Work-life balance is essential for every employee. Humans flourish when they are fulfilled in various life categories. No matter how passionate you are about your job, you can’t devote yourself to it single-mindedly. Burnout happens when you do the same thing repeatedly without a break.
How Does Work-Life Balance Help Employers?
Many workers don’t find work-life balance because it’s not something that their employers value. Bosses, managers, and supervisors have a mission to keep their businesses thriving. In their minds, keeping their employees focused on the task at hand is their primary objective. To accomplish their business goals, they might encourage employees to work overtime or take on more responsibilities than they’re used to.
This throws off those employees’ work-life balance. But does it support the company’s profitability and growth?
Making employees work harder, even if you reward them for their time and effort, doesn’t necessarily enhance their productivity. Working smarter produces positive results. Working harder doesn’t always deliver benefits.
People’s moods impact their behavior and productivity in the workplace more than organization, incentives or pressure. Employees who have a positive attitude and high satisfaction rate are more likely to produce good work for their companies.
What you do at work can keep your morale high. However, work-life balance is a major player in boosting your mood in the office. A survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board found that people who had excellent work-life balance worked 21 percent harder than those who didn’t.
The Effects of Poor Work-Life Balance
In a 2002 study, researchers found that poor work-life balance was associated with discontent at work, stress, turnover intentions and absenteeism. This research furthered the implications from a 1996 study, which demonstrated that people who struggled with work-life balance were at a higher risk of having depression, poor health, and unhealthy alcohol use behaviors.
Positive work-life balance doesn’t just make employees happier; it helps them perform better at work. From an employer’s perspective, this is exactly what they need to maintain an efficient workplace.
Ultimately, companies want their employees to be engaged. When workers have the flexibility to take care of their career and personal needs, they do more for the company.
However, many supervisors overlook the importance of work-life balance when they’re coming up with strategies for improvement. This may be changing, though.
According to a Gallup report, employee engagement leads to:
- Better customer engagement
- Higher productivity
- Fewer accidents
- Less turnover
- Better health outcomes for employees
- 21 percent higher profitability
Over the past few years, employee engagement has gone up. Gallup says that this is due to several factors, including an improvement in workplace benefits, such as:
- More vacation time
- Performance plans that enhance autonomy
- Recognition for accomplishments
- Better relationships with supervisors
This points to the fact that a better work-life balance produces employees that want to do well for their companies.
As an employer, how can you promote a better work-life balance for your employees? As someone who punches the clock, how can you make sure that your career doesn’t interfere with your family and your personal life doesn’t get in the way of your work?
If you’re an employee, you might wonder how you can achieve everything that you want while staying in the flow. How can you prevent overwhelm from interfering with your job performance? How can you take time for yourself and your loved ones while maintaining a good work ethic?
In this article, we discuss some examples of initiatives that can produce a better work-life balance.
Flexibility is Key
One of the most powerful elements in helping people achieve work-life balance is giving them choices. When you have the autonomy to make your own decisions, you know that your company values and trusts you.
Something that has dramatically enhanced flexibility for workers is technology. With mobile devices becoming more pervasive and easier to use, employees can work from anywhere. They can stay connected with their supervisors and colleagues. They’re no longer tied to their desks.
File sharing, voice messaging apps and productivity software make the office somewhat redundant. Because of this, employers are offering their staff more flexibility. Almost 4 million Americans work from home for at least 50 percent of their workweek.
Allowing people to telecommute means less overhead for the company. It may also improve employee productivity because it minimizes workplace distractions. Moreover, it gives workers a chance to take care of personal responsibilities during the workday. They can fold laundry while they’re on a conference call or figure out dinner while waiting for an email to come in.
But being more connected doesn’t necessarily make employees more balanced. If your supervisor can access you 24/7, you might feel even more tied to your work than ever. Can you relax while you’re on vacation? Do you leave your phone on your nightstand in case you get an emergency text about an important project during the night?
