When you have a family and a full-time job, studying and taking classes can often feel like a daunting undertaking and leave you with little to no personal time. At OES, we offer flexible online courses so that our students, including mature students, can maintain a work-life balance.
Our courses are more convenient and flexible than in-person courses offered by traditional brick-and-mortar high schools in Ontario. When you take online courses at OES, you can choose to set your own pace.
Students with busy schedules can excel at our online courses and enjoy lifelong learning without having to neglect their other responsibilities at work, home, or elsewhere.
OES courses are designed to fit into your busy schedule, not the other way around. You don’t have to play hooky to drive your daughter to her dentist’s appointment. You don’t have to skip a shift to cram for an exam.
Here’s a look at what work-life balance means, and 7 ways OES students can ensure they achieve this balance and benefit from it while completing their online high school courses.
What Work-Life Balance Means
Work-life balance refers to having a healthy balance between work and life, and everything between. When students at a fully-accredited online high school in Ontario like OES have a healthy work-life balance, they’re fortunate enough to have the flexibility to find this balance.
Common roadblocks to achieving work-life balance include:
Work-to-family interference refers to when your obligations at work or school prevent you from satisfying your obligations at home with your family, perhaps because:
- You work or study long hours or lack a consistent work or study schedule
- Work or school-related stress or fatigue bleeds over into your life outside work or school
- You worry about work or school so much you feel as though you’re still at work or school when home
Family-to-work interference is when your family obligations prevent you from satisfying your obligations at work or school, perhaps because:
- You need to take care of a sick or ageing family member
- Family-related stress prevents you from paying sufficient attention at work or school
- Family obligations make you consistently late to work or school
Role overload is when the effort required to fulfill your family, work, and school obligations prevents you from fulfilling any of these obligations
OES courses are flexible enough for students, including mature students upgrading high school courses online, to juggle work, school, and family obligations without suffering from role overload.
Health Risks of Poor Work-Life Balance
Poor work-life balance can cause stress, burnout and be dangerous to your health. After all, stress can do serious damage to your mind, behaviour, and body.
Bodily effects of stress
Bodily effects of stress, especially frequent or chronic stress, include
- Premature ageing
- A weakened immune system
- Developing a long-term disability
- Muscle tension and pain, including chest pain
- Cardiovascular troubles, including increased risk of heart attack (chronic stress is as harmful as your heart as smoking five cigarettes a day)
- Nausea and upset stomach
- Respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of cancer, stroke, gum disease, and death
Mental health effects of stress:
- Depression and anxiety
- Sadness, loneliness, and alienation
- Mood swings
- Guilt, self-loathing, cynicism
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Anger and irritability
- Lack of motivation
- Decreased creativity
- Thoughts of suicide and suicidal fantasies (ideations)
Behavioural effects of stress:
- Substance abuse
- Social withdrawal
- Poor diet
- Overeating or undereating
- Loss of interest in self-care
- Decreased productivity
Clearly, stress is unhealthy, so it’s essential for students to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Unfortunately, it’s tough for busy students at traditional brick-and-mortar secondary schools to avoid role overload: these schools are designed to meet the needs of students with enough free time to treat school as a full-time job, not students with crowded calendars.
We don’t ask our students to prioritize their courses over their personal and professional lives. Instead, we give them enough time, resources, and attention to prioritize all three.
How OES Students Can Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance
OES courses are designed to enable Ontario students of all ages to maintain a healthy work-life balance. But there are things our students can do on their own to ensure they achieve this balance and benefit from it as much as they can.
If you’re a student at OES, you can achieve a healthy work-life balance while completing your online high school courses by:
- Examining your emotions
- Setting reasonable goals and avoiding perfectionism
- Creating a productive learning space at home
- Taking breaks
- Practicing self-care
1. Examine Your Emotions
Stress, including stress that’s induced by role overload, can prevent you not only from regulating your emotions, but also from examining them.
Stress is such a normal part of life in Ontario that many people who suffer from it don’t even realize they’re suffering. They’re too stressed to notice they’re stressed. But you can’t reduce your stress levels and maintain a healthy work-life balance until you’ve examined your emotions and figured out what sets you off.
If you’re a student who gets stressed during the days leading up to an exam, for instance, acknowledging your stress is healthier and ultimately more productive than pretending you feel totally fine. Only after acknowledging your stress and understanding how it works can you begin to lessen its force.
For the record, stress isn’t always your enemy. In moderation, cortisol—the body’s main stress hormone, created by its adrenal glands—can actually do you a lot of good. More specifically, eustress, otherwise known as the “good kind of stress,” can help you feel inspired and motivated to accomplish goals.
