Manage Work & Stress: 5 Ways to Build Work-Life Balance

Unless you’re a robot, it’s all but impossible to avoid having work stress. But it’s not impossible to avoid taking those feelings home with you at the end of the day and really lean into work-life balance. 

True leisure time, in which anxiety and frustration over work can be set aside until you’re next at the office, is essential to staying mentally in check and avoiding burnout. Here are seven ways to keep work stress, rage, and anxiety where they belong.

1. Make today’s work stress your Future Self’s problem

“Don’t worry!” has never been particularly helpful advice. But what may be helpful is saying to yourself, “I know you’re worried about that call tomorrow, but that’s Future Me’s problem.” It’s less about the elimination of worry and more about placing the worry in someone else’s capable hands for a while.

2. Buddy up

If you live with a partner or a roommate, don’t make them the designated person to whom you complain about your job or process frustrating work situations. Choose a different friend or family member to vent to (and make sure they don’t mind if you do). 

That way, you won’t be constantly tempted to dissect work stresses because your processing partner is always available to you at home. This reduces your roommate or partner’s stress levels, too!

3. Set your boundaries

As part of the conversation with your team, it’s a good idea to propose new boundaries that you believe will be most impactful. 

If you’re hoping to exercise over lunch, for example, ask your team to avoid scheduling meetings during that hour when possible. Perhaps you’d like to be more engaged with your family in the evenings: Let them know that you won’t respond to emails after a certain hour (but that you can be reached by phone if something is truly urgent). 

Remember to maintain a degree of flexibility: If one of your new boundaries is negatively impacting your work or your team’s ability to deliver, it’s your responsibility to recognize this and adjust accordingly. 

Make (some) personal time non-negotiable

Sometimes, our impulse is to jump at every important meeting or phone call. Don’t let it eat into the time carved out for enjoyment and happiness. By establishing at least one block of time per week as non-negotiable personal time, you’re upholding a contract to yourself.

Make your work commute more enjoyable 

For those who commute, here are a few ways to make the most of that time:

Don’t rush it

Ensuring your journey to the office is leisurely can have a big impact on your mood throughout the day. Starting the workday with the stress of running to catch a train, being stuck in traffic, or arriving late to a meeting can throw off your attitude. It’s often easily avoidable with appropriate planning. 

Do what you can to adjust your travel plans to better fit your schedule. For example, if you have an early call, ask if you can take the call from home and come into the office after rather than rushing in at the crack of dawn. 


While some people may relish commute time as a chance to catch up on emails or news, it’s just as valid to use it as a time to unplug. You shouldn’t feel guilty for not being more “productive” on your commute. 

The unconscious mind can sometimes solve problems, particularly complex ones, more effectively than conscious thought. This means you might come up with some of your brightest ideas while zoning out on the way into or out of the office. 


On the other hand, your commute can be a good time to chat with family, friends, or even strangers. If you drive to work, consider using the time to make phone calls you won’t be able to make once in the office. Trust us, your mom will appreciate it! 

4. Make small changes for improved work-life balance

Are you unhappy with your daily routine? Feel like you’re having a mental block? Switch things up in a big way by changing some small details.

Nora Herting and Heather Willems, authors and co-founders of graphic recording agency, ImageThink, have great advice for slightly shifting your perspective: “Try arriving to work 30 minutes early or taking a different route. How do you process information differently when you write with a brightly colored pen versus typing?

Simply moving things around on your desk could help you see and think about your project differently.” These small changes can cause cracks in your routine, say the pair, breaking down the brick wall a mental block causes. You can also try working in a new space, like a quiet coffee shop or a nearby co-working space, suggests Nisha Garigarn, founder of Croissant (an app that gives users access to co-working hotspots). “Stimulate your creativity and make work more of an experience.”  

5. Work smarter

If your job affords you flexibility, establish a schedule that works for you. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at a desk from 9 to 5.

For Tiffany Kumar, former Global Head of Songwriter Relations at Spotify, it means working in the morning and later in the day and breaking for an afternoon hike. “This step back allows me to see a straight line to the company’s big picture goals,” she says. I have come up with some of my best ideas during a mid-day hike on Runyon Canyon.”

These schedule changes can be difficult at first, particularly if you (and coworkers) are used to constant availability. But working smarter enables you to work better, says Kumar. “I no longer have shame, because I know my contribution and what I need to be at my best. I just wish I knew more hardworking people that realized this.

Too many of my peers get burnt out after years of being absent from their home life. As a result, they quit a job they once loved. It doesn’t have to be that way. Balance is key.”

Originally written by Lauren Hoffmann in December 2016. Updated by Hired Content Team in March 2024.

Source: Talent Acquisition -


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