It’s essential to make sure that flexibility gives employees autonomy and doesn’t keep them tied to their work. When delivered the right way, flexibility can help employees find work-life balance.
Let’s take the example of a single parent. If her work schedule doesn’t coincide with the school day, she’ll have to spend extra money to hire someone to drop her kids off at school and pick them up. It can be frustrating to hand over hard-earned cash to pay someone to do a job that you could do yourself.
With more flexible work hours, that same mother could drive her children to school herself. She could work diligently while they were at school, pick them up at the end of the day and finish up her work at home while her kids did their homework.
Doing this would bring her more financial balance. It would also give her more time to be with her children without interfering with her job.
Not everyone works best from 9 to 5. For some people, peak hours of productivity happen from 6 am to noon. Others work best when they’re burning the midnight oil. A company that allows people to set their own hours encourages efficiency. It also lets people use their time wisely, engaging in other meaningful activities during the day or night.
Employer-Implemented Work-Life Initiatives
People have been talking about work-family initiatives in the workplace for decades. There are three basic types of work-life balance programs, which we discuss in more detail below.
Dependent Care Programs
Some of the earliest programs to help people find work-life balance were on-site childcare programs. These were instituted after World War II when more females worked because their spouses were fighting. After the war was over, though, many of these programs dissipated.
Still, in the 1970s and 1980s, firms returned to these programs. Some offered care for sick children or shared childcare services. Others provided care referral services to make life easier for parents.
Family Stress Programs
Employers that offer counseling help people achieve work-life balance. A family stress program gives employees a chance to develop a meaningful work-life balance. These programs don’t have to happen on-site. Many employers offer coverage or discounts for mental health services.
If you’re struggling to find work-life balance, working with a therapist or coach can help. When you have the tools and resources to cope with stress at work and at home, you will find balance in both environments.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Flextime became more popular in the 1990s. Some companies implemented shorter workweeks and job sharing to help ease work-family conflicts. Today, telecommuting is becoming more common than ever before.
According to some reports, people who work from home keep longer hours than those who go to the office. However, they enjoy their work time more. People are more fulfilled when they can control the time that they spend working. Therefore, flexible work arrangements are one of the keys to developing work-life balance.
Setting your own hours isn’t always possible, though. How can you be more flexible if you are forced to work a specific shift?
Some ideas for creating a flexible workday even in an environment that doesn’t offer much autonomy include:
- Exercising on your lunch break
- Taking 5 to 15 minutes to go outside a few times throughout the day
- Noticing your energy cycles and doing more challenging tasks when you’re more alert
- Negotiating a more flexible schedule
At least 50 percent of parents both work. Research shows that those parents may have the hardest time developing work-life balance. Forty percent of women say that being a parent makes it harder to succeed in their career. Twenty percent of men feel that way.
One of the reasons that it’s so challenging for parents to find work-life balance is that employers don’t always value family time. The U.S. is notorious for having terrible parental leave policies. It ranks last among developed nations regarding paid parental leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of medical leave. However, companies don’t have to pay their workers for the time off. Therefore, many parents come back to work within a few weeks of having a new baby.
They’re left juggling childcare and vital bonding time with a paycheck and their work schedule. Parental leave gives parents a chance to be active in their children’s lives. It encourages work-life balance. But it’s not always a feasible option for dual-income households.
Policies are changing, though. Many companies are trying to offer their employees better parental leave plans. It’s becoming more common for the non-birth parent to get paid time off after their partner has a child. This standard must change for parents to create more balance in their lives.
Ideal parental leave recommendations include:
- One year of time off, split between both parents, for infant health and well-being
- Six months for maternal well-being and health
- Nine to 12 months to improve the economic impact and have women return to the labor force feeling refreshed and productive
Sticking with the same position year after year can be stressful. Some jobs put more demands on employees than others. Plus, certain positions don’t leave much room for growth and learning.
