Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Work-life balance

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Work-life balance is about finding a way to manage the demands of your work or study with your personal life and the things that ‘top you up’.
  • A good work-life balance means you can be happy and productive at work and also have time for yourself and your family.
  • If you have a casual job or work from home, your days may not be clearly defined into work time and home time.
  • If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work or at home, acknowledge that this is not a sign of weakness and ask for help and support.

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance refers to the juggle between the demands of work and your home and family life. If you struggle with work-life balance, you might find that you are often rushing to manage different commitments, often left feeling like you are doing no areas well.

If you work long hours, it can be more difficult to achieve a healthy balance between work and your personal life. Working long hours may impact your health, make your work unsafe, increase your stress levels and cut into time for leisure activities.

A good work-life balance means you have harmony (most of the time) between the different aspects of your life. Outside of work you will have time to spend on other things, such as caring for yourself and your family, and leisure activities. If you can spend time on personal care, socialising, hobbies and relaxation, this can support your overall wellbeing.

It’s important to prioritise wellbeing, which is often seen as being of less importance than paid work or chores.

Who has poor work-life balance?

Australians work hard. You might be one of the 13% of people (more than 1 in 10) working more than 50 hours per week. This is considered ‘very long hours’ by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Working overtime is common, especially if you are young, male or in a full-time job.

If you have a family, you might feel pressure to both:

  • provide for them by working
  • care for them by doing tasks at home

If you are studying as well as doing paid work, this can also make it more difficult to find a good balance in your life.

Many people work part-time, low wage, casual jobs, which can mean working unsocial hours. If you have less work than you need to cover your bills and expenses this will increase your stress levels and can impact your mental health.

What are the positives and negatives of work?

While not everyone is able to work, employment generally helps your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Work can:

  • provide you with a daily routine and structure
  • boost your activity levels
  • provide a sense of identity
  • offer meaning and purpose to your life
  • be a source of friendships
  • provide you with a sense of community
  • give you financial independence

Unemployment, on the other hand, can lead to poor mental and physical health.

You might find there are downsides to working that can add to feelings of stress. Some examples are:

  • feeling isolated or lonely at work
  • getting few rewards for your efforts
  • worry about losing your job or not getting shifts
  • lack of control in the job
  • feeling unsafe at work if you are tired from very long hours or shift work
  • pressure to stay connected at the weekend or check emails when on holiday

If you can find a good balance between work and other demands, you are likely to:

  • be happier
  • be more productive
  • take fewer sick days
  • stay in your job for longer

Flexible hours and working from home can be helpful if this is possible in your job. You can ask your employer about flexible working arrangements.


Burnout is when you:

  • feel mentally and physically exhausted for a long time
  • have a lack interest at work
  • dread or avoid going to work
  • feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained
  • find it hard to complete simple daily tasks

Burnout may:

  • cause physical symptoms like stomach pains, headaches and sleep disturbances
  • make it hard to concentrate or be creative
  • lead to negative feelings about your co-workers and a lack of confidence in your own ability to function at work
  • cause a lack of enthusiasm or drive to do your work well

You may get burnout if you have focused all your energy on your work for a long time and not given enough energy to your health, family and friends.

Burnout is usually an extreme form of work-related stress. It can also be due to other parts of your life, such as being a long-term carer.

Tips for a healthy work-life balance

1. Know your values

Try to spend some time thinking about what is important to you in life. Consider your passions and interests, and make time for the things that make you feel alive. How much time do you really spend on your priorities?

2. Practise time management

Do you ever wonder where the day went? Calendars, apps and to-do lists are all useful methods for keeping track of how you spend your time.

You could review a typical week and see if you can use your time better. You might be able to save time by shopping online more or working from home a couple of days a week to reduce your commute. You could see if some meetings or tasks can be done by phone/video or email instead of in person.

You might realise that social media is swallowing chunks of your day.

