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You love your job but loving it too much could be dangerous to your health. The more often you stay late in the office or clock in extra hours over the weekend, the more stress you are adding to your life. When was the last time you went on leave - and left your notebook and phone at home?

A survey of British workers by the Mental Health Foundation found more than 40 percent of respondents are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work. When working long hours, respondents reported feeling depressed or anxious. Nearly two-third of employees have experienced a negative effect on their personal life. This ranged from lack of personal development, physical and mental health problems, and poor relationships and poor home life.

With IT playing a crucial role in organisations, it's easy for IT pros to become overworked. Responsible employers and employees understand though that a healthy work-life balance goes a long way to maintaining a happy and productive workforce. Here are 10 ways you can tip your work-life balance to your health's favour.

1. Do what you enjoy best
Don't you find that it takes twice as long to complete uninteresting tasks than it does to do something you love?

Nick Woodeson, a former IT director and now owner of Essential Business Skills Consulting in his
work-life balance blog writes: "The secret to a better work-life balance might well be not in managing your time and reducing your overall time in work, but increasing the time you spend in the aspects of your job that you find most absorbing and fulfilling. Remember - if the time just passes without you taking account of it, you're doing the right thing!"

Clifton StrengthsFinder, a management philosophy believes that employers benefit if they encourage employees to play to their individual strengths. Let your boss know the aspects of your work you like best and suggest alternatives to completing the tasks that don't play well to your strengths. Find out who in your group possesses the strength you lack and let them enjoy those tasks.

2. Be prepared for the unexpected
If you already have excessive stress in your life you'd be less able to handle a crisis, says Woodeson. Stress depletes energy, something that's required in abundance to navigate sudden unforeseen emergencies.

Woodeson writes: "... most people would struggle if they lost all the contact details of people stored in their mobile phone or if they had their notebook stolen, but relatively few people take the trouble to learn how to back up their important data and to then do so on a regular basis."

Aside from backing up your data, begin to document your work so you can easily hand over the tasks to a colleague if you need to take a few days out in an emergency. This could be storing files in a public folder or creating a spreadsheet with project milestones, contact details and file names and locations. 

3. Save time for yourself 
If your work environment allows others to access your calendar to schedule meetings, be sure to block off some time for yourself. This could be two or four hours each week. Use this time as a buffer in case you need extra time to complete a task, run errands or catch up with colleagues.

4. Schedule your day's deadlines around your body clock
Studies by human biology professionals show that our bodies have various internal clocks but society forces us to ignore those signs. Perhaps you feel sleepy after lunch or are more energised for work early evening. Everyone is different.

Blogger Woodeson says the
best way to discover your own cycles is to work from home for a period. You'll then recognise the times you are most energised. Use those times to schedule your most pressing deadlines.

5. Reconsider your philosophy of working late
Harvard Business Review
blogger Ron Ashkenas studied successful medical professors for his doctoral research on the balance between professional achievement and successful family life. He found that the most successful professors in his sample group also tended to have the most instances of divorce and estrangement from children.

"Naturally, none of these highly successful people had consciously chosen to sacrifice their families in order to advance their careers. Instead, they had made hundreds of small tradeoffs over the years - such as staying in the lab instead of attending a child's school concert. It was the accumulation of these small choices that seemed to gradually tip their lives one way or the other," Ashkenas writes.

He suggests pros think about the following philosophical questions:
  • What's the balance that you want to strike between personal and professional success?
  • If you had to honestly choose, is one more important than the other?
  • What are your goals in each of these spheres and what can you do to optimize both?

6. Prioritise your commitments
work-life balance article in Forbes advises readers to:  "Consider all the things competing for your time and decide what will stay and what will go ... What about the three nonprofit organisations you belong to?"

Decide on what's important to you in your life right now. If you're an IT pro wanting to hone your soft skills, perhaps the volunteer work you do for nonprofits is helping your personal development. Perhaps your weekly task of clearing the yard of your elderly neighbor could change to a monthly commitment.

7. Use technology wisely
Technology has done so much to improve the quality of our lives. Think of the time and energy we save by shopping online instead of driving to the store. Even GPS navigators save precious minutes by speaking the directions so we don't have to make frequent stops to check a printed map.

However, don't let technology run your life. Make it a philosophy to switch off your phone during dinner with the family. Leave your phone at the office at lunch and go for a walk or read a chapter of a novel. Perhaps even try spending one weekend a month without computers.

8. Make the most of your employer's wellness programs
Employers spent 35 percent more - about $220 - on each employee who participated in a wellness program in 2010 compared to 2009. According to "
Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies," by Buck Consultants employers offer wellness programs to reduce workplace stress and improve workforce morale and engagement.

Another study, this time in the US, by
Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health found that employers are offering several types of incentives to encourage employees to participate in health improvement programs. Such incentives include cash, gift cards or offers to make additional contributions to health savings accounts. So go on, sign up for a wellness activity today. What do you have to lose (aside from stress)?

9. Consider a results-only work environment
The latest work philosophy making headlines is
Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Developed by two former HR managers at U.S. electronics retailer Best Buy, ROWE allows employees to establish their own work schedule as long as the work gets done on time.

ROWE companies don't track workers' time on the job (vacation, sick days or if they're prompt into the office); employees are measured on whether they achieve their goals. There are formal steps that organisations must take to become "ROWE Approved." Even if your employer is not ROWE Approved you can incorporate some of the ROWE philosophy to your team. This could include allowing team members to work from home or take "unofficial" time off when needed, as long as it's clear that you expect them to get the work done.

10. Lead by example
Your management philosophy dictates how employees work. Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by leading by example.
  • Create a supportive team where members help each other out to meet tight deadlines.
  • Speak up against impossible deadlines, no matter whether they're imposed by stakeholders or by the employees themselves.
  • Involve and communicate with your stakeholders. Let them know if there are problems along the way that could affect deadlines. Instill ownership in everyone. That way, both stakeholders and project members will work together to solve problems.
  • Add buffer of time to the project schedule. It's better to overestimate the time you think it will take your team to do something than to underestimate. Some project practitioners advise adding 25 percent buffer time to a project. That will give you some breathing space if something crops up.

We hope some of these tips will help encourage you to take some time out of your crazy work schedule to find ways to restore your work-life balance. 
© 2011 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.
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