Companies that allow their employees to change roles relatively frequently may promote better work-life balance. Businesses with a glass ceiling—that is, limited potential for upward movement—can be hard to work for if you don’t enjoy your duties and responsibilities. However, they may offer lateral opportunities that encourage employees to take on new roles periodically.
Examples of Things to Do at the Office to Improve Work-Life Balance
Achieving work-life balance can seem like a lofty goal. It seems like there is always so much to do and so little time. How do you manage to make healthy meals for your family when you don’t get home until 6 p.m.? Who has time to go to the store and slave over the stove at that time?
Work-life balance isn’t just a logistical issue, either. The inner turmoil that develops from trying to live meaningfully both at home and work can be stressful. Here are some examples of strategies for achieving work-life balance at the office.
Set Manageable Goals
You probably have to make a lot of decisions every day, especially if you’re a parent or head of a household. Even if you live alone, you have many responsibilities in your personal life and at work. If you don’t plan out your day, you can get hit with decision fatigue.
If you’re bombarded with choices throughout your day, each one becomes harder to make. You need to use executive functioning to make decisions—and do just about everything else at work. Doing this all day long can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Start your day with some planning. Better yet, set up your workday the night before so that you don’t have to make hard decisions first thing in the morning.
When your schedule is laid out for you, you don’t have to make many choices. You simply have to follow it. This frees up your brain to work on more complicated issues, such as coming up with creative ideas for your digital marketing strategy.
But even making your to-do list can be overwhelming if you don’t have goals. Keep a list of long-term objectives and break them down into smaller action steps. That way, you can make sure that your daily to-dos are congruent with your action steps and everything is leading up to the greater goal.
Make sure that your goals are achievable and your action steps are manageable. It’s ok to have lofty dreams, but you’ll get discouraged if you never realize them. Baby steps can help you move through life more easily and avoid getting stressed out by your potential.
Procrastination doesn’t help anyone. It may prevent you from doing your best. If your performance at work suffers, you may never achieve the promotion or recognition that you desire.
But procrastination also eats away at you, producing pressure that sticks with you after you’ve left the office. Make the most of your time at work so that you don’t have to think about it when you’re doing other things.
Some tips for being more efficient with your time at work include:
- Minimizing disruptions
- Avoiding meetings, which are notorious time-wasters
- Communicating with your team and supervisors about unnecessary routines
- Batch-processing emails only a few times a day
- Taking regular breaks so that you don’t become overwhelmed and crash
- Focus on finishing projects instead of leaving them hanging
If you’re not happy with an aspect of your job, do something about it. Letting it fester can affect your attitude at home and at work.
Instead of complaining, though, come up with a potential solution. That way, you can approach your colleagues with a plan for improving things.
When you’re feeling unhappy about something at work, try to look at it from a different point of view. Getting a sense of what your boss or peers think about it may help you come up with other strategies for dealing with it. Empathy will also improve your communication skills in the workplace.
Take Time Off
The average American employee only takes half of their allotted paid time off. About 10 percent of workers don’t take any paid time off. That’s like giving money back to your employer. Employees donate about $560 in work time to their employers. That’s no way to produce a positive work-life balance.
Research consistently shows that taking time off makes you more productive at work. Vacations improve morale and make you happier when you’re at the office. Plus, they allow you to spend quality time with your loved ones or connect with yourself without the daily pressures of work and life.
You don’t have to take an extravagant vacation to take advantage of your paid time off. Sleeping in and spending the day relaxing can be just as constructive as heading to the Bahamas.
Examples of Things to Do at Home to Enhance Work-Life Balance
The things that you do during your personal time can help you find harmony in your life. Finding fulfillment when you’re not working can make long days at the office easier to get through. Doing meaningful activities during your free time can make you feel more positive about taking time away from your friends and family to earn an income.
It’s hard to achieve work-life balance if your work never ends. Even though your boss can access you around the clock doesn’t mean that he should. Unless you agreed to be available 24/7 when you were hired, you should set some expectations for your accessibility.
