The term work-life balance can be misleading because it’s not about applying equal weights to each side of the equation. The truth is that work is a part of life, and the one constant between both work and life is one’s mental wellbeing and mindset. As such, the benefits of a work life balance are reaped and sowed by employers and employees together.
At the crux of it all, work-life balance is both a mindset and a practice. It’s achieved when an employee’s mental wellbeing is being properly taken care of and they can adequately manage (and compartmentalize) aspects of life (including work).
Let’s check out work-life balance tips for employees as well as wellbeing tools. We will also look at how to improve work-life balance so that you can promote these practices within your organisation.
What is Work-Life Balance?
There isn’t a set and universally accepted definition of work-life balance. Instead, everyone seems to make their own meaning of the term. However, there is a work-life balance theory that summarises the gist, namely: the promotion of a positive balance between work and home for employees.
Now, this doesn’t mean balancing it in terms of having a scale with equal time attributed to each side, because it’s not just about time.
The idea is that when people are able to balance their responsibilities between their work and home life (without burning out), they will be happier, more content, and ultimately, more productive.
The balance comes from leading a lifestyle that supports having a greater impact at work, but also at home (and in the world at large). In essence, it’s about being able to do so without sacrificing one’s happiness or peace of mind.
What is Work-Life Balance in the UK?
When it comes to work-life balance in the United Kingdom, the Mental Health Foundation reports that the demanding work culture is, “perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population.” According to a survey, 33% of employees are unhappy about how much time they devote to work and over 40% of respondents believe that they are neglecting other aspects of their life because of their job.
These statistics and outcomes indicate an important fact about work-life balance. When it’s non-existent or falling short, levels of anxiety, depression, and unhappiness soar. In turn, people neither feel satisfied at home nor in their job. Not only does this contribute to employee turnover, but it also leads to health impacts on employees (both mentally and physically).
The truth is that people aren’t meant to solely work. On the employer’s side, when HR and management realises (and prioritises) the importance of employees’ mental health and work-life balance, you can breed a company culture that supports the sought-after balance. In turn, you’ll benefit from having happier employees showing up to work, and they’ll be ready to do their best.
What are the Benefits of a Work-Life Balance?
When talking about and considering the benefits of a work-life balance, everyone involved wins. Since everyone benefits, you can understand that everyone also plays a role in making it happen.
Let’s review the benefits to both employees and employers.
What are the Benefits of a Work-Life Balance for Employees?
Employees who feel a sense of work-life balance are happier overall. But beyond this sense of happiness and balance, the benefits to employees include:
1. Less stress:
When employees feel a sense of control over their time, they can reduce their own stress levels. Oftentimes, stress comes from feeling a sense of overload or feeling a lack of control. To achieve this, employees must learn how to say no and create boundaries.
For example, if an employee is overloaded with work and cannot take on more, they should feel comfortable to communicate that. It’s up to an employer to be open to listening and caring about properly managing their team member’s workloads.
You can do so with regular check-ins. You can also gauge how your employees are doing by providing them with an employee wellbeing platform that lets them check-in with how they feel and use the tool for self-diagnosis purposes. Employers also get to monitor employee mood and see what is impacting performance.
2. Improved mental health:
When employees can balance their responsibilities, they can reduce their negative thoughts and emotions. Negativity, anxiety, and stress affects every aspect of one’s life, from work to home life.
People are more irritable, tired, and unfocused when they are going through a period of poor mental health. When people have time to both work and play (without being overwhelmed), they can better take care of their mental health.
3. Improved physical health:
One’s physical health is massively affected by one’s mental health. Positive mental health reduces stress levels (chronic stress negatively impacts the immune system thereby making a person more susceptible to illness), and can promote better sleep.
When mental health is managed, people have more energy to exercise, eat well, and perform optimally in all aspects of life.
4. Ability to be present:
When one’s thoughts are all over the place, they never get to actually be where they are, or what is considered as being present. In the workplace, it’s paramount for an employee to be focused and present to be effective.
At the same time, if a person is pushed to the edge, then even when they are supposed to be having fun and unwinding, their mind will be focused on the stress, negative thoughts, and anxiety that they feel. This creates a draining cycle that leads to burnout.
All of the above makes people feel happier and healthier. In turn, employees will show up to their jobs feeling motivated and productive, as opposed to bogged down, sick, and tired.
What are the Benefits of a Work-Life Balance for Business?
It goes without saying that if you have the choice between a satisfied workforce and an anxiety-ridden workforce, you’re choosing the former without even having to think about it.
