The idea of work-life balance suggests that there is a sort of perfect alignment between job and personal activities. Pithy sayings and Internet memes extoll the value of not working too hard - nor too little!
Yet, achieving that ideal state may be a nearly unattainable goal for many people with jobs where a distinct line between work time and not-working time simply doesn’t exist. From answering work emails on weekends to taking an hour off during the workweek to visit the dentist, many employees find that there is, at most, a very fuzzy gray line between work and personal.
The pandemic exacerbated an already-existing issue further. As droves of employees began to work remotely, the physical element of work (their office) became ever-present in their homes.
But research shows that employees who have a healthy work-life balance are more productive, engaged, and less likely to experience burnout. Employers who support work-life balance are more likely to attract and retain top talent.
"...work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one's career and the demands of one's personal life."
~ Marissa Sanfilippo, Business News Daily
The Benefits of Helping Employees Improve Work-Life Balance
Having a good balance in life is obviously beneficial to employees, and to employers.
The Surprising benefits of Work-Life Support. Companies that provide support for work/life balance not only improve productivity and reduce turnover but also enhance employees' mental and physical health. These programs have also been found to boost an organization's diversity, making them even more effective than popular racial equity programs in increasing diversity among managers.
Work-Life Balance Is A Cycle, Not an Achievement. Overcoming the tendency to overwork leads to a healthier work-life balance, which in turn brings benefits to both employees and their companies. Achieving this balance involves a cycle of increasing awareness, conscious reprioritizing, and implementing changes, thus bringing about lasting change in the work culture.
- How is Work-Life Balance Arrangement Associated with Organizational Performance? A meta-analysis shows a positive relationship between work-life balance arrangements and organizational performance. The study finds that career motivation, employee attendance, employee recruitment, and employee retention are significantly associated with work-life balance arrangements, underlining their importance for improving organizational performance.
How Companies Can Improve Employee Work-Life Balance
As one half of the work-life balance equation, employers can help their employees in a number of ways. One is to work with their employee assistance program to develop a company culture that has workplace policies and practices that support work-life balance.
9 important steps to improve work-life balance:
Ask Employees What They Need. Balance means different things to different people. It is important to understand what will make employees satisfied that they can achieve a desired level of work versus personal.
Offer Flexible Work Arrangements. Flexible work arrangements are one of the best ways to improve work-life balance. This could include flextime, telecommuting, or compressed workweeks. Flexible work arrangements allow employees to better manage their time and responsibilities, and they can help to reduce stress.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends that employers allow optional long-term remote work, noting that the pandemic has proven that it is “a viable option for companies and a huge benefit for many employees.”
- Provide Paid Time Off. Paid time off is another important way to improve work-life balance. Employees need time to relax and recharge, and they need time to spend with their families and friends. Paid time off can help to ensure that employees have the time they need to do these things.
- Support Employee Wellness Programs. Employee wellness programs can help employees to improve their physical and mental health. This can lead to a better work-life balance, as employees will be better able to cope with stress and other challenges.
- Create a Culture of Trust and Respect. Employees need to feel comfortable taking time off when they need it, and they need to feel that their work is valued. A culture of trust and respect can help to create a more positive work environment, which can lead to a better work-life balance.
- Be Clear About Expectations. Employees need to know what is expected of them in terms of hours, deadlines, and deliverables. This will help them to better manage their time and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Encourage Employees to Take Breaks. Taking breaks throughout the day is important for both physical and mental health. Encourage employees to take short breaks throughout the day, such as getting up and moving around, stepping outside for some fresh air, or taking a few minutes to relax and clear their heads.
- Promote a Healthy Work Environment. A healthy work environment is one that is free from stress and harassment. Employees need to feel comfortable at work, and they need to feel like they are valued. A healthy work environment can help to improve work-life balance.
- Teach Managers to Model Work-Life Balance. Employees who see managers prioritize their own work-life balance will feel much more inclined to follow suit.
In addition to the steps outlined above, there are any number of other things companies can do to improve work-life balance for their employees. For example, companies can:
- Provide on-site childcare
- Offer mental health resources
- Sponsor employee resource groups
- Encourage employees to take advantage of well-being programs
By taking these steps, companies can create a more supportive work environment that helps employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.
What Can Employees Do?
While employers can implement policies and encourage practices that improve work-life balance, employees can also do a number of things on their own.
For starters, they can advocate for better policies with their employer. Sharing not only personal concerns but also research that supports a more supportive working environment can be the impetus for change in the workplace.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Strive for a realistic schedule, recognizing that there is no such thing as “perfect.”
- Find a job that you are passionate about.
- Take time to unwind and unplug.
- Use your vacation time.
- Plan for personal time with loved ones.
- Set boundaries, including working hours.
- Implement time-management strategies and cut out tasks that have little value.
Work-Life Balance Benefits Everyone
Work-life balance is an important issue for both employees and employers. By taking steps to improve work-life balance, employees can reduce stress and companies can create a more productive and engaged workforce. This can lead to increased profits and a better bottom line.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit https://ulliance.com/ or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
Have some questions about our services? Book a quick meeting below!
6 Ways to Improve Employee Work-Life Balance, Emily Heaslip, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
8 Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance for Employees, Alex Nguyen, WebMD Health Services
How Is Work-Life Balance Arrangement, Associated with Organizational Performance? A Meta-Analysis, Kapo Wong, Alan H. S. Chan, and Pei-Lee Teh, National Library of Medicine
The Most Important Ways Companies Can Improve Work-Life Balance, Natalia Peart, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliapeart/2020/11/06/the-most-important-ways-companies-can-improve-work-life-balance/?sh=3c47c51f79a9
The Surprising Benefits of Work/Life Support, Alexandra Kalev and Frank Dobbin, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2022/09/the-surprising-benefits-of-work-life-support
Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement, Ioana Lupu and Mayra Ruiz-Castro, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2021/01/work-life-balance-is-a-cycle-not-an-achievement