To achieve a more balanced life, it is crucial to understand all the reasons why work-life balance is important. Because achieving a more balanced life requires undertaking uncomfortable actions likely to elicit disapproval from others.
Actions such as:
- Declining social invitations to prioritize family commitments,
- Refusing to adjust your schedule for a demanding client, and
- Assertively setting boundaries with colleagues.
Although the efforts are worthwhile, convincing your brain is essential. Our brains tend to resist situations where others are upset with us or when additional work seems unnecessary. Which is why knowing why work life balance is important isn’t just nice-to-know, it’s need-to-know.
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Why Work-Life Balance Is Important For Everyone
Before we go into my top 10 reasons for why work life balance is important, let’s dispel a common misconception…
Work-life balance is important for everyone – both men and women. It’s a shared need (and not something that only women desire to have).
From my experience as a coach, I’ve realized that both men and women aspire to achieve more balanced lives but articulate what they want using different language.
Women often express their desire for more balance or a better integration of work and life; men talk about wanting more time for their personal priorities. When you drill deeper, you’ll find both genders wanting the same basic things:
- Feeling in control of their lives and careers.
- Being able to prioritize what truly matters to them.
- Having more free space for personal reflection and pursuing their own interests.
The pursuit of work-life balance is a universal goal, and there’s no shame in acknowledging it. No matter who you are or what you do for a living.
Now, let’s dive into why achieving work-life balance is important and what benefits it brings.
Discover Why Work-Life Balance Is Important
As a former lawyer turned lawyer coach, I could list more than 20 work life balance benefits. But for purposes of this article, I want to focus on the top 10 reasons why work life balance is important for you. Here are my top 10 crucial reasons for why work life balance matters:
Reason #1 For Why Work-Life Balance Is Important: Less Stress
- 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress,
- Around 40% of American workers identifying their jobs as very or extremely stressful, and
- A quarter of surveyed Americans cite their jobs as their number one source of stress.
Where does this stress come from? A variety of factors, including: working conditions, company culture, and (you guessed it) number of hours worked.
Working more hours brings less balance and more stress.
The Impact of Working Hours On Stress (The Lawyer’s Case Study)
When it comes to understanding the correlation between number of hours worked and stress, the legal world is a perfect case study. Lawyers tend to be highly driven and competitive; and they are expected to deliver exceptional results in a short period of time.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that most attorneys work long hours.
- 38% of attorneys said they often work long hours;
- 9% said they “never stop working”; and
- 32% said they feel pressure to not take vacation time.
How do these longer hour requirements correlate to stress levels? It’s not pretty. According to a 2023 survey on attorney wellbeing
- Over half of all attorneys report feeling stressed all or most of the time;
- 67% of female attorneys report moderate to severe stress; and
- Around half of all male attorneys report moderate to severe stress.
Although stress is a natural part of life, and some stress can be okay, chronic stress is not good for your mental or physical health. And when working hours are high (as in the legal industry example above), stress levels will likely be high too.
The lesson? A more balanced life (of not working too many hours) will reduce stress.
Reason #2 For Why Work-Life Balance Is Important: Improve Your Mental Health
One of the biggest reasons as to why work life balance is important relates to your mental health.
Again, let’s use attorneys as an example.
We’ve already established that most lawyers have poor work life balance and higher stress levels. Here’s what the statistics tell us (according to the ALM 2023 mental health survey, the ABA 2022 Profile of the Legal Profession and the 2016 ABA/Hazelden Betty Ford Study on Substance Use and Mental Health):
- 71.1% of surveyed attorneys report suffering from anxiety.
- 74% of surveyed attorneys say the profession has had a negative impact on their mental health.
- 41% of surveyed attorneys said mental health problems are at a crisis level in the legal industry.
- Over 50% of studied attorneys report feeling a sense of failure or self-doubt and/or a decreased sense of accomplishment.
- 20% of female attorneys and 15% of male attorneys report suffering from moderate to severe depression.
These statistics are staggering. And they show that having little to no work life balance takes a toll on your mental health.
Which – when you think about it – shouldn’t be surprising.
The Link Between Work Life Balance & Your Mental Health
The human brain isn’t meant to feel stressed-out and under pressure all the time. Your brain needs space…
Space for thinking.
You need free time that enables your brain to get quiet. So that your subconscious thoughts have a chance to bubble up to the surface and you can deal with them in an appropriate manner.
This enables you to become more self-aware of your thoughts, emotions and stress triggers. It’s the foundation to making better, more informed decisions. And for living with more intentionality.
Space for purposeful activities.
There’s a lot of talk about finding more purpose in your work. Which can be a good thing. But it’s not necessary for you to feel fulfilled. Because there are many things that bring purpose to life, including:
- Doing things for other people.
- Taking time to connect with other people.
Giving your brain space to think makes it easier to identify all the things that make life worth living. Things that aren’t work-related.
And it gives you time to actually focus on these things.
