16 January 2019

I believe having a life in balance is crucial, not only for your health and wellbeing but also for success in any chosen pathway.

About the author:

Robbie Hunter-Paul is a former professional rugby player; playing 19 seasons and representing his country, New Zealand, 29 times. Robbie graduated from Huddersfield University with a BA in marketing and pr. Never one to back down from a challenge, in 2016 Robbie launched his own company: Xtra Mile Marketing and is an official ambassador for Rugby League Cares.

Over the course of a professional rugby career that spanned 19 seasons I was blessed to be coached by some of the greatest names in the game. One coach, Matthew Elliot who enjoyed great success both in the UK (Super League winner) and Australia’s NRL competition, also believed in balance.

ROBBIE PAUL2I remember one season with Matthew as coach when we had enjoyed a great deal of success, a bi-product of which was the inevitable celebrations that went with it. We were entering the most important part of the season (the play-offs to the final) and as a team we were running the risk of letting the celebrations and social side of the game subvert our professionalism.

Matthew believed in self-policing, so decided to give us some food for thought. Before one training session, to make a point, he placed three pint glasses in front of us, filling each one to about half-full with water.

He explained that each glass represented the important areas in our lives, or that which takes up the greatest time and mental & physical energy: one glass each to represent family, rugby and social/leisure. With all three glasses half-filled he explained that the water was all of the time and energy we have and that it was finite and that at the moment the glasses were in balance.MATTHEW ELLIOTT4

Pouring all the water from the rugby and the family glasses into the social pint glass led to the two glasses being empty and the social glass overflowing and making a mess. He went on to say that as a group we were running the risk of our family and rugby aspects of our lives suffering at the hands of our social lives. This impressed upon us how much mess the overfilled social glass has made, and also to consider what was really important to us. 

The point he was making is that to be happy in life and productive at work, there needs to be balance. Too much of one aspect, and the others suffer. In the hyper-masculine world of pro rugby, some of the more stoic players kind of sniggered at the visual metaphor but to this day every single player I catch up with still remembers that meeting and its message. It hit us on an emotional level and the point became sticky: we all understood, and still understand, that for everything to work in synergy we need the right balance.

Work-Life Balance helped us as players to be happier, and when you are happy you become more productive: this ultimately leads to you being successful. We listened to what Matthew said that day, took the foot off the social pedal, applied it more to the rugby and family ones, and we won the Super League that year. Cheers Matty!


Looking for a mental fitness programme for your business? Learn about Offload here


In this blog we pull apart what work-life balance means, both personally and in the workplace. We look at some frightening statistics that you will probably identify with, as well as describing how the Offload programme can help support your workforce. The areas covered in this blog are:

  • Work-life balance, the UK Stats and facts

  • What is work life balance?

  • Why is the work-life balance important in the work place?

  • The ‘Offload’ option to finding balance


Let’s take a ‘load off’ and get straight into them.

UK Stats and facts

The statistics surrounding mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and work-life balance may shock many readers: it is suggested it is costing the UK an estimated £70 billion per year in lost revenue. 

Statistics show that 74% of people in a 2018 survey felt overwhelmed and unable to cope due to stress in the workplace, leading to 34% of respondents having suicidal feelings as a result. 

The work-life balance may be at the heart of this dilemma as recent research suggests that nearly 50% of people believe they are being over-worked.

It is also reported that the UK has the longest working week in Europe with most working in excess of a 50-hour working week. On average, the UK workforce will work an extra 325 hours longer per year than their German counterparts (roughly nine extra weeks).


FREE 'Five Ways to Wellbeing' Infographic download


Its impact!

Further findings show that although the working duration is longer, the productivity is significantly lower in the UK than some other countries. The French average productivity score over four days exceeds what an average UK worker will achieve in five.

This longer working culture is having a detrimental effect on motivation, turnover and absence levels, with reports of 40 per cent of mental health related absence linked to work and an average cost per employee of £554 in 2015. 


What is work-life balance? 

Work-life balance is how we divide our time between the three main areas of life: work, family and leisure. These areas help us to find happiness, fulfilment and productivity. A correct work life balance is something we should strive to achieve as a person, business and as workforce.

It will help if within this three-point dynamic you can tie in a career that you enjoy and that offers a sense of purpose and identity. It’s said you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends, and that friends often operate as surrogate family members offering support for our emotional needs. It is equally as important to remember your physical needs, so identifying leisure activities that keep you healthy in mind, body and spirit.

The challenge is to find the correct amount of time and energy needed to invest into each. Too much time on work and you will burn out, or neglect loved ones; too much on your home and leisure activities and you might not fulfil your job requirements etc. Get the picture?’ 


Why is the work-life balance important in the work place?

As outlined earlier, the UK is overworked and this situation is having a detrimental effect on national productivity. We all know that when we are fresh and fired up we are more focused and productive. Too many hours slogging away and not refreshing and replenishing your mind and approach to work inhibits your output, creativity and ability to problem solve.

Someone with better work-life balance will inevitably be happier. Enjoying life in all its areas is what we should strive for. We have a limited amount of time on the planet so making sure we can enjoy it as much as possible will help us reach our potential. Being a happier person will also rub off on our work colleagues. People like to work with people who make them feel better about themselves and what they are doing. So, investing time away from work might help make the job run smoother and more fruitfully.

What most businesses want is having the right people working in the rights seats (job roles) on the work bus (business) with that bus headed in the right direction (strategy). If a better work-life balance allows you to be more productive and people enjoy working together then synergy is created, allowing output to become greater than the sum of its parts. This is the utopia for all businesses. 


The ‘Offload’ option to finding balance 

As with most things in life, we often don’t realise we need to find a better solution for a problem until something goes wrong. Growing up at school there wasn’t a class on work-life balance. We’ve all heard of the term before but not many of us have actually given it much thought.

Rugby League Cares’s Offload programme was created from tools and skills used by elite athletes to help them deal with the pressure of life as a professional sportsman: pressure that comes from areas such as media exposure, a competitive environment and, most importantly, self-driven pressure.

As it leans heavily on the experiences of high-performing competitors, Offload now uses ex-professional sportsman and associated experts to deliver support and education on work-life balance in the workplace.  

The programme aims to work with staff to coach them on work-life balance, its practical uses and techniques for implementation.

They will work with participants to set goals based on the five ways to mental health and wellbeing. Explore using a SMART approach to target setting and planning work-life balance.

Further tips and tools will be discussed and explored like:

  • The importance of discussion and talking;
  • The value of keeping a work-life balance log;
  • Exploring relaxation to avoid the ‘always on’ (work) mindset;
  • Using mindfulness approach;
  • The importance of physical fitness;
  • The importance of nutrition;
    • What to avoid and use in moderation;
  • The importance of sleep.


Find out more about Offload


Rugby League Cares has found a great working model to help businesses support their workforce and educate them on a number of specific mental fitness and wellbeing areas.

For many it starts with the work-life balance and many participants will come away with a new understanding of how to approach their own mental fitness in the work place which they will be able to use in every aspect of their lives.


If you are struggling or know someone who might need support urgently click here for extra resources from Rugby League Cares.