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Work–life balance: How does your country stack up?

A recent OECD study has ranked 38 countries for how well their workers balance their work with their personal lives.

Long-gone are the days when there were no weekends, no standard 40-hour working weeks. In most cases, working conditions have improved immeasurably over the past few centuries.

Nevertheless, maintaining a healthy work–life balance can be difficult, as found by the recent OECD Better Life Index.

The Index looked at 38 different countries, mostly in Europe, with a few countries from Asia, the Americas and Oceania.

As well as work–life balance, topics like housing, education, income, community and health were included.

The scores for work–life balance were based on the proportion of people working very long hours (50 hours or more a week), and on time devoted to personal care and leisure.

Affluent Western European and Scandinavian countries came top of the ranking, led by the Netherlands, Denmark and France. Other regions of Europe also scored highly.

Turkey and Mexico achieved the worst scores, while South Korea, Israel and Japan weren’t much better. Countries like the US, the UK and Australia similarly achieved relatively low scores.

It goes without saying that poor work–life balance can have health impacts. A study by The Australia Institute found that 24 per cent of workers surveyed suffered negative health effects from long hours.

Twenty-four per cent of workers surveyed suffered negative health effects from long hours.

This, of course, translates into an economic impact; for example, the UK’s Mental Health Foundation says “work-related stress already costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year”.

On the flipside, the Corporate Executive Board found that those who better manage their work-life balance essentially work 21 per cent harder.

So what can be done to ensure your workers remain stress-free?

The Mental Health Foundation in the UK recommends a few basic steps, such as:

  • Communication: Make your employees aware of the risks of over-working; encourage them to speak up if they stressed.
  • Management: Promote a culture of prioritisation and efficiency; monitor performance indicators such as sickness and staff satisfaction; ensure employees are given adequate time to complete work; train managers to spot stress.
  • Support: Allow for counselling during work hours; encourage mental health activities.

This, of course, goes for executives as well.

Make sure that you separate work and leisure and take breaks during work.

Remind yourself that while productivity is important, taking care of yourself is essential to healthy living.

In an increasingly frantic, fast-paced world, it’s important that we all take a little time for ourselves.

Sleep is one of the first sacrifices made when deadlines loom – but could hitting snooze lead to greater success? We find out.

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