The advent of COVID-19 was seen to throw “traditional” work-life balance for a loop as the people who could, shifted to working from home during lockdown. Work-life balance means different things to different people as each individual has different tolerances, life commitments and work goals. When employees enjoy a healthy work-life balance, they often have a more positive outlook about their work, their managers and their colleagues. It is this balance that nurtures all-out employee engagement and productivity.
“When employees enjoy a healthy work-life balance, they often have a more positive outlook about their work…”
“Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium reached when a person successfully manages the demands of both their career and personal life while continuing to flourish.”
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium reached when a person successfully manages the demands of both their career and personal life while continuing to flourish. This is not so much about splitting one’s time evenly between work and a personal life, but is about making sure that one area does not impact on the success of the other to cause physical or mental discomfort, or ill-health. A healthy work-life balance could include:
- meeting deadlines at work while still having time for family commitments and fun
- having the time to get sufficient sleep, exercise and eat well
- not worrying about work when you’re at home
- having spare time to relax and enjoy your hobbies
Work-life balance can be challenging if it is hampered by caring responsibilities, a demanding boss or health difficulties.
How does work-life balance enhance productivity?
Here are four fundamental ways achieving work-life balance enhances workplace productivity:
1. Better motivation
When employees have a healthy work-life balance, they are more energised and motivated to take on duties at the office. A motivated employee is more productive and efficient. They generally approach work with a good attitude and this is very likely to have a positive knock-on effect on the entire team.
2. Lower stress levels
There is a proven link between higher stress levels and decreased productivity. When an individual is stressed, their cortisol levels rise, placing them in fight, flight or freeze mode, and so impairing their performance at work. Unrelenting stress will ultimately lead to burnout. Work-life balance permits people to take a break from work to meet their personal demands and vice versa. This alleviates the guilt and stress employees feel when constantly having to put one aspect of their lives aside for the other.
3. Less chance of burnout
Often, people are so accustomed to overwork and neglecting the other aspects of their lives that they need to be shown how to go about reclaiming any work-life balance. Burnout takes place when an employee has overworked themselves to the point that they no longer have the capability or desire to work. Burnout symptoms include anxiety, depression, fatigue, decrease in attention span or difficulty in thinking clearly — all of which reduce productivity.
4. Better mental health
Work and work-related factors are a major contributing factor to mental health problems. Too much work, too little time off and poor work-life balance can lead to employees “checking out” of work altogether. Attaining a healthy work-life balance will lead to an improvement in mental and physical health and wellbeing – and employee productivity will rise.
How support employees in reaching work-life balance
Here are four tips for managers when supporting their employees’ efforts to achieve a healthier work-life balance
1. Be flexible
Employees who successfully maintain a balance between work and their personal lives often attribute this to their flexible work schedules. In this way, when it comes to attracting and keeping talent, and maintaining productivity, flexibility can pay off for employers. Not every employee has the same work-life balance goals. Know what each of your employees is striving for. Within the parameters of the organisation’s work model, it is important to be open-minded and flexible. Talk to each employee about their requirements and goals, and then determine what you can do to help them. If feasible, some employees may benefit from working remotely for a couple of days each week. Others may benefit from being in the office or working from home every day.
“Employees who successfully maintain a balance between work and their personal lives often attribute this to their flexible work schedules.”
“…modelling work-life balance should start from the top down within an organisation…”
2. Lead by example
As always, modelling work-life balance should start from the top down within an organisation and leaders need to normalise and legitimise balance so that workers take the cue and incorporate it into their own lives. If you choose to work a lot of overtime, or send emails after hours or on the weekends, your employees will take this as what is expected of them, too.
3. Communicate with your employees
Employers may do a good job of outlining the organisation’s work-life balance measures to potential employees, but they may not adequately communicate these initiatives to current employees. Regularly discuss with your employees the options that are available to them – particularly employees who are about to undergo a significant life change, such as becoming parents or having their parents move in with them.
4. Stay up to date
It is important to keep ahead of the curve on emerging work-life balance trends. What works today for employees might not be a good fit in a year’s time. Keep your work-life balance initiatives fresh and consider offering work-life programmes within your Health & Wellness programming.
Photo by Anna Tarazevich: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-shot-of-scrabble-tiles-on-a-white-surface-6230967/