Employees have a lot on their plates: work, family, friends, hobbies, commitments, volunteer work and more. They have relationships to maintain, children to care for and a job to do every day. All of this can add up quickly and lead to burnout and other signs of being overwhelmed with all of their responsibilities. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of this issue and doing more than ever to help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance instead.
Why is work-life balance important? And how are employers helping their employees achieve a healthy balance? We’ll walk you through why work-life balance matters and the best ways you can start helping your employees.
What Is Work-Life Balance, and Why Is It Important?
When most people think of work-life balance, they think of vacation time. Vacation time is a part of work-life balance, but it’s only one facet—work-life balance is a lot more. Work-life balance is simply the concept of knowing when to work and when to focus on life. Essentially, it’s focusing on work while working and the rest of your life when away from work—while making sure that both the work and the personal life happen.
Work-life balance can look different to many people, and that’s okay. For many people, a healthy work-life balance includes being able to put work away at the end of the day, spending the work day focusing on the tasks at hand and getting time away from work to recharge. A poor work-life balance might look like stressing about a problem at home all day at work until you’re unable to complete what you need to. Or it could be checking work notifications and stressing about a report while you’re out with your friends. A healthy balance would be the ability to separate these two and enjoy yourself when at home and focus at work while working.
What Is the Importance of Work-Life Balance?
A healthy work-life balance can be difficult to achieve—especially with the increase of working from home. It’s harder to put work aside at the end of the day when it’s right there in front of you, and it’s harder to focus on work with your home and family around you at the same time. But ultimately, work-life balance matters, and it’s worth putting time and effort into striking that healthy balance.
For an employee, work-life balance matters. A healthy balance can lead to many great benefits:
- Fewer health problems. Stress wreaks havoc on the body and can lead to some very real health problems that may affect an employee’s life. Basically, working too many hours can lead to worse health, which will mean employees feel poorly and have other issues. A healthy balance can help them stay healthier and feel better.
- Reduce burnout. Burnout is more than just feeling stressed around a deadline. Burnout is mental exhaustion that makes even simple tasks like clocking in or filling in a quick report mentally draining. A healthy work-life balance can reduce burnout and help employees feel happier and healthier at work.
- Increased mindfulness. Focusing on work at work and home at home can actually help employees be more mindful and practice mindfulness more often.
Work-life balance also matters for an employer or manager. When their employees have a healthy work-life balance, they also experience many benefits:
- Fewer missed work days. When employees are sick, struggling with their health or burned out, they tend to miss more work days—or they come to work but don’t achieve much while there. A healthy work-life balance reduces these kinds of days and instead makes it so the days employees take off are valuable.
- Less overtime. Overtime pay can be a big expense, but a good work-life balance can help reduce overtime. Instead of dealing with overtime complications, it’s more valuable to spend time improving work-life balance because it could help reduce overtime at the root.
- More engagement and productivity. The simple truth of the matter is that happy and healthy employees work better. They’re focused on their work during the work day, so they’re engaged with their work and productive. As an employer, you’ll love seeing your employees increasing their productivity and really getting things done in the workplace.
How to Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Since work-life balance matters so much, how do you achieve a healthy work-life balance? Unfortunately, there’s no magic secret sauce to make it happen instantly. Instead, work-life balance is more of a cyclical process of adapting, trying new things, and continuing to stay focused on the overall goal. A healthy work-life balance requires both the employer and employees to focus on cultivating it to really make it happen for everyone involved.
What can an employee do? These are some of the main ways an employee can work to achieve a healthy balance:
- Use vacation time. Those days off are incredibly valuable, and it’s important that employees take advantage of that time and use all of their vacation time.
- Attend events or programs. Many employers create programs or events for their employees to take a break from work and de-stress. But these programs only work if employees are taking advantage of them.
- Create work-from-home boundaries. Working from home can blend the lines between work and personal life more than almost anything else, so it’s important to institute boundaries. Keep work to one part of the house, schedule breaks to avoid getting distracted, create an area of quiet, etc.
- Take breaks. Working all day, everyday gets exhausting. Employees should be taking breaks throughout the day in a way that continues to help work get done but that provides the necessary mental break.
Tips to Improve Work-Life Balance as an Employer
While employees need to set their own boundaries and take advantage of resources, employers play a crucial role in cultivating a healthy work-life balance for the company as a whole. These are some tips for employers and managers to help improve work-life balance for their teams or company.
Encourage time off
Time off and breaks from work can be very important to de-stressing and avoiding burnout. Employees need breaks to disconnect and relax. It’ll make them more productive and better employees than working them constantly would. Most employers offer time off for this purpose. But sometimes offering time off isn’t enough; employees sometimes need an extra boost to use their time off. Many employees simply aren’t using their time off.
That’s why employers should be actively encouraging employees to take time off from work and use their vacation time. One great way to encourage time off is to actually implement a “use it or lose it” system. When employees can carry over vacation time or are financially rewarded for not using it, they’re going to avoid using vacation time. But if they lose the days if they don’t use them, they’ll use them. You can also encourage time off by encouraging employees to discuss their vacations, providing fun ideas of how to use time off, regularly telling employees in company meetings to use their time off, and many other ways.
Create short breaks
Breaks are important, and employees can do some breaks on their own, but employers can also provide valuable break structure. How can you create breaks? Companies may install a relaxing room with books or video games for employees to socialize. A separate break space can be a valuable tool for facilitating short breaks. Or they might hold in-office meditation sessions or other fun activities where employees can learn and spend time together. These types of breaks can really help employees take a break from working, re-energize and create a community in the workplace.
However it looks, employers should implement some type of formal break location or system to help ensure employees are taking breaks and reducing their stress.
Model a healthy balance
People typically do what they see other people do. So a team with a workaholic manager may be more likely to skew their own work-life balance. But a team with a manager that models a healthy balance is more likely to work on cultivating their own. Essentially, if you’re going to spend time encouraging a healthy work-life balance, you, as the manager or employer, should also be working toward cultivating that balance in your own life. Doing so both helps employees see how to do it, and it also makes your own encouragement feel more genuine.
Utilize fun programs and events
Community is important having a healthy work-life balance, so employers can often work toward creating community as a way to help their employees find balance. One way to do so is to utilize programs and events that encourage de-stressing and socialization. Creating exercise programs, holding educational evenings or breaks, holding quiz nights or creating a “Secret Santa” program can all be great ways to help employees to create connections—and to ultimately lower their stress levels and help them have more balance in their lives.
Talk with employees
Ultimately, employees may have their own ideas about how you could help cultivate a workplace with healthy balance. They will already know where they’re struggling and where they could use extra support. So talking with your employees and asking them about how you can provide support to cultivating a healthy balance is a great way to get started. You could ask employees during regular one-on-one interviews, send out a survey or create a panel to lead out. However it works best, talking with the employees can be beneficial.
Work-Life Balance: The Bottom Line
Work-life balance is important to keeping employees happy and healthy, and it’s important to creating the right kind of work environment you want at your company. Here at Teamraderie, we want to give you the resources to help your company cultivate a healthy work-life balance. To help you get started with improving your work-life balance, we’ve crafted a newsletter chock full of advice and tips to help you continue to help create a great culture at your company. Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips on cultivating a healthy work-life balance.