For some, work takes precedence over everything else. Although work may finish at 5 or 6, workers may feel it normal to continue beyond their established hours. And feel nothing about it eating into their evening or weekends. They are happy to sit over their computer and phone into the early morning hours, then grab a few hours of sleep to repeat the process the following day.
The dedication of your workers, the self-motivation and the desire to succeed are all applause-worthy, but not when it impacts your employee's well-being and work-life balance. Everyone needs a switch-off button from work. To work hard and then have the energy left to enjoy one's personal life.
As an employer, you have a responsibility for the health of your employees. Both morally and to help your teams deliver excellent work.
Employees who are healthy and in a positive state of mind ensure high productivity levels and achieve targets. So, this article will explore work-life balance and how your organization can help your employees achieve it. We will look at:
- What is work-life balance?
- What are the adverse effects if there is no work-life balance? As well as the positive outcomes for both your organization and employees if achieved.
- What steps can both your company and employees take to improve understanding and action ways to improve the work-life balance.
What does it mean when I say work-life balance?
It is the perfect balancing act. It divides an individual's hours within a day between career and personal life.
What are the causes of a poor work-life balance?
It could come from two directions. First, an increase in the amount of work one has to deal with, a new job or project, and the hours needed to tackle it.
Or through changes at home. Children, new relationships, family, care, responsibilities appear and require your focus and time. The time spent prioritizing one set of obligations can impact your achievement of a perfect balance between work and life.
What issues can be caused by a work-life imbalance?
Personal struggles affect work performance
So much of one's life is spent either in the office or commuting. For your employees, this can sometimes leave little time for life beyond work. Thus, impacting one's ability to participate in hobbies or things they enjoy or get energy from after work. Plus, rather than a time for recharging, the weekends are now solely to catch up on the tasks not done during the week.
This unhappiness because of the employee's inability to enjoy life outside of work can affect job satisfaction. Frustration at their situation, alongside fatigue, can impact motivation and hinder the employee's from delivering excellent work performance. Because of the overload, stressed workers may find it challenging to focus, think clearly, or make rational decisions. Thus, affecting their output and the businesses.
Overworked employees are unhealthy employees
The lack of balance and the work takeover of an employee's life can also affect their mental and physical health. Overwork and the inability to properly relax can lead to significant physical problems such as hypertension or digestive issues. Furthermore, burnt-out employees are 79% more likely to get heart disease than those that enjoy their job.
Moreover, a lack of a work-life balance can cause increased rates of depression and anxiety among employees. And the psychological and physical problems employees face cost between 125 and 190 billion dollars a year in US healthcare spending.
What are the benefits of achieving a work-life balance?
Happier and healthier employees
Ultimately, your workforce can achieve better control of their lives. They can balance the need to meet their work obligations with those away from the job. They can try the new hobby that they always wanted or spend more time with friends and family.
It will increase employees' levels of happiness, health and bring a better sense of balance within their universe. They are happy to come to work as they know that there's life beyond. Thus, making work less of a struggle and help find enjoyment in what they do and contribute.
Improved reputation as an organization
A desire to provide your employees with a better balance in life can increase positive buzz about your company. In addition, top tier candidates will start to hear about the level of support afforded to your workforce to help them achieve a work-life balance.
This is becoming a significant factor in candidates' thinking as they look for new roles. Especially among millennials who seek a healthier attitude towards working that may have been amiss among previous generations. And, with 75% of the global workforce set to consist of millennials by 2025, it is in your organization's interest to deliver a work-life balance that enriches your employees and your performances.
How to help your employees achieve an improved work-life balance
To achieve this balance, it needs both employer and employee to work in tandem. And understand both the problem causing the imbalance and how their behavior can amplify or improve it.
For employers, there are many things organizations can do to support their workforce in finding and maintaining a balance that is right for them:
Set a good example
Your employees look to you for guidance and set the tone within the office and outside of it. However, if you are sending emails at all hours of the day or on weekends, how are you helping to address your employee's poor work-life balance?
If anything, you are adding to the problem. It isn't allowing employees time to decompress and keeps them 'locked in' to work mode. This normalizes unhealthy working practices that can affect job satisfaction and the creation of poor work culture.
These types of unhealthy behavior contribute to employees feeling that they have to work late every day. And if they don't, they will be thought poorly of or could even lose their job. So, give yourselves and them a break!
A workplace culture that talks
Engage with your employees. A wall of silence won't address anything. 47% of workers have never been asked by their employer what would improve their working experience. Only 12% are asked regularly. If someone is struggling, an open door can help. And the knowledge that someone is there who wants to understand their situation.
Work shouldn't be a struggle, and you need employees who are in an excellent mental and physical place to deliver superior output. So, if you can help by listening to your employee's issues, discussing where they feel the pressure is coming from and how it is preventing work-life balance, you can help them take the proper steps forward to deal with the situation.