But, let’s really break down why your employees’ mental health is so crucial to your business.
1. Time management and productivity:
Work-life balance is rooted in time management. Again, it doesn’t mean that employees spend equal time on their work and aspects outside of work. It means that employees know how to spend their time wisely, be present, and get the task done (whether at home or work).
Most organisations are realising that you don’t measure success or productivity based on time spent on a task. Instead, you can focus on the outcome and whether or not the goal has been reached. As more people work remotely, this is increasingly the case.
2. Higher engagement:
When employees have good physical and mental health, they show up and are present. This sense of being present translates into being engaged on the job.
Engaged employees are more productive and successful. They are personally invested in the outcomes of their labour, and as such, the business benefits. With an employee wellbeing platform, employees and employers can better understand employees’ emotions and work to improve their wellbeing by knowing what factors will and will not work in favor of boosting their state of mind.
3. Lower levels of absenteeism:
One of the biggest causes of absenteeism at work is mental health issues. Nearly 60% of employees surveyed attributed missing days at work because of ill health. Absenteeism is a big cost to businesses. In the UK, each absent employee costs the business an average of 500 pounds per year.
By properly helping employees take care of their mental health, you can reduce your expenses (whether it be covering a sick employee, costs of loss productivity, cost of health issues, etc.).
Employee wellbeing platforms can help promote a mentally (and in turn, physically) healthier workforce as they educate employees about the importance of mental health, how to increase their self awareness with it and how to better support themselves.
Additionally, employees get to report how they feel, and understand how to overcome hurdles. At the same time, employers have insight into how their teams are feeling and can take preventative measures to halt poor mental health from worsening.
Employees who feel positively supported at work and have employers who have clear boundaries to promote work-life balance will be less likely to look elsewhere for a job (therefore, you can increase employee retention when you prioritise your employees’ mental health).
How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance in the Workplace?
Clearly, the benefits of a work-life balance are highly valuable for everyone involved. But, as an employer, what exactly can you do to make this a reality?
The good news is, quite a lot.
Here are a few ways that you can create a work-life balance in the workplace:
1. Flexible Schedules
Flexible work schedules can include job sharing, part-time work, remote working, and flexi-time. When you offer this to employees, they are better able to manage their responsibilities outside of work. This can lead to feeling less stressed when at work, so they will show up more productive and focused.
2. Physical Health Incentives
If employees are spending hours commuting to your office and working late, they are likely lacking time to work out and take care of their physical health. Make sure that you establish boundaries and regular working hours so that your team can spend the time they need to take care of their physical health.
Exercise has also been proven to release endorphins, so it literally makes people happier (and reduces depression). If it’s possible to provide benefits like subsidised gym memberships or host exercise classes before or after work or at lunch, this could be a great perk.
3. Measures of Success
Instead of focusing on how much time your employees spend on tasks, shift the measurements of success and key performance indicators (KPIs) to effectiveness. This can be done by focusing on how an employee meets the expectations by evaluating if the work completed led to the desired outcome, rather then just if the job was done fast.
In the same vein, be sure to reward and recognise good work in a timely manner so that your employees feel valued.
4. Personalise and Support Mental Health Care
Each employee will view and achieve their work-life balance differently. Similarly, every employee’s mental health experience is personal. You can implement an employee wellbeing platform within your organisation so that each employee has a dedicated space to document how they feel, in and outside of work.
In many instances, people are so busy going through the motions that they are unaware of what’s causing them to feel stressed, anxious, or unhappy. With a wellbeing platform, employees get to take some time in their day to pause and reflect.
Awareness breeds empowerment, so that employees can start to link how they feel with the causes of what they feel. Within the platform, they can build their awareness and also access resources and whatever support systems that the organisation provides to improve their mental wellbeing.
Mastering the Balancing Act
In a survey, roughly one quarter of employees in the UK reported being unable to relax outside of work because they were stressed about work. This is the antithesis of having a work-life balance, and ultimately, these sentiments cause burnout and employee turnover. In more serious cases, these feelings contribute to poor mental health and physical ailments.
As an organisation, it’s within your power to support a work-life balance for your employees so that everyone gets to experience the benefits of a work-life balance.
Whether you choose to offer flexible work schedules, subsidise gym memberships, or any of the other suggestions above, you can use an employee wellbeing platform to track how your initiatives are working to improve and support your team’s mental wellbeing.
At the same time, an employee wellbeing platform can work to overcome challenges that arise from poor mental health, such as employee absenteeism, poor performance, and lack of motivation.