In the 1980s, the term work-life balance entered the forefront due to The Women’s Liberation Movement and is still at the top of mind for employers and employees alike. When it comes to knowing how to improve work life balance for everybody within your organisation, there are ways to help your employees manage their time better, reduce stress levels, and prevent burnout.
At the core of it all sits mental wellbeing and mental fitness, so we will see how employee wellbeing tools can be of great support to employees within businesses of any size.
What is a Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is often defined as a tradeoff between career demands and personal life demands. For every person, the idea of a healthy work-life balance may be different because work demands and personal demands vary greatly.
However, the idea remains the same: people who have a steady work-life balance are able to efficiently allocate their time, fulfill their personal and work duties, feel engaged at work and at home, and achieve an overall sense of contentment.
When one’s work-life balance feels out of kilter, they might feel overwhelmed at work while they focus their mind on everything they have to get done outside of work, and vice versa.
On the other hand, when work-life balance is intact, then employees feel engaged on the job and ready to tackle challenges. When faced with a problem, they can approach it with a clear head.
Ultimately, having a healthy work-life balance promotes mental fitness allowing people to thrive and be at their best. There are employee wellbeing tools that give employees the time and space to reflect upon how they are feeling and make note of their mood. As well as reflection, employee wellbeing tools come equipped with educational learning journeys and mental exercises that are geared towards boosting one’s resilience and overall mental fitness.
This way, employees can begin to see patterns and notice how outside factors affect their mental wellbeing over time. And, employers gain insights so that they can properly support their employees when needed.
What are the Benefits of a Work Life Balance?
While a work-life balance may seem like a personal feat to accomplish, the truth is that employers play a big role in this balance.
Let’s take a look at why should you care about the ways to improve work life balance:
1. Better Health
When people are overworked, their overall health suffers. They may feel fatigued, which can lead to making mistakes, which not only affects their overall confidence on the job, but can also result in negative consequences for the business.
Stress has immensely detrimental consequences on the body, from weight gain to insomnia and more, so if an employee feels stressed as a result of work, it is likely to then have a harmful impact on their personal life too.
When people are lacking time to spend with family and friends, their relationships may also suffer, which can cause a sense of alienation and loneliness.
These sentiments all create a vicious cycle, so it’s of great use for employees to be aware of these emotions when they are occurring so they can proactively take steps to attain balance.
2. Increased Productivity
When employees feel like they have a healthy work-life balance and are supported in different aspects of their life, they tend to show up more engaged and motivated. Self-motivation is a primary contender that helps to reduce employee turnover and employee absenteeism.
3. Less Burnout
When job environments are unsupportive of employees’ needs, they may end up burning out. Burnout can result from feeling a loss of control, working too much with unrealistic expectations, and feeling undervalued on the job.
Instead, employers can offer emotional support and make employees feel recognised and rewarded for their efforts. This plays into achieving a work-life balance. For example, you can reward employees with extra time off, or a gift card for an experience that relieves stress, such as a spa day or family fun day.
4. Greater Mindfulness
Mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with being aware and present. With a healthy work-life balance, people are able to engage with whatever they are doing when they are doing it, rather than having to chase their thoughts that are elsewhere. The ability to be present and aware contributes to owning one’s own sense of self and the ability to show up authentically in every aspect of one’s life.
With this ability, employees are more productive, engaged, and happy when they are working, as well as when they are taking time for themselves.
What are the Causes of Poor Work Life Balance?
For every person, a poor work-life balance can stem from different causes. However, there’s a list of common culprits.
- Taking on more responsibility at work
- Unrealistic workload
- Under resourced teams
- Increased responsibilities outside of work
- Inflexible work schedule with long hours
- Imbalance in socio, bio, psycho and spiritual pillars (See LUME App)
How to Improve Work Life Balance?
So, how can employers play their part to improve work life balance on behalf of their team members?
Well, while a lot of it does come down to each individual’s actions and choices, the environment that you foster at work is a big half of the equation.
When you are in support and prioritie your employees’ mental wellbeing, then you are indicating that you are in support of work-life balance and realise its importance.
The way in which you devise policies, provide resources like employee wellbeing platforms, and allow for open communication is just a start.
Let’s take a look at some suggestions that both employers and employees can try out.
1. “No” is Not a Negative
If an employee is being asked to do too much and they feel overwhelmed, they should know that it’s okay to be honest and share that they are at their limit. It’s a soft skill that many feel afraid to use, but it can make all the difference to be able to prioritise and manage tasks efficiently.
2. Breaks are Necessary
While focusing for extended periods of time is required to get work done, the importance of taking breaks cannot go unnoticed. Breaks help people reset, reduce stress, and enjoy what they are doing more. Allow for breaks in your workplace without scolding employees for taking or needing them.
3. Taking Lunch Breaks
Set an example and take lunch breaks so that employees feel encouraged to take them too. This means that they shouldn’t be sitting behind their computer screen, chowing down on a sandwich, while still typing away. Encourage your team members to get up and grab a bite, socialise with co-workers, and enjoy their meal.