Space for you.
When your work life balance isn’t good, you aren’t likely to have much time for taking care of yourself.
And note: self-care isn’t only about having time for exercise, sleep and healthful eating. Yes, these things are important for your wellbeing.
But so is:
- Free space to think and become more self-aware of your thoughts plus emotions.
- Taking time to process your thoughts (so that you can make more intentional decisions).
- Time for listening to what your body and mind needs to be its best (which changes daily based on circumstances).
Reason #3 For The Importance Of Work Life Balance: Increase Your Physical Health
Part of creating balance for yourself includes taking care of your physical health. And yes, that includes things like:
- Eating healthy meals,
- Reducing sugar and alcohol intake,
- Healthy sleep habits, and
- Regular exercise.
Which means you must make time for these activities.
The Problem With Professional Life
If you’re like most professionals, then you’re probably chained to a desk most of the day (whether working at home or in the office).
And you might be working more hours from home than you did when required to be in the office. [Note: I talked about The Challenges Of Remote Working in this Life & Law Podcast].
Which means you spend most of your time sitting down, rarely moving. And inside most of the time.
The problem is that human beings are built to move. Our bodies need movement. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that exercise reduces stress. It increases endorphins, improves mood, and reduces the negative impact of stress.
And we’re also not meant to be cooped up, inside all of the time. Studies show that being outside – enjoying nature – reduces stress.
What this means is that you need to get outside more often and move! You’ll sleep better, improve energy levels and have a more positive outlook as a result.
But how, when your career and life gets so busy?
I addressed this on an episode of the Life & Law Podcast. Listen here to discover 5 simple self-care tips for when you’re busy.
A Quick Note About Alcohol
Ever help yourself to relax at night (and get over the day’s stress) by consuming a glass (or more) of alcohol?
This is a common yet unhealthy coping behavior of stressed-out professionals (lawyers included).
I am not saying you can’t – or shouldn’t – ever drink. But using alcohol as a crutch isn’t exactly a healthy way to regard it. And it’s not helping you the way you think.
While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it often disrupts the sleep cycle. And long-term use can result in chronic sleep problems, including insomnia.
Research also suggests that alcohol can make sleep apnea worse. It causes the throat muscles to relax and airways to narrow, exacerbating sleep apnea.
Reason #4 For The Importance Of Work-Life Balance: Increase Focus & Attentiveness
One of the biggest complaints I hear from new clients seeking a better work life balance is their inability to be present.
Here’s how it plays out:
- You feel like your mind is often spinning, cluttered with a million thoughts.
- You think about work deadlines and problems when with family and friends.
- Your mind wanders to personal issues (such as the fight you had that morning or undone laundry) when working.
If this hits a chord for you, I have good news…
Work life balance allows for a more present mind. Because balance isn’t just about the time you spend doing things. It’s about how you feel.
And one of the best ways to feel more balanced is to incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day.
How Mindfulness Creates Internal Balance
There are many proven benefits to practicing mindfulness. And one of the biggest benefits is the ability to stay focused and present.
A consistent mindfulness practice improves self-awareness and decreases mind-wandering. What that means is that you’re training your brain to be more focused and present. This is true no matter how busy you are or what is going on in the world.
Want to start retraining your mind immediately?
Reason #5 For Why Work-Life Balance Is Important: Enhance Your Relationships
Working too much means less time with those you love. But it’s not just about the amount of time – it’s also important to have quality time.
No matter how much time you spend with someone, it’s not going to be worthwhile if you can’t be present. And you won’t show up as your best if you aren’t feeling your best (mentally or physically).
Imagine what having more quality time with family and friends would do for you?
There’s a ripple effect to this. You’re more likely to feel good about your life and career.
Connection Is A Foundation To Happiness
Connecting with and relating to people isn’t happening enough these days. People are too busy (and allowing technology to get in the way of real human connection).
And remote work is also impacting our ability to connect with others.
Enter work life balance.
Having a balanced lifestyle includes maintaining deep, meaningful relationships with other people.
Human beings derive purpose from deep relationships. By helping others and also by accepting help from others, these relationships bring meaning to life.
And I’m not just talking about having family and friend relationships. I’m also referring to work relationships. Having meaningful work relationships will bring more purpose and meaning to your work.
Reason #6 For Why Work-Life Balance Is Important: Improve Engagement at Work
According to Gallup, only about 33% of U.S. workers are engaged (with 16% of them being actively disengaged).
This is problematic because engagement is a key component to feeling motivated – and hence happy – at work. And engaged employees are more enthusiastic about and committed to their work.
Many employers falsely believe that engagement is created through pressure or incentives.
This could work in the short-term but is more likely to create stress and resentment in the long-term. That’s not exactly a recipe for high morale or engagement.
Balanced employees are more likely to feel motivated and have deeper work relationships. They are more encouraging – and more likely to be mentors. Which will drive engagement up across the board. It’s self-perpetuating, likely to create a more engaged and balanced work culture.
