Balancing Life Inside and Outside of Work

July 13, 2016 Katharina Lochner

image balancing life

4 Recommendations for Gaining Greater Work-Life Balance

When meeting new people often one of the first questions asked is “What do you do?”. Work plays an important role in many people’s lives and most of us identify with our job and the role we play in it. This is great since we spend a lot of our lifetime at work, so how bad would it be not to like what you do. However, this sometimes also makes it difficult to balance life inside and outside of work. Life outside work is important for health and well-being though, so how can we find the right balance?

In an article on Positive Psychology News author and cartoonist Sherif Arafa provides some ideas on how we can balance life inside and outside of work. One key factor, according to him, is to admit that we play different roles in our lives, some of them, like for example the manager role, we play at work, while others, like for example the mother, we play outside of work. He argues that one of the main problems when having difficulty granting life outside of work enough space is the fact that we assign higher importance to our work role than to the ones we play outside of work. In order to overcome this, he makes four recommendations:

Maintain social contacts outside of work. A lot of research indicates that social contacts are important for health and well-being. But according to Sherif Arafa it is not enough to have social contacts, he specifically recommends having them outside work so that it is easier to play a non work-related role.

Play different social roles. This might require thinking who we interact with – parents, siblings, partner, children, friends, acquaintances – and who we WANT to interact with. Social ties are important. An article by Ichiro Kawachi and Lisa F. Bergman gives an overview.

Reduce inter-role conflicts. This does not mean avoiding inter-role conflicts or deciding which role to play. Rather it means integrating different roles we play, sometimes even roles we might perceive as opposites. C. G. Jung considered the integration of opposites as an important part of the process of individuation, or the process of becoming a fully integrated personality.

The last recommendation is targeted towards employers: Give employees the opportunity to act out their different roles by making sure they take their vacation and go on sick leave when needed, but also grant them flexible working hours or the opportunity to work from home.

Balancing life inside and outside of work is important for performance at work and for happiness and well-being in general. The guidelines above might help achieve it!


Greenhaus, J. H., Collins, K. M., & Shaw, J. D. (2003). The relation between work–family balance and quality of life. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63(3), 510-531.

Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. F. (2001). Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban Health, 78(3), 458-467.

Sirgy, M. J., & Lee, D. J. (2015). Work-Life balance: A quality-of-life model. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 1-24.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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