The modern workplace is for many, a busy environment. Within many industries, employees find themselves working long hours in order to meet deadlines and build their careers within the company.
Work culture seems to have changed significantly since the pandemic though despite many believing that we’re working beyond the traditional 9-5 hours. In fact, as a society, we’re working a lot fewer hours. Did you know that back in the 1800s, workers in many countries worked more than 3,000 hours annually? - that’s 60-70 hours each week.
From the same study, the average annual working hours for Americans is 1,757, recorded back in 2017. That’s only around 35 hours a week. The pandemic has shifted the way we work now, with a lot of businesses offering a hybrid approach of office and remote working.
What does this mean for work-life balance? Every business with employees should be considerate of their working hours and how much time they’re dedicating to their role. It’s important that a work-life balance is encouraged, even for those that are ‘workaholics’ in nature.
There are many reasons why work-life balance is important and how it benefits your business personally. In this guide, you’ll understand the importance of work-life balance for your employees and how it plays a part in the company’s success.
We’ll also provide you with a number of solutions to help your HR staff members, incorporate more work-life balance within the workplace.
What is work-life balance
What does it mean to have a work-life balance? Work-life balance refers to the prioritization of personal to professional activities that the individual undertakes. The ideal work-life balance is one that isn’t easily defined across the board. In fact, one person’s view of the ideal work-life balance might be vastly different from the next person’s.
The control over work-life balance is typically influenced by what the employee chooses to say yes and no to. However, there are plenty of companies that don’t always consider a healthy balance of work and personal life for their workforce.
That traditional 9-5 has become somewhat obsolete for many, with 94% of US workers in the professional service industry working over 50 hours a week. The same study found 48% of Americans consider themselves to be workaholics.
Is this a fault of businesses or the fault of employees for allowing it to happen? It’s likely a mixture of the two. If a business promotes this type of work culture then most employees will tend to go along with it because it’s considered the norm.
However, by having a work-life balance that leans heavily on the work side, it’s not a healthy working environment. Even for those who love to work, it’s important to have a balance where they enjoy life outside of the job.
Too much work often burns a person out and that impacts the productivity and happiness of the employee. If you’re not being attentive to your employees and their workload, they may look elsewhere for a better balance.
The importance of work-life balance for employees
Why does a work-life balance for your employees matter? If you’ve built a culture of workaholics, then you might not see anything particularly wrong with the current dynamics. However, as a result of being overworked, your employees are likely feeling more stressed out and are perhaps often at a breaking point of burning out.
There are a number of reasons why a work-life balance is important for your employees. If you’re noticing ill health in your workforce and a lack of employee happiness, then it might be time to take a look at how much your business is contributing to unhealthy work-life balances.
Reduced health issues and burnout
With a better work-life balance, you encourage your employees to prioritize their mental health and physical well-being. It’s easy to get swept up in the workload and not have any breathing room to look after yourself as a result.
If the business has implemented the right practices to help manage working hours, then it certainly helps to reduce health issues and prevent burnout from occurring.
Improved productivity and engagement
Productivity is an important part of business and it’s something you don’t want to let slip. While you may get a certain level of productivity by having intense working hours in place, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get the best quality of work.
For those employees that are working long hours and not getting much of a break outside of work, that’s going to diminish productivity levels and their engagement in the workplace.
With more attention to a balanced work-life ratio, you’ll likely see a big improvement in the consistency of productivity in the organization. Not only that but the quality of work is likely to be much better too.
Shows appreciation and value for life outside of the workplace
It’s important that you’re able to show appreciation to your employees in different ways. One of the ways you show that is by caring for their life outside of the workplace, even if sometimes they prioritize their job over everything.
While it’s just as much of a responsibility for the employees to say no to hefty workloads, it’s also the responsibility of the business to lead by example.
Better work culture
When it comes to jobseekers, many will consider company culture and work-life balance to be an important part of their decision in joining the business. Aviva found that more workers (41%) were attracted to their current role for the work-life balance than the salary (36%).
Tips for HR teams to implement best work-life balance practices
Whether it’s the responsibility of your departmental managers or it’s a project that’s handled by your HR team, implementing the right practices is what makes a big difference. If you’re just verbally encouraging a better work-life balance at the end of a company meeting, not everyone is likely to take action in the same way.
It’s therefore necessary to find the best practices that will help push employees to become proactive in their own efforts to balance work life a little better. Here are several tips to get started and to ensure the business is doing enough to promote a well-balanced work-life situation.
