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Work-Life Balance: What It Means and Why It’s Important

Work-life balance means your professional or occupational obligations and personal duties, relationships, leisure, and care, are distributed evenly so that neither consistently overpowers the other.


Achieving a healthy work-life balance means having the ability to fulfil job responsibilities while also having time and energy for personal interests and family. This balance is crucial for maintaining mental, emotional, and physical health and life satisfaction.


But despite how it sounds, work-life balance isn’t a one-time achievement. Our needs, responsibilities, and interests change across our lifetime, and as a result, our work-life balance is constantly in flux. Periodic re-assessment is critical to ensuring a life or job change doesn’t imbalance how we distribute ourselves across the personal and professional.


Still, while our circumstances may change, the importance and characteristics of work-life balance remain the same.


The importance of work-life balance


A healthy work-life balance is essential for several reasons. From a personal perspective, work-life balance prevents burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. Work-life balance also enables better physical health, allowing time for exercise and other forms of physical self-care that reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease and depression.


Poor work-life balance often contributes to mental health struggles. Just like a tripod is more stable than a single pole, so we are more mentally and emotionally resilient when our identities, time, and efforts are distributed across more than one role.


Why a balance between work and personal life is difficult to strike


Balancing personal interests and obligations with work has always been challenging, but certain factors unique to the modern world can get in the way of healthy work-life balance. These include:


Constant connectivity. The advent of smartphones, laptops, and constant connectivity means work can follow you everywhere, making it harder to truly disconnect. The expectation to be available 24/7 can encroach on personal time and increase the difficulty of setting clear boundaries between work and personal life.


Workplace culture. In many organisations, a prevailing culture of ‘face time’ — long hours and constant availability — is often implicitly linked to dedication and success. This can pressure employees to prioritise work over personal time, fearing negative repercussions if they don’t conform.


Additionally, unsupportive employer policies often contribute to poor work-life balance. Few workplaces offer flexible working arrangements, remote work options, or adequate parental or family leave, which complicates a person’s ability to fulfil professional and personal responsibilities. This is especially true for parents and others with caregiving responsibilities.


Personal ambitions and societal expectations. Ambition and the desire for career advancement can lead individuals to sacrifice personal time for work. Moreover, societal norms and expectations often glorify being busy as a sign of importance and success, further encouraging people to overcommit to work at the expense of personal well-being.


Individual responsibilities. Circumstances like raising a family, pursuing further education, or caring for a child with special needs or an ageing relative can make allocating time for work without sacrificing personal responsibilities (and vice versa) nearly impossible. For some, these are temporary interruptions in healthy work-life balance. For others, these cause extended work-life imbalances.


2 examples of healthy work-life balance


Flexible working hours: Prakash, a graphic designer, has an arrangement with his employer that allows him to start and finish work early. This flexibility enables him to drop his children off at school, work uninterrupted during the day, and spend quality time with his family in the evening. His ability to manage both work and family commitments without sacrificing one for the other is a prime example of good work-life balance.


Prioritising self-care: Sunita, a software engineer, strictly limits work to weekdays, dedicating weekends to hobbies, exercise, and social activities. This clear demarcation between professional and personal time helps her recharge, reducing stress and preventing burnout.


Despite these examples, work-life balance is often achieved and maintained through a mix of strategies and steps. Read on for tips.


2 examples of poor work-life balance


Chronic overworking: Asif, a project manager, regularly works late into the night and over weekends to meet deadlines, leaving little time for relaxation or socialising. This constant work pressure has led to stress, fatigue, and a sense of detachment from friends and family. His relationships have been suffering from conflict, as a result, adding to the strain.


Lack of personal time: Neha, a small business owner, finds herself constantly answering work calls and emails during family outings and vacations. Her inability to disconnect from work responsibilities has caused tension in her relationships and a feeling of missing out on personal life events.


6 steps to start balancing work and personal life


Healthy work-life balance looks different for each person and often requires support from employers to achieve. But there are some common factors and actions that every individual can take to start establishing an equilibrium that works for them.


Setting clear time boundaries: Establish and communicate your work hours to colleagues and clients. Avoid checking emails or taking work calls outside of these hours to protect your personal time. This ensures everyone knows when you are available, and more importantly, when you’re not available for work.


Learning to say no: This is also a form of boundary setting. Politely declining additional responsibilities or engagements when you’re already stretched thin can help prevent overcommitment that disrupts your balance.


Putting limits around technology: Technology that helps streamline tasks and improve your efficiency can be extremely helpful at work, but such technology is often accessible from anywhere, so be mindful not to let it encroach on your personal life. Set specific times to disconnect from digital devices.


Establishing a self-care routine: Regularly engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Prioritising self-care is not selfish; it’s necessary for maintaining your capacity to perform in both personal and professional roles.


Exploring flexibility: If possible, negotiate flexible working arrangements with your employer, such as telecommuting or adjusted work hours, to better accommodate your personal life.


Delegating and leaning on others: None of us can do everything ourselves. Delegate tasks at work where possible, and consider how you can ask for help from a spouse, roommate, family, friends, or a paid service, when it comes to chores or errands, which can help you free up more personal time.


Work-life balance may seem impossible, but it’s often achievable through small, steady steps. Working toward a healthy equilibrium from the start – in addition to or instead of the next level – can help set the tone for an entire career and healthy life.




  • Haar, Jarrod M., Russo, Marcello, Suñe, Albert, Ollier-Malaterre, Ariane. “Outcomes of work–life balance on job satisfaction, life satisfaction and mental health: A study across seven cultures.” Journal of Vocational Behavior. Volume 85, Issue 3. 2014, Pages 361-373.
  • Koutsimani P, Montgomery A, Georganta K. The Relationship Between Burnout, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Psychol. 2019 Mar 13;10:284.
  • Mohanty, Atasi , Jena, Lalatendu Kesari. “Work-Life Balance Challenges for Indian Employees: Socio-Cultural Implications and Strategies.” Journal of Human Resource and Sustainability Studies. Vol.4 No.1, 2016
  • S., T. and S.N., G. (2023), “Work-life balance – a systematic review.” Vilakshan – XIMB Journal of Management. Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 258-276.


Vidula V Sawant (M.A., M.Phil., CRR No. A80980) is a clinical psychologist with 5+ years of experience and a passion for understanding the complexities of our minds and behaviours.

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