The Importance of Work-Life Balance
Employee wellbeing is dependent on a healthy work-life balance. If you’re an employer, it’s on you to communicate that work-life balance is important and something you value. You must set up systems and procedures that empower employees to embrace flexibility at work.
The bottom line is happy workers are more productive. So, promoting increased employee awareness of a healthy work-life balance makes business sense.
(It’s also just generally a nice thing to do to discourage unhealthy relationships with work!) 👍
But, let’s unpack this a bit further. How do we explain the importance of work-life balance? What is the evidence to back this up? How has the rise of remote work affected work-life balance?
Let’s dive in!
The Importance of Work-Life Balance: What Do the Stats Say?
Finding work-life balance means reaching a happy medium between work and your life outside it. The crux of the issue is managing your time. Employees want to work well without compromising family time, hobbies, relaxation, sleep, and everything else that makes up life outside work. 💤🎾👪📺🧘
Yet, it seems Australia has an issue with work-life balance. According to an OECD survey, Australia has a poorer work-life balance than the US, the UK, and many other leading economies.
The result of long hours is often counterintuitive. Those who work long hours often feel their workplace performance plummets.
They report reduced productivity and reduced engagement levels. Furthermore, once we get past the consequences for the business, we need to consider the adverse effects of busy work schedules on employee mental health.
In a recent survey of Australian workers, some 50% of prime-aged workers feel exhausted. The same survey found about 40% reported feeling less motivated about their work than pre-pandemic. 33% found it more difficult to concentrate at work because of responsibilities outside of work.
The Fair Work Act recommends a 38-hour work week for exactly this reason. Anything more than 38 hours, and you start to see detrimental effects on employee mental health.
Employees who are confident in their capacity to combine work and life, on the other hand, are less stressed, more relaxed, more productive, and perform at a high level more consistently.
These stats set out the importance of work-life balance effectively, both for the health of your business and your employees.
But, it’s not always easy for business leaders to monitor how their workers balance their job commitments with their personal life.
The rise of remote work has made this more challenging as managers often have less control over their working environments.
What Was the Impact of the Pandemic?
The pandemic transformed how we think about work-life balance. It blurred the lines between the worlds of work and home life. Spending time with family or relaxing can now take place in the same environment as your working hours.
You can shower, make meals, read a book, make reports, and attend meetings, all in the same place. 🚿📚🧑🍳📑💬
While not a new concept, most employees were unfamiliar with these circumstances, having to adapt to the new normal abruptly.
Some loved the freedom of more flexible working arrangements.
Others, however, hated it, feeling they couldn’t strike the right balance at home. These are the cases of people struggling to get out of their pajamas, missing the social aspects of work, or simply being unable to switch off, depending on various employee personalities.
What Are the Effects of Remote Work on Work-life Balance?
One thing you can say about the pandemic; it made a pretty great case study to test the viability of remote work on a broad scale.
The research shows that remote-based businesses can be highly profitable. As a result, many companies decided that the benefits of working remotely are sufficient to keep them working remotely indefinitely.
Yet, not all managers feel that way. Some are experimenting with flexibility in the workplace to keep some of the benefits of remote work while offering office space for face-to-face collaboration. This hybrid working model based on flexible scheduling allows employers and employees to negotiate when to work. Many employers look to offer flexibility in the hope this will improve employee engagement.
Whichever work model you choose in your workplace, it seems that remote work does not hinder productivity, and it can even increase productivity.
But what about its effects on work-life balance?
The Fight to Unplug
Many managers worried remote work would result in employees working less.
It was thought there would be too many distractions and too many temptations to skip work. There was a prevailing belief that, without the keen eye of a manager overseeing things, many employees might practice work avoidance while at home.
Instead, it turned out that many remote workers are more likely to wind up working longer hours.
This is down to the inability to unplug, switch off, or log out.
Working from home has the advantage of reducing travel hours, but many employees end up occupying that time with extra work.
Further, many workers settle into a routine of working in spurts, working for a few hours, then taking a break before returning to work. This means workers often work into their evenings and catch up over weekends, too. Work bleeds into leisure as there aren’t clear boundaries.
A study suggested Australians worked more when working from home during the pandemic, clocking up 319 hours of unpaid overtime on average over 2021. Each worker racked up 6.13 extra hours each week on top of contracted hours.
If “out of sight, out of mind” was true while heading home after a day at the office, some stay-at-home workers experience the opposite. When work is always within reach, it might be tough to resist the temptation to put in “just a few more minutes” or to work through the weekend.
Furthermore, because their work is always with them, certain organizational cultures have come to require employees to be “on” at all times, especially those that work to tight deadlines or across several time zones.
Many employees have never been under more pressure to perform.
For employers utilizing remote work, it’s critical to set up a culture that prioritizes flexible working arrangements that support a healthy work-life balance.
How to Encourage Employees to Strike a Better Work-Life Balance?
Time for some actionable tips! ✅
Actually speak to this and communicate consistently the importance of work-life balance to your employees. 🗣️
While businesses may think that employees understand the importance of employee wellbeing, the boss-employee relationship is complex.
When defining the importance of work-life balance within the firm, employers should be explicit and honest. Inform them that you want them to work productively, but not at the price of their personal lives or mental health.
Place work-life balance at the heart of your business. 💙
Beyond openly expressing that work-life balance is vital, making it part of the business culture is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate it.
Workplace culture is made up of all the little actions and decisions a business takes each and every. It runs like a core through your business and dictates how employees behave and act at work.
Employees are more likely to adopt and sustain healthy work-life balance habits if you make work-life balance a fundamental part of your values, work procedures, and workplace language.
Lead By Example
Walk the walk and practice what you preach! 💪
Employees see a tangible representation of that workplace culture in their leadership at work.
If employees are informed that work-life balance is essential, but their bosses frequently work weekends and don’t take vacation time, how does that look? It will seem like calls for healthy work-life balance are deceptive and have no substance.
Make Wise Policies
Be smart about procedures 🧠
Employers can implement a work-life balance policy. Set clear and realistic expectations for when and how long your team should be working, whether official or informal.
If a maximum of 38 hours is the expectation, go ahead and make it a policy. If you have a rule that no one should be asked to work on the weekends, make it official.
Remember that there may be some ambiguity here depending on the business and job type. Every employee and every workforce is unique. What works for one person may not work for another.
Make sure you’re not putting employees in a work-time box if you’re creating a flexible culture that allows them to work whenever it’s convenient for them.
For example, if they prefer to work in the evenings or on weekends and you want to allow them to do so, make sure your policy does not prohibit them from working in this way.
Use the Appropriate Tools
Find the tools that best suit your employees and roll them out across the board to help them succeed. 🔧⚙️🏆
Technology has allowed employees to work flexibly and efficiently from home. It has also allowed businesses to track critical markers of employee happiness.
Time tracking and productivity software can provide crucial daily insights, allowing businesses to understand their teams’ workload better while also empowering employees.
With so many valuable insights, both employers and employees can feel comfortable knowing where their time is spent.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Work-Life Balance
The ability of an individual to strike a healthy work-life balance is a critical factor in determining productivity and employee satisfaction.
Although it may be tempting to believe that the employees bear complete responsibility for reaching that balance, the reality is that the employer must play a role in empowering employees.
This is true for all work contexts, but especially remote workers. Those who work from home need a clearly communicated workplace culture that prioritises balance.
Employers who recognise this and take steps to create a healthy work-life balance in their workplace will be considerably more successful in the long run than those who don’t.