4. Allow for Flexibility
Many employers are allowing for flexible work schedules and/or remote work these days. Empower your team to feel trusted to come up with creative options to better balance their work and life.
5. Focus on Health
Health consists of physical and mental components, so just like you want to encourage employees to take control of their physical fitness, their mental fitness is also a priority.
Just like you may provide subsidized gym memberships or perks like yoga and meditation, you can positively impact your team member’s mental wellbeing.
For example, you can provide access to an employee wellbeing tool, which can help employees take control of their own mental fitness.
6. Allow Self Compassion
Many people who are perfectionists run the risk of burning out and suffering from stress and anxiety. On the employer side, be sure to remind your team that mistakes are human and while you want to strive for greatness, perfection is not the goal.
That’s why it’s also of great value to recognise and reward employees based on their efforts and commitment , as opposed to focussing solely on the outcomes. Remind employees - particularly the perfectionists amongst the team, to focus on the 95% of brilliance they are contributing to and not to get hung up on the 5% which could be improved.
7. Set Boundaries
With more flexible work hours and remote workers, it may be hard for your employees to unplug and separate work duties from their home duties when they occur in the same physical environment.
One thing that employers can do is set up procedures for check-ins rather than micromanaging and contacting employers beyond typical work hours. Read this guide for how to maximise autonomy at work.
8. The Value of Relationships
Humans are social creatures, which means that investing time in relationships (both at work and outside of work) can make all the difference in happiness levels. On the employer side, find ways to bring teams and departments together through team-building exercises.
This way, colleagues can strengthen and develop their colleague relationships which will allow them to work even better together.
9. Develop a Supportive Workplace
When it comes to attracting talent that is a culture fit and hiring right, a lot of it has to do with how you develop processes and policies that support a work-life balance.
For example, providing paid time off, adequate healthcare, and recognising employee effort are just the basics. You’ll also want to foster a space where employees feel safe to express their needs and feel heard when they do so.
10. Prioritise Mental Health
A workplace that prioritises mental health and awareness enables individuals to care for their own mental wellbeing. Employees should feel okay to unplug after a day of work without the fear of missing a late task assignment.
They should know that their paid-time off is intended to be used, and that when they do take time off, they aren’t expected to still be checking in on work.
When it comes to work-life balance, it’s not only a practice, but it is also a mindset. Work life balance truly does impact postively on productivity. Employers that show that they care about their team’s mental health and find ways to support it at work and outside of work set an example for employees to do the same.
We really like this simple graphic which Liz Fosslien created and was recently shared by Corporate Rebels on their LinkedIn page.
How a Flexible Workforce Changes Work Life Balance
In many instances, employees who feel like they’ve achieved a healthy and happy work-life balance attribute it to flexible and hybrid working. This means that employers seek to provide opportunities to work differently, and where it suits the organisation, encourage employees to manage their workload in a way that suits them.
The reason why this is so impactful is because employees are operating with a greater level of autonomy and control over their time. For example, if they get to work from home, that cuts commute time, which can go towards fulfilling home duties or even getting started working earlier in the day to end earlier.
Flexibility is a benefit to both employees and employers because when employees are able to better manage their own time and productivity, they are happier, more engaged, and more motivated.
A major way that employers can gauge whether this setup works is to try it out and focus on what’s getting done. If employees are still meeting their expectations and responsibilities, then it should matter less where and when the work gets done, and more that the employees are fulfilling their duties and happy while doing so.
How Can Managers Better Support Employees?
Managers that are seeking to offer better support to their employees can do so by:
- Knowing employees’ needs: Talk to employees to understand their unique situations. Since work-life balance can be different for everyone, you can find out what your team members’ needs and desires are to find ways to support them. For example, some employees may wish to work from home a few days a week, whereas others may want to start earlier and end their work day earlier.
- Communicate clearly: Be sure to share what resources are available to employees that are geared towards improving their work-life balance. This includes sharing parental leave options, employee wellbeing resources, perks of the job, and the like.
- Be a role model: If you want your employees to feel okay unplugging at the end of the work day, don’t send emails after work hours. Set boundaries so that they feel enabled to do the same.
How Companies Can Improve Work Life Balance?
Companies often have more power than they think when it comes to knowing how to improve work life balance.
At the top of the list for reasons why people suffer from mental health issues sits overwhelming and increasingly demanding work cultures. Workplaces can alleviate these strains and pressure by:
- Encouraging breaks
- Offering flexible work schedules
- Promoting open communication and the right to say no
- Supporting stress relief like exercise programs, yoga, mediation, and more
- Communicating directly with employees to learn what would help improve work life balance
- Implementing employee wellbeing tools that allow employees to document, track, and support their own mental health and access resources that aid in doing so
- Assessing workloads to make sure they are reasonable
- Providing increased pay, rewards, or recognition when workloads are increased
There’s a Balance to Be Had
Being able to improve work life balance is both the responsibility of the employer and the employee, but one key fundamental supporting it is investment in mental wellbeing.
Rather than employees feeling like they need to live to work, they should be able to work to live. This is achievable when employee wellbeing is at the heart of organisations' focus to support peoples’ time, needs, and overall health (both physical and mental).