The importance of work-life balance

Joe Wedgwood | 29th August 2019

We created the Cultural Assessment Survey to help you understand the cultural health and sentiment of your people to ensure a better culture and a healthier work-life balance. Click here to discover more 

Work plays a significant part in all our lives. Our earnings ensure that the lights stay on, there’s food on the table and the rainy-day pot is full.

It is no easy task to achieve work-life balance in today’s unpredictable and fast-paced business world. As we grow increasingly more connected through technology and social media, it is becoming more and more difficult to separate work from our personal lives. It is commonplace to check emails at all hours, take business calls at the dinner table and work on our laptops on weekends. How has this become acceptable?

Employers expect more from their people, which leads to them feeling more pressure to achieve greater results. Consequently, this leads to longer working hours, and less time spent at home. As a business leader, you have a responsibility to help all your team juggle the demands of their work and personal lives. Even your most engaged employees may still be struggling to find balance…

How important is work-life balance?

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is not only important for health and relationships, but it can also improve your employee’s productivity, and ultimately performance. Put simply, if your people don’t view work as a chore, then they will work harder, make fewer mistakes and are more likely to become advocates for your brand.

Businesses that gain a reputation for encouraging work-life balance have become very attractive – especially when you consider how difficult it can be to attract and retain younger workers these days. The Oxford Economic suggests, “Replacing an employee costs on average around £30,000 and it takes up to 28 weeks to get them up to speed.” Bearing this in mind, it might be a good idea to keep your existing employees happy. Focussing on work-life balance will help you draw a valuable talent-pool for new recruits and boost retention rates. It will save time and money, whilst ensuring a high level of in-house talent.

Here are some more reasons why work-life balance is important for your people and your organisation:

Fewer health problems

When we are stressed and over-worked, we run the risk of jeopardising more than just our social lives – our physical and mental health is in danger too.

It’s no secret that when we are overworked, tired or stressed – our health will suffer. A poor work-life balance can lead to a variety of symptoms that can affect our wellbeing. This ranges from the flu to serious health conditions like strokes and respiratory problems. A study conducted by UCL of more than 10,000 participants stated that white-collar workers who worked three or more hours longer than required had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than those who didn’t work overtime.

By encouraging your people to look after themselves and find balance, you will significantly limit health problems and absences. This will ensure your organisation is more efficient during business hours and people want to be part of the business and culture.

More engagement

By helping your people to find the perfect balance between work and home, you will increase their engagement levels. This has many positive effects: According to Tower Perrin’s 2006 global survey; “Companies with highly-engaged employees had a near 52% gap in performance improvement in operating income.” Additionally – “Companies with high levels of employee engagement improved 19.2% in operating income while companies with low levels of employee engagement declined 32.7%.”

Having an engaged workforce will lead to your people going ‘the extra mile’ for you and becoming loyal advocates for your brand and product. This is evidenced by Temkin Group, who suggests that “engaged staff are 2.5 times more likely to stay at work late if something needs to be done after the normal workday ends.”

Less “burnouts”

We all get stressed from time to time. It is unavoidable. However, workplace burnouts are avoidable, and you should make efforts to ensure this doesn’t happen to your people. Burnouts occur when we feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. The negative effects of burnout can affect every aspect of our lives.

The inability to separate work from home will massively increase the chances of burnout, so it is important to encourage your team to take time off and “leave work at work.”

More mindfulness

When we find and sustain a healthy work-life balance, we develop greater control over our focus and ability to concentrate on the task at hand – this is known as mindfulness. Wouldn’t you prefer a team that is fully focused on whatever they are doing, instead of worrying about work/home?

By encouraging your people to have a healthy work-life balance, you will create an environment where everyone is dedicated to the task at hand. This will improve retention rates, productivity and ultimately profit.

Now we know why it is important, let’s explore how you can ensure your people have a healthy work-life balance:

Tips to improve work-life balance

Encourage time off: 

Vacations are not a luxury, they are a necessity. A break from work will provide you with the chance to switch off and enjoy yourself, it is also a great opportunity to recuperate and recharge. This is essential to help your people improve productivity and focus when they return to the office.

Numerous studies show that vacations increase company productivity and reduce stress. The American Sociological Association compiled a report, which suggests that a larger number of vacations lead to a decline in the psychological distress of people.

An effective way to encourage your people to take time off is to implement a “use it or lose it” system – whereby any unused days will not be carried over at the end of the year or repaid financially.

Implement short breaks throughout the day: 

If taking time off isn’t an option for your people, then it is important to encourage small breaks throughout the day. The human body was not designed to stare at a bright screen for hours on end. It is not good for our health, or our mental wellbeing.

To combat this, you could consider installing a games room where people can socialise and take their minds off work. Consider encouraging light exercise throughout the day and introducing walking meetings outside the office. You can even go out as a team to grab a coffee. Some leading companies will get meditation practitioners in to help calm and de-stress their people.

All of these techniques will positively impact your teams’ work performance, productivity and workplace happiness.

Ask employees for guidance: 

If you are struggling to come up with innovative ways to improve your employees’ work-life balance, then why not ask them?

If you notice that your people are struggling to find balance, then find out what changes they think would improve their situation. By collaborating with your team, you will get more of an insight into the way they think, and you will be able to work together on strategies more effectively in future.

To help you facilitate these discussions, consider having regularly scheduled meetings, or implement real-time cultural feedback programmes to provide you with data-driven insights. This way you can accurately gauge how your people are feeling at any given time and make adjustments to ensure that they have the right balance.

Practice what you preach: 

Finally, it is important to lead by example. If you tell your people to leave at six and not work over the weekend, but you’re sending them emails during these periods it sends a very mixed message. It also puts additional pressure on your people to mirror your working hours. Lead by example and witness how your work practices will permeate throughout the business. There is a law in France called the “Right to disconnect.” It ensures there are limits on the amount of work undertaken outside of office hours. Why not consider implementing something similar within your workplace?

It is important to respect the balance and privacy of your team when they are not in the office. This means you should avoid contacting them outside of office hours to allow them to fully switch off, and recharge from everyday work stresses.

Most of us will spend a massive percentage of our time at work. We let it take over and feed into all aspects of our lives. Bearing this in mind it is essential to find the right balance and implement it in your workplace. This will allow you and your people to switch off from work and give your personal lives equal measures of attention too.

By loosening the reigns when it comes to your people’s work-life balance, you will make huge strides towards building an engaged and productive team.

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