It’s a win for both sides.
Reason #7 For The Importance of Work-Life Balance: Improve Creative Thinking
I mentioned this before, but it bears saying again: your brain needs space to think. It’s not meant to be under near-constant assault. Which is what is happening when living an overscheduled and overcommitted life.
Ever wrack your brain on a problem and feel stuck because no answer comes? And then, you finally get the answer once you’ve stopped worrying over it?
That’s because your brain needs space.
The same thing happens when you have an unhealthy work life balance. When you’re stressed, overwhelmed and/or anxious, there’s zero capacity for creative problem-solving.
A balanced life produces a calm, clear mind. One that’s more capable of strategic planning and complex problem-solving. Something you can’t do when your mind feels cluttered.
Reason #8 For Why Work-Life Balance Is Important: Increase Productivity
Everyone wants to be more productive. Most of my clients cite this as an outcome that they want from coaching.
And I hate to break this to you but the answer is not to adopt yet another time management technique or productivity hack. Because that’s not the fundamental problem for most people.
In my experience, most professionals are good at time management. They are typically pretty organized and use their calendars well. And even if there’s room for improvement, there’s only so much these strategies can do for you.
What’s the issue? You need more balance in life.
Think about all of the benefits to having a balanced lifestyle already discussed. You will:
- Feel better mentally and physically.
- Be more resilient.
- Have more energy (and sleep better).
- Be more present and focused.
- Have improved relationships.
- Be more engaged at work.
- Have a clear, calm mind that can think more creatively.
Which means you’ll perform at a much higher level. If that’s not a formula for improved productivity, then I don’t know what is.
Want to know more about how to maintain peak performance and productivity? Listen to my Life & Law Podcast episode about the mindset needed for productivity here.
Reason #9 For The Importance of Work-Life Balance: Increase Happiness
One of the biggest work life balance benefits is that it will improve your happiness.
Before moving into how this works, it’s important to consider what happiness even is. Because I’m not talking about feeling a fleeting moment of joy or laughter.
Here’s What Happiness Really Is
Happiness – in my book – is about feeling content in who you are and how you’re living life. And a big part of how you get there is by having control.
Now, control is tricky. Because there are many things outside of your control, such as:
- Other people’s actions and thoughts.
- Circumstances (once they’ve occurred).
- Your outcome
Yet these are the things most of us try to control most (which is part of where we go wrong).
What do you have control of? Your thoughts. And how you choose to respond to outside events.
This is one of the keys to being happy.
How does this all relate to having work life balance? Balance requires you to take control. It’s about making the tough decisions to ensure you’re prioritizing the things that are truly important to you. And also saying “no” when necessary.
Once you do that, you’ll feel more in control. And hence, happier.
Want to know how to create your own happiness? Read How To Redefine Yourself Into Happiness.
Reason #10 For Why Work-Life Balance Is Important: Improve Performance & Success
Do you worry that balance is synonymous with settling, anathema to success? I have good news.
Work life balance will make you more (not less) successful.
Some people are convinced that those who want balance aren’t committed enough. And that you can’t have a balanced life without settling for something less than you want.
Neither is true.
Work life balance is about creating a life of success on your own terms by:
- prioritizing and focusing on what’s most important to you;
- ensuring your own well-being (thereby enabling you to serve others to the best of your ability); and
- being in control of your life.
Isn’t that what true success is?
And as covered above, a balanced lifestyle will improve your creative thinking and productivity. It will also make you more well-rounded. That will give you a leg up on creating the success you want. Both personally and professionally.
[Recommended Reading: Learn more about essential leadership qualities in my article about What Makes A Good Leader (10 Essential Traits)].
In Summary: All The Reasons Why Work-Life Balance Is Important For Everyone
Understanding why work life balance is important is a necessity for your brain to get behind doing the work needed to create a more balanced lifestyle. And work life balance holds great significance for professionals due to numerous factors, such as:
- Decreased stress and anxiety levels.
- Enhanced mental wellness.
- Improved physical health.
- Heightened focus and attentiveness.
- Strengthened personal relationships.
- Boosted engagement in work.
- Increased creativity and innovation.
- Enhanced productivity.
- Elevated happiness levels.
- Sustainable long-term career success.
Remember that achieving a balance between work and your personal life isn’t just beneficial for your own well-being; it also contributes to your professional growth and success. Prioritize your well-being and aim for a healthy work-life balance. You’ll be better off for it in more ways than one.
Next Steps For More Work Life Balance
Now that you understand why work life balance is important, it’s time to integrate it into your own life.
First up is to ensure you understand what work-life balance actually means (because it’s hard to create when you don’t have the right definition). Sadly most of us use the common either/or, static definition that is all about time. And it’s unworkable (hence why so few people end up with balanced lives).
Lucky for you I have an article all about The Real Meaning Of Work Life Balance (With Strategies To Achieve It) here. I highly recommend you read it.