Understand the tell-tale signs of a poor work-life balance
As an employer, most of your working hours are spent dealing with people. As a result, you come to understand your teams and can sense the mood in the workplace. So, it is also vital to know the signs that your employees may be affected by a poor work-life balance.
These may include:
- Reduced quality of work
- Poor teamwork
- Low energy and drive
Sometimes, your focus will be elsewhere as an employer, so having people in your teams capable of detecting the signs is also essential. Invest in training and education about the subject that informs your teams about the symptoms of imbalance. In addition, employees may feel more comfortable speaking to 'one of their own', rather than a boss, which can be brought to you when your employees feel comfortable.
An equal distribution of work
Furthermore, you can also spend time reviewing the workload on your teams. By understanding what your team encounters daily, you can create more balance so that one worker is not doing the work of two or three. Which can help ensure your employees are not carrying a heavy burden, stressed or anxious about completing it all, and feel that they cannot leave work at a reasonable time to relax.
A fun work environment
Work shouldn't be soul-destroying. It would be wonderful if everyone were happy to come to work each day. This sense of enjoyment can help boost productivity and the retention of great staff. So, it is your responsibility to make this happen.
To help your employees with their work-life balance, encourage them to take breaks and holidays—things to look forward to and fill up their calendars with events and happy occasions. In addition, you could also look to introduce stress-relieving activities to break up the working day. For example, lunchtime exercise, Friday drinks or meals, or the opportunity to finish work earlier if the chance arises.
A happy working environment will help your employees. Work will feel like a better place to go to, being around their colleagues because of shared experiences, and less a chore to earn money.
The possibility of flexible or remote working
Today, developments in technology have reduced the importance of physical location to be able to work effectively. With this, employees are now seeking the opportunity to work from anywhere. And it is becoming a growing want among potential candidates, with flexibility at work one of the top factors influencing attraction and retention within organizations.
And in allowing your employees to work flexibly or remotely, you can help them achieve a better work-life balance. It can save them time on the commute and help them find the most optimal time to work. So, they can work with the right attitude and energy to deliver their best performance. Doing this can help reduce your employee's stress, boost job satisfaction, and create healthier working habits.
In addition, among businesses, employee productivity and how to maximize it has been a constant goal. The belief is that if you sit with work long enough, more is completed. But this is being replaced with prioritizing working smart, not long hours. No one enjoys feeling like you are chained to a computer for hours on end; it is not productive or healthy.
But now, with flexible or remote working, it allows your employees to work the way they want to work. Some feel more productive in the mornings, others in the evenings. Rather than counting the hours spent, your focus should be on the completion of tasks.
It is also crucial that when it comes to flexible work, just because your employees are at home, it doesn't mean they are always ON. Keep to your distinct start and endpoints of the working day; blurring the line won't help your employee's work-life balance but further damage it.
What employees can do to improve their work-life balance
And for employees, they should also consider:
A bit of self-reflection
Sometimes, to get to the root of a problem, you need to go inward. For example, employees should look at how they have been affected by work, bringing it home with them at the weekend or long hours, and its effect on their home life. Has it been causing them stress or affected their physical or mental health?
Your employees should think about what their priorities are. And with these in mind, what would need to change to create a better balance and do the things you love. Doing so can help reprioritize and begin conversations with those around you about any struggles you may be having.
Work can sometimes feel all-consuming. The emails won't stop, questions from everywhere, deadlines ramping up. And it's only Monday.
In these situations, use your time, work effectively and efficiently. And once work has finished, remember to unplug. It is vital to do this. Unwinding, taking space for other thoughts and people outside of the office or your computer can help you leave work at work and recharge yourself for the next day.
You can do this by:
- Sticking to your working hours. Sometimes granted, pressing deadlines or unexpected changes will require you to work later than expected, but that should not be every night.
- Turn off your work phone and emails when at home. It may be challenging to do, but this blurs the line between work and home, and when you should be relaxing, your head is elsewhere thinking of a conversation that could surely wait until tomorrow.
- When at home, take the time for yourself and your family. Find and do the things that make you happy, so you have something to look forward to beyond work.
How to achieve a better work-life balance
It is not a choice; you don't have to choose one or the other. Instead, you can have a lifestyle where you have a career that gives you purpose and meaning, with a fun social life that creates the connections and memories we crave.
But, you need to know how to balance it and have the flexibility to prioritize both aspects of life when needed. So, as an employer, you can help your employees do this by:
- Setting a positive example. If you walk the walk regarding work-life balance and promote its importance, your employees will follow.
- If an employee struggles to find balance, it is better to speak rather than bottle it up. Let them know you are here for support.
- Know the signs when someone has issues and assign team members to help keep an eye on and deal with problems effectively.
- Create a work environment that knows how to work and to have fun. And ensures everyone contributes equally to daily working life.
- Investigate the possibility of flexible or remote working initiatives. To help your employees work where they feel the most productive and comfortable.
- And for employees, understand what is important to you and be better at treating yourselves so that work is not everything, and things outside of your 9-5 can help you live life to the fullest.