Today's world of business is fast-paced and hectic for all. Companies must react swiftly to changing market conditions, growing competition and economic headwinds, so it's understandable that many workers might feel they have to give their all, 100% of the time.
This is great when it helps to strengthen and stabilize your organization, but companies must ask the question, does this come with a cost to staff? In many cases, failure to recognize when employees are prioritizing their work ahead of their home life can have dire consequences for all involved. It's therefore important to be proactive in promoting a healthy work-life balance.
What's so important about work-life balance?
Individuals who fail to separate and manage the delicate balancing act of work and home life run the risk of a range of conditions that can ultimately prove both damaging to themselves and the business.
Research carried out by business engagement specialist Brilliant showed just 28% of workers stated they were happy with the balance between their work and home lives. This is a somewhat shocking statistic, especially given the detrimental impact that poor work-life balance can have.
Indeed, people who have a poor work-life balance can be prone to higher levels of stress. They also have less time to devote to relationships outside the corporate setting and this can lead to more family conflicts, difficulties in personal relationships and mental or physical health problems.
Meanwhile, there can also be an impact on the business, as people who prioritize work over all other areas of their life can become less productive, have lower engagement and, ultimately, be more prone to burnout. What's more, research from Workfront has shown how 38% of adults stated they've missed an important life event because of the pressures of work and didn't feel they could let go of their responsibilities in order to attend.
As such, it's in every company's interest to support their staff in developing a healthy balance between their time spent at work and at home. Here are seven top tips for any business seeking to improve the work-life balance of its employees:
1. Stop micromanaging
The key to successfully helping staff reduce their levels of stress and to set aside their worries at the end of the day is for managers to take a step back and give more freedom to their teams. This means banishing the practice of micro-management and entrusting employees with greater autonomy.
Managers might not realize it, but their actions can have a significant impact on the people they oversee and when they fail to give up responsibility for work and let others take the lead, this can lead to some serious consequences for staff. Indeed, micromanaging a person can lead to lower self-esteem for the individual, poorer performance and a generally more fraught atmosphere all around.
2. Enable flexible working
A significant benefit for businesses and workers alike can be in the provision of flexible working programs. In the modern world, new technologies continue to open up all sorts of opportunities for staff to get out of the office and to still remain 'on the pulse' of the working day.
Indeed, research published by the International Working Group shows that, in 2019, a significant majority (83%) of workers would turn down a job offer from a business that did not offer them the option of flexible working - such is the importance that many people now place on this practice.
Offering flexible working programs that enable individuals to work from home or elsewhere, to change their hours to suit them and to generally have more control over their working day can be crucial in supporting employees to have a better work-life balance. It can remove the need to commute long distances to and from the office, saving people time and money, while enabling individuals to more easily mold their working life around their other responsibilities.
3. Communicate clearly
Be open and honest with staff and encourage the creation of a dialogue where people will feel comfortable coming forward with any issues they might face at work. This communicative approach will help ensure any problems that might be bubbling under the surface are dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
Nobody wants to take the stress of work home with them, so supporting staff to share their concerns with a management team that listens to their complaints, and actively does something about them, can be a powerful way to generate improved peace of mind for all.
Employees who feel their complaints or frustrations are not being listened to will feel more stressed, and if this situation goes on for long enough, will become disengaged and unproductive. Tackling this problem head on and providing a working environment where issues can be discussed openly will therefore help to alleviate these problems and give staff a better work-life balance.
4. Encourage activity
Exercise can be a great stress-reliever and, at the same time, it helps to ensure individuals continue to be fit and healthy both in and out of work. Indeed, the benefits of supporting staff to improve their level of fitness will often far outweigh any potential costs involved.
Regular activity will help individuals feel mentally and physically refreshed, while promoting a more active lifestyle helps people to feel more energized at work and at home. It can improve both mental and physical health, as the cortisol released during exercise helps to lift a person's mood, while exercise can play a crucial part in addressing issues of high blood pressure and cholesterol - both of which are significant risk factors in serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease.
Offering a free gym pass, a cycle-to-work scheme or other employee benefits encouraging workers to get up and get active will therefore not only help to support staff in developing a better work-life balance, but can play a vital role in improving their overall health.
5. Respect workers' time off
Businesses must remember that their employees have a right to a life away from the stresses and responsibilities of work. This is precisely what the development of a healthy work-life balance means, but to achieve this there needs to be an understanding that when staff are not scheduled to be working, they need to be left alone and their free time respected.
We've probably all been in a situation where we're out of the office on annual leave, but an urgent situation arises and work simply have to get in touch and encroach on your free time. However, this needn't be the norm and should always be avoided where possible.
6. Enforce time to recharge
Similar to respecting people's free time out of work, organizations must encourage their staff to take regular time off and not to save up holidays. These breaks from the stresses of the daily grind are important in helping employees to relax, unwind and recharge their batteries, and can go a long way towards supporting a healthier work-life balance.
Meanwhile, staff members should be urged to take regular breaks throughout the working day - no-one should be expected to work flat out from the moment they get to work to the time they go home. This allows them the necessary time to cool off and relax, meaning they're less likely to become stressed and worry about work when they aren't there.
Mental and physical exhaustion can take a significant toll on a person if they don’t take regular breaks from the pressures of their role. Indeed, taking just 15 minutes every few hours to get up from your desk, mentally switch off and think of something other than work can do wonders for a person's ability to solve problems, focus and manage their stress levels.
7. Lead by example
Finally, an organization that prioritizes a healthy work-life balance should encourage every member of staff to take this approach, and that means managers and directors should be leading by example.
Developing a corporate culture focused on employee wellbeing is essential to helping people unwind and switch off at the end of the working day. However, if the CEO is seen to be up all night answering emails and chasing other members of the business, this isn't conducive to a stress-free atmosphere and is likely to see this behavior permeate through the ranks.
In the end, a supportive businesses that prioritizes the wellbeing of its staff is one that is most likely to develop a happy and productive workforce. Promoting a healthy work-life balance where people can switch off and set aside their work for the day is one way to achieve this.