes time and effort but offers profound personal and professional rewards.
As you reflect on your schedule and discuss this with your manager, you may find your current position can’t quite offer you the equilibrium you seek. Should this be the case, please connect with one of our specialists here at Patch Personnel.
As a leading Australian engineering recruitment agency, we’re well placed to offer you advice about achieving the right work-life balance for your circumstances, as well as providing you with a host of open engineering opportunities that you may be better suited to.