1. Offer flexible working hours using time clock telephone timesheets.
Flexible working hours are ideal for those whose life doesn’t always go according to plan. From broken heaters at home to a child requesting to be picked up from school for being sick, businesses need to understand that sometimes life happens.
Flexibility is definitely more influential for businesses that offer hybrid working and the ability to work from home on occasion. With the pandemic, a lot of businesses have adjusted post-COVID-19 by offering this to their teams.
If you’re worried about employees slacking when working from home, you could always use time clock telephone timesheets to help keep track of their working hours. Equally, this also helps to ensure your staff isn’t working too long hours during the day.
Employees will greatly appreciate the effort taken for a business to offer flexible working hours for all staff, not just for those with families.
2. Introduce remote working with employee management software.
Talking of remote working, what’s stopping you from offering it in your business? During the pandemic, most businesses had no choice but to go remote because they weren’t allowed to enter company premises.
Nowadays, while many businesses have gone back to full-time office work, some have opted for hybrid working and even embracing remote working fully. There are also plenty of new businesses popping up nowadays that are fully remote. In fact, the number of workers choosing to work remotely in 2022 increased by 24% since the previous year.
If you’re looking to introduce remote working to help benefit work-life balance amongst employees, using employee software designed primarily for easier employee management will help with a smoother transition. Managing your staff from remote locations proves challenging, especially for those who’ve not had the experience of doing so before.
The right employee management software in place will help you scale your business up, and that is particularly helpful for small businesses that are still growing in size. The use of software helps keep communication intact and allows for seamless collaboration between team members, regardless of where they are in the world.
3. Offer staff training on balancing work in a healthy manner.
For those employees that have learned bad behaviors and habits that have led to unhealthy work-life balance, it often takes training to unlearn them.
Some staff may find it difficult when it comes to managing their work in a healthy manner because they’ve been so used to prioritizing it over everything else in life. A good practice worth investing some time and money into is employee training.
There are plenty of online and in-person courses available that help employees with their own attitude toward work-life balance. Again, everyone’s idea of the perfect balance between the two is different, so individual training may prove fruitful.
A lot of it comes down to self-awareness and understanding the body’s response when it’s overworking or leading itself down the path of burning out. As an employer, offering these training opportunities is great for prompting that self-awareness in your staff.
4. Encourage managers to be mindful of employee well-being.
A great manager is always conscious of their team’s well-being and being mindful of this as a company is important too. However, when you create a culture of workaholics that prioritize too much of their day to work, it trickles down through the hierarchy of the organization.
If your managers aren’t being proactive in their own efforts to balance their work and life more equally, those working under them may feel pressured to do the same.
This mindset isn’t a healthy one and as such, it’s important to remind your managers of the influence they hold upon the rest of their peers. A useful quality in a manager is the ability to recognize when a staff member may be struggling mentally with their workload or current work life.
The use of 1-2-1 meetings and daily check-ins are two practices that prove effective for managers being more mindful of those they’re managing.
5. Review workloads regularly.
It’s easy for employees and the organization in general, to slip into old habits. Remember the saying - old habits die hard. It’s true.
A good practice to implement when maintaining the balance is by reviewing your employees’ workloads regularly. Of course, some employees are able to take on more than their peers but that isn’t the case for everyone.
What might be manageable for one employee, may be too much for another. While you don’t want certain employees slacking and others having to make up for it, it’s good to review everyone’s workloads individually.
Speak to your employees directly and understand whether their current workload needs to change. Perhaps it’s time for a new hire or two to the company? It may be that the work could be delegated to others or outsourced to help improve work quality.
7. Experiment with shorter hours.
There have been some new experiments being made in a number of countries that are looking to reduce the number of hours staff work every day. Belgium, for example, introduced a four-day workweek for employees who wanted to embrace this new way of working.
In February 2022, Belgian employees won the ability to work a full work week in just four days without the loss of salary. It may be something that’s experimented with further, especially since many companies have now embraced remote working and hybrid environments.
Perhaps the next step in the professional working industry is the experimentation of shorter working days or weeks. If you’re identifying dips in procrastination and even days where there’s very little work being done, maybe your business could condense the working hours.
What do you have to lose? If it works, it may lead to improved productivity, focus in the workplace, and improved employee happiness to name but a few benefits. It may not be or work for every business but experimenting with shorter hours may be something to implement in the future.