A large amount of stress, however, certainly won’t help you. By examining your emotions, you’ll be able to gauge your stress levels and figure out what and how to readjust.
To balance work, school, and personal or family responsibilities, you’ll probably have to reprioritize. That can mean, for instance, identifying what goals are most important to you and what’s getting in the way of achieving them, and how to change your daily schedule so you’re more productive with your time.
This may sound abstract, but the act of reprioritizing can be quite pragmatic and simple. Say you want in the same week to both write an essay that will earn you an A+ and organize your garage so you’ll have more room for storage. Identify what goal is more pressing and prioritize it over the other. You don’t have to do everything all at once.
3. Set Reasonable Goals and Avoid Perfectionism
When setting your goals, it’s also important to ensure they’re reasonable. Some perfectionist tendencies can be motivating, but too many perfectionist tendencies, like bad stress, can get in your way. Also, like bad stress, too many perfectionist tendencies can lead to a laundry list of clinical issues, including
- Chronic headaches
- Depression, anxiety, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, binge eating
- Bulimia, anorexia
- Early mortality
So, if you aim to write an A+ paper but only get an A, please don’t stress. You’re better off feeling satisfied with doing well than beating yourself up for not doing perfectly. Beating yourself up benefits no one, including you.
4. Create a Productive Learning Space at Home
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how essential having a dedicated workspace at home is for remote employees who value work-life balance. Having a dedicated study space at home is equally essential for students taking online courses. When you create a productive learning space at home, you enable yourself to separate home from school. You’re learning space becomes your school, as it were, while the rest of your home remains your home.
There are several things you could do to create a productive learning space at home. Ideally, you could convert an entire room into your study space. If that’s not possible, dedicating a nook in the corner of your living room—or even a portion of the dinner table—to studying can be an effective way to separate your role as a student from the other roles you play in life. What matters is that you treat one part of your home as your study and the rest of your home as your home.
If you’re fortunate enough to have an entire room you can use as your study space, don’t use that room for anything else. If you, like many people, need to use, say, a portion of the dinner table as your study space, pack all your materials away as soon as you’re done studying. Later, when you sit at the table for a meal, sit at a different spot.
Of course, what works for one student might not work for another. Just as there are different types of people—type A, type B, etc.—there are different types of learners. Generally speaking, however, creating a productive learning space at home is rarely a bad idea.
5. Take Breaks
You can’t achieve a healthy work-life balance without taking breaks, and you can’t maximize the time you spend studying if you don’t spend some of it off. That may sound counterintuitive, but the reality is that study breaks help you study smarter. Taking a 15 to 20-minute break every hour or so, for instance, primes you to absorb and retain more information and study more efficiently. It refreshes your brain without causing you to lose momentum.
Scrolling through social media doesn’t count as a break, as it doesn’t allow your brain to recharge very effectively. Instead of taking a break to scroll through your phone, consider:
- Taking a shower
- Listening to music
- Drawing, doodling, or journaling
- Meditating or practicing deep breathing
If the weather allows it, get outside and take a walk around the block. It’ll help you separate school from the rest of your life. Also, when you do return to your schoolwork, you’ll be more focused and creative.
It’s common knowledge that staring at screens all day isn’t exactly good for our eyes, brains, moods, and bodies. Screen time overload is a very real problem. Avoiding unnecessary screen time is essential for online students to maintain a work-life balance, especially students whose job requires them to stare at screens.
That’s why it’s so important that OES students unplug from time to time—including when they do schoolwork. Rather than taking notes for MHF4U online on a laptop, for instance, take notes by hand. Doing so will ease your eyes and refresh your brain while also helping you absorb more information.
7. Practise Self-Care
50 years ago, the term self-care was relegated to medical journals; medical professionals used it when discussing how their ill and injured patients could care for themselves without needing their help. Nowadays, however, the term is very much in vogue.
Still, it’s a term that’s commonly misunderstood. Self-care doesn’t mean self-involvement, self-absorption, or anything of the sort. Rather, it refers to the practice of monitoring and taking care of your well-being. People promote self-care because it helps them live all-around better lives. Employers promote self-care because workers who practice it are more productive.
To juggle all their responsibilities without suffering from role overload, OES students should care for themselves. Take a bath, cook a nice meal for yourself, get a haircut that makes you feel fresh—anything that makes you feel good and is not self-destructive can be a form of self-care.
The Bottom Line
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key to completing your online school courses online. OES is designed to promote a healthy work-life balance, and there are things our students can do on their own to fully leverage the way we’re designed. When you do, you’ll be able to avoid role overload. You’ll also likely do better in our classes than you would otherwise. How’s that for a win-win scenario?