3. Set boundaries

If you find it hard to say no, you could try to set limits on your work time and pre-plan time for other activities.

Let people know when you will be off-line. Step away from your phone, turn off your work emails or go internet-free for a few hours.

Do you have someone who can share the load? Can you take the pressure off yourself and accept that good enough is okay?

4. Enjoy your work

‘Do what you love and love what you do’ is a great catchphrase and something to strive for. Most jobs can be tedious or stressful at times, but if you really hate your job or it’s making life impossible it might be time for a change.

Ask your employer about flexible work arrangements. See if you can move to a different team or retrain. You could set up a side-hustle for a few hours a week to try out a new way of making a living.

5. Review your finances

Do you really need a new car or laptop? Could you get some of the things you need second-hand? Can you manage in a smaller home? Can you ‘DIY’ parts of your home renovation? Can you bring lunch to work instead of relying on take away?

Maybe you are eligible for some government support.

Research shows that once our basic needs are met, a higher income does not necessarily lead to happiness. Spending less money could mean fewer work hours and more time to yourself.

6. Nurture relationships

Positive relationships and social support help build resilience and lead to more adaptive ways to cope with stress. Strong relationships take time to nurture and develop.

Prioritise quality time with your family, friends, neighbours and loved ones.

7. Focus on your health

Regular exercise is known to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

Make sure you get enough sleep at regular times.

Try to eat healthy food, drink alcohol in moderation and avoid illegal drugs.

8. Have down time

Taking time to rest and recharge is vital to help you succeed in what is important to you. Schedule regular time off for yourself each week to relax, read a book, play sport, spend time in nature or just do nothing. Choose any activity you enjoy.

Daily actions to improve your mental health

Research from MindSpot has shown that regularly performing five simple daily actions can improve your mental health.

Resources and support

Finding a healthy balance between work and personal life can be hard, but help is available.

Apps and tools to help manage stress and anxiety

People to talk to

  • Talk to your doctor, who can help you with mental health concerns.
  • Lifeline offers free telephone counselling 24 hours a day. Call 13 11 14. There is also online support and text support.
  • Beyond Blue provides free 24-hour telephone counselling (call 1300 22 4636) and online support.
  • MensLine offers free online counselling and 24-hour phone support on 1300 78 99 78.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Work-life balance | MensLine Australia

Tips on how to improve your work-life balance from MensLine Australia | Free professional phone & online counselling in Australia.

Read more on MensLine Australia website

Work-life balance: tips for your family | Raising Children Network

A good work-life balance is good for your children and good for you. It can even help prevent burnout at work. Here’s how to achieve work-life balance.

Read more on website

Child disability, mums & work-life balance | Raising Children Network

Watch this video to hear mums of children with disability talk about returning to work and finding a work-life balance. Mums also share practical tips.

Read more on website

Returning to work after having a baby | Raising Children Network

Returning to work after having a baby? Here’s what to expect when you return to work, with information and tips on child care, work-life balance and stress.

Read more on website

Some proven positive strategies can make the work-life juggle a little easier | Triple P

Keeping feelings about work and family separate is a key step. A positive plan helps too!

Read more on Triple P - Positive Parenting Program website

Work and family balance | Support For Fathers

Work and family balance. Support For Fathers, Fatherhood and Family Relationship Support. Relationships Australia Victoria RAV. Fatherhood Resources Library.

Read more on Support for Fathers website

Workplace mental health

Resources and information for better mental health at work.

Read more on SANE Australia website

NET Nurse - NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia

Being affected by NETs can be an extremely challenging experience, both for patients, and those supporting them

Read more on NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia website

Work-related stress - Better Health Channel

Work-related stress causes an increase in sick days and absenteeism, a higher turnover of staff and a drop in productivity.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Grieving - Older Australia - Community

When someone dies, we grieve the loss of the person. Even if the person was older and death was the natural end to their life, family and friends can experience grief and loss.

Read more on CareSearch website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.