Work-life balance is a fluffy term for a serious issue. It affects millions of people worldwide, draining motivation, damaging health, and sapping growth from businesses. To improve work-life balance, we first have to understand it. The phrase draws on a metaphor, positioning the modern worker as a kind of tightrope walker. Lean too far into work, and they fall into burnout. Lean too far into home life, and they fall out of job safety. A balance of both keeps them safely on the path to success. Of course, jobs aren’t really anything like tightropes, but if you lose you or your employees lose work-life balance, the consequences are all too real.
What Happens if You Don’t Improve Work-Life Balance for Employees
The term ‘burnout’ covers a range of symptoms, from bad to worse, suffered by employees with a poor work-life balance. These include:
Although it’s not exactly manual labour, too much office work takes a toll on the mind and the body. Staring at a screen all day, every day damages the eyes, leading to headaches, a lack of focus, and permanent vision problems. Sitting down motionless wreaks all kinds of havoc on the human body. From lumbar cramps to varicose veins and obesity, if a company fails to improve work-life balance, they damage their employees beyond repair. That’s without mentioning the psychological issues, from depression to addiction, that burnout can trigger.
Unbalanced Social Life
For businesses to grow, they must staff themselves with well-rounded employees. How can a company chat to investors, network with a partner, or close a sale, if their workers are all one-dimensional drones? That’s what happens if you don’t improve work-life balance. If overworking destroys an employee’s relationships, family life, and weekends, they have nothing to talk about and cannot connect with colleagues or stakeholders. This lack of balance threatens a workforce’s lives and livelihoods.
A business with poor work-life balance among its employees eventually sees workplace productivity stagnate. Burnout destroys focus, enthusiasm, and job satisfaction. This creates disillusioned employees, working for their next break rather than themselves, their career, and their company. If businesses fail to improve work-life balance, their employees ultimately tire of their jobs. This means that a competitor who fosters a better work-life balance can scoop up your best employees and profit from your mistakes. Churn diverts countless time and money, and it’s cheaper and healthier to focus on the cause rather than the symptoms and improve work-life balance for employees.
Ten Tips to Improve Work-Life Balance
1. Foster a Healthy Working Culture
We all want people to work hard and pull their weight. However, praising your employees when they overwork creates an unsustainable culture. Shouting someone out on a company-wide meeting for staying up until two AM to hit their deadline is a slippery slope. Instead, working out why the deadline wasn’t planned, shared, and completed ahead of time creates a forward-thinking and successful company.
2. Encourage Flexibility
Flexible working saved countless industries during the pandemic. However, it’s not a new practice; in fact, some of your junior workforce may not have even been born when the first companies started welcoming remote working. The global shift to remote working during lockdown showed that it can be done almost universally. When done right, remote working helps careers, and businesses, flourish. Many companies now welcome hybrid working, flexible hours, and remote colleagues.
These practices help expand your candidate pool and help retain existing employees by improving work-life balance. However, businesses must put the right infrastructure in place, like time and attendance systems that help workers clock in and keep track of their hours.
3. Create Breaks to Improve Work-Life Balance
Remember when a lunch hour used to last an actual hour? Many modern workplaces cut lunches short, force employees to clock out for them, or don’t account for breaks of any kind during the working day. Ultimately, employees take breaks anyway. The only difference is that some employers encourage these breaks while others rule them out. The former improves work-life balance, while the latter leads to resentment, guilt, and burnout.
4. Schedule Low-Pressure Activities into the Workflow
Some nations are already trialling four-day working weeks, and early signs suggest they actually boost productivity. Even in conventional schedules, including low-intensity tasks helps employees recharge, allowing their creativity to flourish. Scheduling things like structured brainstorming and learning and development help many successful businesses improve work-life balance no end.
5. Schedule Low-Pressure Activities Outside of the Workflow
Businesses can’t force employees to have fun outside of work. However, they can encourage it. Suggesting your employee’s schedule hobbies and activities as soon as work finishes helps create a solid boundary between the personal and the professional. That way, employees make the most of their time, sort their sleep schedule, and become well-rounded people.
6. Prioritise Goals Achieved, Not Time Spent
The best way to improve employees’ work-life balance is to set fixed expectations in advance and celebrate their progress towards those goals. When employers keep moving the goalposts, employees lose themselves chasing a disappearing horizon. Ultimately, everyone works best at different speeds and patterns. Employers who recognise this fact give their businesses and employees the best chance to succeed.
7. Zonal Remote Working
One way to create an effective line between work and rest is by encouraging a physical distance between living areas and the workstation. It’s not exactly a taxing commute, but if remote workers physically move to a spare room or home office to work, they create a similar ritual. This pairs nicely with other tactics, such as keeping work platforms off personal devices and taking breaks from screens outside work hours. Rituals like these help workers learn to fully switch on when they fire up their workstation and switch off when they finish, saving energy for the next shift.
8. Offer Health and Lifestyle Benefits
Healthcare incentives promote healthy, happy workers. Things like gym discounts, sports clubs, exercise courses, and mental health support give employees an outlet to improve work-life balance beyond the office.
9. Make Room for Employee Lives
We all know that work creeps into our personal lives, so we shouldn’t be surprised when personal issues get in the way of work. When employees work from home, they are bound to run into their housemates, partners, or children from time to time. For example, allowing a parent to carry out a school run during work hours, particularly if they make up the time later on, goes a long way to balancing their lives.
10. Communicate to Improve Work-Life Balance
Remote work can make employees feel isolated and helpless without the right support structure. Ensuring each employee has a regular 1-2-1 with a line manager helps relieve pressure and nip such issues in the bud. Smart scheduling and communications platforms like time and attendance systems can also support employees when they start to struggle.
Conclusions: Support Employees to Improve Work-Life Balance
People make businesses, and people aren’t perfect. The best way to improve work-life balance is by accepting that employees might slip towards one side or the other of the figurative tight rope. Once you accept this and learn to manage the slippages with evolving tools and tactics, you can help them back up to balance, and the business grows from strength to strength.