7. Offer support in different ways to all staff.
A work-life balance is not just for certain staff members in particular. That flexibility of working hours or looking after their mental well-being isn’t a luxury awarded to just those with families.
It’s important to be fair to all staff members regardless of their situation outside of the workplace. Offering support, therefore, might come in different forms from one staff member to another.
For some, it may be necessary to have more contact time with their supervisors or managers in order to better balance their work-life. It could be the flexible hours and experimenting with shorter working hours during the summer - a benefit that could help families greatly.
By providing this tailored support to each of your employees, they no longer feel like a number or a small part of what is a big company machine. Building employee relationships is a necessity that helps improve loyalty and retention within the business itself. Look after your employees and they’ll look after you.
8. Encourage real break times.
Do you find yourself eating at the desk on a regular basis at work? Break times are a part of balancing that work-life ratio because even workaholics need a break in their day.
It’s a simple habit to introduce but when your teams are used to eating on the go or from their desks at work, it’s another difficult habit to get rid of without encouragement.
Encouraging real break times is going to give your employees an opportunity to switch off from work, even if it’s for twenty or thirty minutes in the day. There are greater benefits for employees taking their lunch breaks too.
For example, building employee relationships within the workplace by meeting their peers for lunch in the communal canteen is beneficial for business success. When your staff get on and know each other well, it improves communication and morale within the company.
You may think that taking a lunch break or a coffee break in the morning is skippable, but it’s likely hindering your employee's well-being and your company’s success over time.
9. Provide a fun benefits package.
As a business, you don’t have to provide anything more than your employee’s salary. However, many companies understand the value that comes from rewarding their employees with benefits and rewards opportunities.
A fun benefits package is a great way of incorporating some balance in your employee’s day to to day life. From discounted gym memberships to rewards vouchers to spend at their local retailers, it all helps boost employee satisfaction within their job.
There are plenty of platforms where you’re able to customize and tailor company benefits packages. The more you’re able to provide and offer your staff, the more they’ll value the business they’re working for.
It’s an often underestimated and overlooked part of the business, especially if it’s not something that’s reviewed on an annual basis.
10.Reward employees with spontaneous days off.
Talking of rewards, to help encourage living outside of the workplace, why not offer your staff members a spontaneous day off or two throughout the year?
These could be given out randomly in order to help those who’ve had a tough few weeks or have managed to bring in some great work for the business recently. That spontaneity is refreshing for employees and may be a great way of helping those who rarely take time off, to take some well-deserved rest.
Of course, it’s important that you’re not having those staff members take off their days all at the same time - otherwise, no work would get done.
How work-life balance benefits a business
Introducing a change of approach in your workforce’s individual work-life balance has some great benefits. It’s hard to shift the way of working that an organization has when they’ve been doing it for a long time.
However, just like all areas of business, times change and it’s essential for a business to be able to adapt to these changes. How does it impact the business though in general, beyond just the employees themselves? Let’s look into more detail on how it’s beneficial for business.
- It improves staff retention rates
- Sets an example to your competitors on how to treat employees
- Helps with customer satisfaction and experience
In 2021, a study found that the average staff retention rate for businesses was around 52.8%. While it’s just over half, it’s a benchmark that you should be aiming to reach, at a minimum. The better the work-life balance is offered, the more likely it will be that staff retention rates improve as a result.
Why would a staff member want to leave when they’re being given the perfect balance of the two?
Impressions matter as a business and when it comes to comparing yourself against your competitors, there’s nothing better than setting an example. It’s beneficial to be a business that leads by example, rather than following suit or trailing behind and eventually making the change.
Happier employees always improve the satisfaction and experiences that your customers have. If you’re promoting a healthy work-life balance, those positive vibes are going to seep into all the faucets of your organization.
Encourage work-life balance for your business in 2023
It's time for businesses to reevaluate their priorities and focus on what truly matters. One key aspect that should not be overlooked is work-life balance. Encouraging work-life balance can lead to happier and more productive employees, and ultimately, a more successful business.
In today's fast-paced and constantly evolving world, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of work. However, when employees are overworked and overstressed, it can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and high turnover rates. On the other hand, when employees have a healthy work-life balance, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work.
Encouraging work-life balance can take many forms, such as offering flexible work schedules, providing wellness programs, and promoting open communication between employees and management. It's important to create a culture where work-life balance is not only encouraged but celebrated.
let's make a commitment to prioritize work-life balance in our businesses. By doing so, we can create a happier and healthier work environment that will lead to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and a more loyal and engaged workforce.