Why Free Time Relieves Stress and Helps Achieve A Work Like Balance

Utah was recently revealed as the 2nd happiest state in the USA. In another study, it was also uncovered as the state residents spend the least time working and commuting, based on research from resume building platform Zety, which ranked US states based on free time. Something in Utah is going right. It makes sense, […]

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Utah was recently revealed as the 2nd happiest state in the USA. In another study, it was also uncovered as the state residents spend the least time working and commuting, based on research from resume building platform Zety, which ranked US states based on free time.

Something in Utah is going right.

It makes sense, after a long day in the office, you just want to get home. Yet, you are faced with the dreaded commute, cruelly digging into your free time.

With 28% of America’s work being done outside of normal working hours, Zety’s editor-in-chief Bart Turczynski said, ‘We don’t really leave work when we leave the office. Is commuting work or life? It’s not that black and white, sure. However, in our research, we decided to treat that gray zone – time spent commuting – as part of work, not life. Turns out, most 9-to-5 jobs are more like 8-to-6 jobs and don’t necessarily make up for that in cash. And no – having the opportunity to listen to 2h of podcasts every day at 1.5x speed is not a perk.’

Why is free time important?

Spending time away from work, doing what you enjoy alleviates stress which can take its toll on both your mental and physical wellbeing. Workplace burn out has been linked to health issues such as hypertension and heart problems as well as depression and anxiety.

Career expert Bart told us “Work-life balance is crucial to maintaining general well-being and long-term productivity” You’ll find you’re much more efficient at work if you do maximise your free time.

He continued: “Work-life balance was touted as a remedy for work-related stress and occupational burnout. In 2019, it’s all about work-life integration. We decided to look at this “integration”, but only saw work-life invasion. The amount of time spent away from the office is more limited than we expected. Depending on where you live, you might be left with very little time to balance or integrate anything. Downtime is crucial for maintaining mental wellbeing. And we feel confident that, e.g., commuting is not quality time”

Overworking can increase tiredness, lower concentration and decrease productivity, making working for longer hours counterproductive. Tasks that would usually take half an hour can take twice the time, more mistakes are made, and you spend more time fixing the errors.

How to achieve a better work-life balance

  • Consider the commute when taking a new role

Often the commute is overlooked. Cash, working hours, perks are the no brainers – but the commute can really eat into your time away from what you want to be doing, without you knowing it. As revealed in the study from Zety, the difference between the top and bottom states is 4 hours every week. Consider how valuable having this time back would be, and perhaps a job closer to home might win the day.

  • Establish a clear set of boundaries.

How much additional work you’re willing to complete outside of the office?

When are you going to check your work email after hours, and when do you intend to ignore any incoming messages? Answer these questions yourself and consider your limitations. Then, speak to your superior about them.

  • Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal.

You likely have co-workers who are willing to help you with your tasks inside the office, and you can finish challenging projects. It’s more than OK to ask for help, and I’d encourage it if you feel like you’re overwhelmed with work.

The State by State break down

As mentioned, Utah won the day when it came to free time. To calculate this, Zety took the average hours worked weekly, added it to the average commute time over the week and subtracted this figure from the total amount of hours in a week, like so:

Hours in a week – (hours at work + commute time) = average free time per US state

Residents in Utah work an average of 37.3 hours weekly; 3.67 hours commuting and have therefore 127.03 left away from work duties.

This is in comparison to Alaska, the state with the least amount of free time, where residents spend nearly 4 hours more each week working and commuting Vs those in Utah.

The study uncovers the four states where worker spend longest working and commuting, Alaska, Washington, Virginia and Maryland all land within the top 10 for best wages. Additionally, the top 10 states that have the most amount of free time have an average salary of $47,531. This is lower than the average US salary of $49,577 – supporting the idea that that longer work equals higher pay.

For full study, click here

Adjusting your priorities when weighing up the pros and cons of a particular role can give a better indication of the impact it will have on your quality of life, hopefully prompting you to put yourself first and live a healthier lifestyle.

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