A work-life balance refers to an employee’s ability to maintain a healthy equilibrium between work, personal and family life.
Companies are more and more realising the importance of employees achieving a good work-life balance as more people are experiencing conflict between their personal and work lives, which in turn affects their workplace. With voluntary and childcare commitments on one side and work commitments on the other, the struggle to achieve a strong work-life balance is higher than ever.
The traditional working structure revolves around a 9-5 model that exists in few companies today. With increased competition and globalisation, employers expect far more from their staff to achieve ultimate greatness; even if this greatness involves working a 9-9. But when did we ourselves allow our hours to spiral out of control?
While there is certainly more pressure from companies to work longer hours, employees are also battling with perfectionism and the quest to be better than others. Why can’t we just do the best job we can? Fact is, we spend half our life working, but we’re not just alive to work. We’re here to make an impact and while work is part of that, it is our personal duty to also have fun and create memories.
So why exactly is achieving a work-life balance so important?
Less stress for employees
Problem: Overwhelming stress is something nobody wants, but a lack of work-life balance can increase it. As more companies are embracing the digital age, work is no longer confined to the workplace; employees can easily work from anywhere and access emails 24/7. While flexibility is certainly beneficial, the lines between work and personal life become blurred. Employees may burn out and work well over their working hour limits.
Solution: If some employees prefer to embrace a flexible working schedule, make sure you work out a weekly timetable with them first. Also keep in touch with them regularly to ensure they are working within their limits. As a general rule, try to keep out-of-work hours contact to a limit, unless it is very urgent. Employees are far less likely to burn out this way.
Less stress for companies
Problem: A lack of work-life balance not only leads to stress for the employee but also stress for their company. Stressed staff often result in lower productivity levels, more sick days taken, absenteeism and all these associated costs fall on the company. Employees may also experience poor co-worker relationships and lower job satisfaction, again affecting turnover and retention costs for the company.
Solution: Ensure you speak directly with your staff to uncover the reasons behind their lack of productivity or whatever the issue may be. By helping them achieve a more flexible working schedule or something that can lessen their burdens, you increase their work satisfaction, career longevity and productivity.
Increases employee creativity
Problem: When employees feel that their personal lives and interests are not important to their company, this affects their overall creativity. Work begins to feel like a chore and they gradually lose enthusiasm over time. They are more likely to complain to their peers, which in turn affects your company reputation.
Solution: The solution lies in establishing your employees’ personal interests as a priority. As a result, employees will learn how to develop themselves creatively outside of the office; this habit is directly related to productive work. A company who takes their employees seriously also appeals better to prospective talent and has a greater reputation.
Will we ever achieve a perfect work-life balance?
While there are moves among organisations to improve work-life balance, there’s still a long way to go. One country who is leading the way for change is Sweden; a group led a trial in 2015 whereby 70 nurses would work only 6 hours a day.
Overall, the results of the trial were encouraging as nurses took less sick days, were happier and more productive. Despite the positives, the cost of implementing the trial was too high. Having said that, those behind the trial have advocated that a 6 hour day may work better in more flexible work environments.
This trial has proved that shorter working days benefit both the employee and the employer, but this model may only suit certain environments.