Here are some other tips for leaving work at the office.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
When thoughts of work creep up on you over the weekends or while you’re on vacation, what usually happens? It’s easy for your mind to get caught up in the intrusive thoughts. When that happens, you’re not focused on the present moment. You can feel like all you think about is work if you don’t know how to let go of these stressful thoughts.
Relaxation techniques calm your central nervous system and reduce stress. Even something as simple as deep breathing can relax you when you’re feeling stressed out at work or home. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay in the present moment so that thoughts of work don’t invade your brain.
Develop a Transition Ritual
If you have trouble tuning out when you’re not at work, establish a ritual that delineates the transition between the office and your personal life. You might come home, shower and change your clothes. Another option is to use sage to remove negative energy from your space so that you can sink into your leisure time with pleasure. Feel free to experiment to find what works best for you.
Exercise on Your Days Off
Exercising boosts your mood by releasing neurotransmitters that make you motivated, energized and happy. It also relieves stress. Working out on your days off can release pent-up energy. Many people use exercise as a way to get into a zone and reduce stressful thoughts. Doing an activity that you enjoy can help you look forward to your days off.
Simplify Your Life
Decision fatigue permeates your personal life in much the same way as it complicates your work. If your closet and dresser drawers are overflowing with articles of clothing, you have to work harder to decide what to wear than if you maintain a minimalist wardrobe. If you go to bed at a different time every day, your brain has to make an extra effort to decide when to turn out the light. Even watching TV becomes exhausting as you make choices about what to watch and when to watch it.
- Keeping your house clean and organized
- Reducing the amount of clutter in your closets and cabinets
- Resisting the urge to overschedule activities
- Choosing to do only the things that make you feel good
- Limit the number of things on your to-do list
- Unsubscribe from emails
- Prep for work the night before
- Develop routines for tasks that you do every day
Fill and Empty Your Cup
Imagine that you’re a cup of water. You need to be able to share water with the people that you love. You can’t do that if your cup is empty. However, when your cup becomes so full that it’s overflowing, you could stand to get rid of some of the excess so that you don’t feel wasteful or overwhelmed. You need to know when to fill your cup and when to empty it out.
So many people spend their lives trying to please others that they neglect to focus on what’s important for them. They expend their energy caring for their kids, smoothing out their relationship with their spouse, volunteering at school, or picking up the phone to help a friend in crisis when they should be focusing on something else. Then, when it’s time to drink from their own cup, they realize that it’s empty.
You need to fill your cup before you can give your gifts to others. Spend time doing things that nourish you. It’s not selfish to focus on your needs first. If you’re not operating at optimal capacity, you won’t be able to effectively help others either.
Some ways to make sure that you’re filling your cup include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating nourishing foods
- Taking time to exercise
- Doing things that you’re passionate about
- Spending quality time with loved ones when you need connection
- Spending time alone when you need to
You also have to make sure that your cup doesn’t become too full. This usually happens when you say yes to more obligations than you can handle. Don’t overcommit. Learn how to say no so that you can fill your cup with your own priorities instead of someone else’s.
What Companies Promote Work-Life Balance?
There are many companies that foster work-life balance among their employees. The following businesses understand that happy employees are more engaged and productive:
- Cornerstone OnDemand – Offers unlimited vacation and perks such as on-site yoga classes
- Asana – Lets employees regulate their individual work schedules and offers free time to working parents
- Spanx – This female-dominant workplace prioritizes family needs
- Ignition One – Helps keep employees happy at the office by providing beer taps and game breaks; offers exchange programs for employees in different countries
- Tapingo – Offers organized happy hours to encourage staff members to socialize
If you don’t have a grasp on work-life balance, you might consider switching careers or working for a company that values its employees. If that’s not possible, finding time to express gratitude for what is working at home and work can help you focus on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.
Concentrating on what you love can bring more of it into your life. Paying attention to your passions also makes life more fulfilling all around.