The Importance of Work-Life Balance April 28 2015

Work-life balance has become a hot topic and a popular trend among organizations in the modern world.  Some feel as though this is a result of the changing priorities of the emerging millennial workforce, while others feel it is in response to the competing personal responsibilities in today’s society and the changing family dynamic.  Whatever the reason, it is important to understand the concept of work-life balance and have the ability to provide some flexibility and accommodation to workers to help deal with this challenge. 

Work-life balance is the challenge of prioritizing, and essentially managing, all aspects of one’s ‘work life’ and ‘personal life’.  This can be a very stressful process for many, which can lead to increased stress, lack of motivation and can negatively impact all aspects of an individual’s life.  Work-life conflicts are the factors and influences associated with the challenges of balancing one’s work and personal lives.  There are four types of work-life conflicts:

  • Role Overload
  • Being overwhelmed by the duty to perform several roles in one’s life, which does not allow them to perform some or all of the roles adequately
  • Work-to-Family Interference
  • When work demands impact family life or relationships with individuals outside of work (ex: constantly working extended hours, which may cause one to miss important aspects of their children’s lives)
  • Family-to-Work Interference
  • Result from family conflicts which put strain on the individual and does not allow them to adequately focus and fulfill work obligations or duties (ex: a conflict at home resulting in a distracted employee at work)
  • Caregiver Strain
  • Occurs when the demands of work interfere with the daily obligation to care for someone (ex: caring for a young child or ill loved one)

Each of these work-life conflicts are predominant throughout society, which can have a significant impact on an employee’s personal life, their employment and job performance and their overall mental health and well-being.  Thus, it is vital for employers to recognize the impacts of work-life conflict and attempt to mitigate the stress and burdens which are part of their employees’ daily lives.  A lack of support in dealing with these work-life conflicts can result in:

  • increased absenteeism
  • employee burnout
  • increased employee turnover
  • increased managerial stress
  • increased health and disability costs
  • reduced productivity
  • reduced job satisfaction
  • decreased employee well-being
  • impaired family/social relationships

From a management and organizational perspective, this is a major concern.  The success and sustainability of an organization relies on its employees.  For this reason, the ideal workforce should be made up of high functioning and high performing individuals.  Providing opportunities for work-life balance within your organization is an effective way of supporting and motivating employees.  It allows them to fulfill their non-work related obligations and enjoy leisure time, so that they are capable and willing to be high functioning employees while at work.

Listed below are several strategies to help employees achieve and maintain a sense of work-life balance:

  1. Allow for flexibility for work day start time and end time (e.g. working 8:00-4:00, 9:00-5:00 or 10:00-6:00). Employees work a full day but can vary the start and end of the workday within defined guidelines. As a result, employee can fit work around personal commitments and can work at times when they are at their “personal best.”
  1. Allow employees to work a compressed workweek (e.g. every other week get a day off and work longer hours the other days).
  1. Allow employees to work from home (if operationally possible). This arrangement may be permanent or temporary, part time or full time or a set portion of the workweek.
  1. Review job descriptions and identify areas of work overload and increased stress. Maybe the job itself needs to change, not just the time allocation (e.g. is there another way you could divide up the work tasks?).
  1. Offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide support for individuals and families dealing with life challenges and transitions.
  1. Encourage employees to take their annual vacation to unplug, unwind and de-stress.
  1. Encourage employees to avoid checking their work e-mail and voice mail after the workday and on weekends, to separate work from their personal lives.
  1. Provide education and training to help employees understand and become efficient with difficult or tedious aspects of their jobs.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  2. Develop policies and procedures which reflect these work-life balance initiatives (e.g. ability to take time off and make it up later, flex time, job sharing, and flexible work arrangement).

It is important to note that every organization and operational requirements are unique, which may limit or restrict certain options listed above.  It is vital to understand the importance of work-life balance in the lives of your employees and to work within your organizational requirements to provide some options and support.  Understand that this should be viewed as a significant benefit in the eyes of the employee, which will contribute to increased motivation, productivity and morale.

Overall, work-life balance is an increasingly important aspect in the lives of employees. A great starting point for initiating work-life balance is revising current policies within your organization to reflect management support, or to create and adapt new policies which demonstrate support and flexibility. 

Please visit our website to find templates for policies which promote work-life balance, including flextime, flexible work arrangements and work from home.