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Third Spaces & Work-Life Balance

It will come as no surprise to the average Malaysian that many of us feel overworked. In research firm Kisi’s 2022 index on Work-Life Balance for example, Kuala Lumpur ranked 98th and gained the dubious honour of being the 3rd most overworked city. Additionally, in terms of happiness, Kisi’s index similarly ranked us as the 98th nation on their list, indicating that we also need to work on being happy in our lives.

While there may be many factors to being happy and achieving work-life balance, it is also true that small steps to achieve that balance can help improve the situation. As such, we must define what constitutes a life that sees a good portion of our time working on our personal life as well as our professional one. According to a UK-based entity, the Mental Health Foundation, achieving work-life balance is not so much about splitting time 50-50 between work and leisure, but also making sure you feel fulfilled and content in both areas. They proposed a few factors that will indicate whether a person has achieved this balance, including meeting deadlines at work while still having time for friends and family; having enough time to sleep well and eat healthy; and not worrying about work-related issues while at home.

For most of us, being able to reach a point where we don’t worry about work may seem a bit of a stretch; in today’s digital community, texts and Whatsapps about various problems at our jobs can be sent at the tap of a screen, thus delivering us troubling news in mere seconds. The trick here is to be able to pause and take the time to identify what stressors are present in your life and subsequently reprioritise. Then and only then will you be able to make the change to achieve the perfect balance between work and life.

In addition to this, Malaysians must also begin to recognise the value of having a third space, one that helps to draw a metaphorical line between work and home; this location will serve to rest your thoughts and your mind after a long day at the office, and to find time to do the activities that make you feel better both mentally and physically.

As mentioned before, a third space will be personal to each individual but ultimately they serve the same purpose: to act as a middle point, an intersection, between your personal and professional lives. Ideally, this third place is somewhere that you can foster personal growth, hang out with friends and loved ones, and celebrate life’s special moments. Holistic experiences, such as a location that improves your mental and physical wellbeing by offering services to pamper the body and mind are also welcome third spaces. Additionally, for those of us that don’t mind mixing a bit of work and play, the right third space can serve as a destination to meet business partners and colleagues in a setting outside of the often sterile workplace.

With 1 out of 2 Malaysians willing to quit their current jobs for a healthier work life balance as reported by Randstad, it is time for us to take a step back and to assess and rearrange our priorities, and to find a place that acts as our safe space between work and home, a location that facilitates meaningful connections and encourages productivity and creativity in our lives.

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