6 ways for stressed-out managers to find a work-life balance

We spend so much time looking after our clients but often neglect ourselves. In aid of National Relaxation Day (August 15), Pure Spa chief executive Becky Woodhouse outlines six practical ways for stressed-out managers to find a work-life balance.

As a single mum to two boys with a multilocation spa business to run, having a good work-life balance is not a luxury, it’s essential. Sometimes I feel as if my diary is taking over my life. However, I’ve learned a few good lessons over the years that help me keep things in balance and ensure that although I am super busy, I’m not stressed out the way I used to be.

If you’re a leader in your organisation your team is looking to you to set an example, so it’s imperative that you turn up every day being the best you can. It’s important to look after yourself because you need to be there for your team, and that can only happen if you’re healthy – physically and mentally.

I used to be stressed out and overworked, with poor eating habits. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this unhealthy lifestyle was making me lack-lustre and irritable and meant I was suffering from burnout, which impacted on all areas of my life, both work and family. It was only when I started to take steps towards a healthier, happier lifestyle that I realised the profound impact it had on every area of my life. My tops tips for finding a good work-life balance are:

1. Commit to making changes

The first step is to reflect on whether or not you’re happy with your lifestyle at the moment and, if you’re not, to do something to improve it, even if you only make small changes. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, so if you’re making changes to your life, allow yourself time for them to become part of your routine. Once they are, you will see that little things quickly add up to changes that are really quite big.


2. Think of it as a whole life issue

I’m a workaholic. No matter what I do, I just can’t switch my brain off work mode at 5pm and switch it back on at 9am the next morning. This used to make me really stressed because I would wonder how I could improve my work-life balance when my head felt like it was bursting at the seams. And if I had finished work at 5pm, I would have felt lazy. I finally resolved this problem when it dawned on me that working nine to five is only one way of achieving a better work-life balance and that I needed another method.

So, instead of trying to force myself into a pattern I wasn’t happy with, I decided to take a more flexible approach. Essentially, I now don’t have a set working pattern. However, I make sure I prioritise family and home stuff as much as I prioritise work. I still work most evenings and some weekends but I also take more time off during the day; for example, to meet a friend for lunch or pick my kids up early, and I take more holidays. So figure out what works for you instead of forcing yourself into a pattern that doesn’t feel right.


3. Plan with flexibility

I'm a planner; I like to have everything organised and know exactly what I’m doing at all times. However, a little thing called life often gets in the way and chaos ensues. I can’t cope with a lot of chaos, I find it too stressful and have learned to deal with this by planning some flexibility into my life. I try to make sure I always have at least one day in the week blocked out for… well for no specific reason. Just knowing that I have an extra day saves an awful lot of stress and it means I have the time to adapt to anything unexpected that comes up.


4. Stay healthy

The best tool for achieving a great work-life balance is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We all get ill from time to time but it should be the exception, not the norm. You can’t operate at your best if you’re not feeling your best. I’ve introduced small changes (because I’m terrible at sticking to major ones) into my life that don’t take up much time but improve my health. I now try to walk rather than drive, I do five minutes of exercise every morning, which gives me energy for the day, and I have cut down on my drinking. It’s amazing how much better small changes can make you feel and what a positive effect they have on the rest of your life. 


5. Introduce flexible working

Everyone has their own challenges at home and at work and if you introduce a flexible working policy you’re telling your employees that you recognise their challenges and want to help. This will benefit you too because if your staff have a good work-life balance they will be less stressed, come to work happier and be more productive. This in turn makes your job easier and will make you happier and less stressed than if you’re managing miserable employees.


6. Talk yourself happy

I know this probably sounds bizarre, but you can make yourself think happy thoughts. Every morning when I wake up I tell myself that “today is going to be a great day”. I make myself a hot water and lemon and I dry body brush to get my circulation going. By the time I get out of the shower, I’m ready for a good day. Just try it for a week and see if it lifts your mood. If you start on a positive note you will feel happier and less stressed for the whole day, and if you do this most days, it will begin to have a really positive impact on your life.


Becky Woodhouse is chief executive of Pure Spa and Beauty, a group of day spas and salons across Scotland and London.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance? Comment below.