When work and life balance, people feel well. Achieving a positive balance between labor and living promotes positive well-being and work productivity. Employees work better when they arrive physically refreshed and emotionally sound. Employers find themselves taking on more responsibility for ensuring this balance.
There are three core questions:
The social contract among free and mixed economies expects employees to perform labor for equitable compensation. That compensation should support the basic, physiological life needs of workers. In competitive economies, the payment should also provide workers and families relaxation, healthcare, education, social advancement, and more.
But workplace and external lives do not divide neatly in any work situation. People who work two or three low-paying jobs do not have a work-life balance. Small businesses and family-run businesses see employees working long hours and weekends without a work-life balance. Good balance is more subtle than that. For instance, too much time spent on the boat you have always dreamed of will through the balance off.
A healthy work-life balance weighs inputs against outputs. It sometimes sacrifices personal pleasure for workplace achievement. At other times, it puts personal, family, and social commitments first.
Employers have dispersed employees during the COVID pandemic lockdowns and quarantines. Many employers will retain remote work or shift work to hybrid frameworks. Many of these newly distant workers have found balance in working at home but working from home has disrupted the balance for many others.
Employers, understanding that work-life balance affects customer-centric achievement and bottom-line results, seek to promote employee well-being using the best lessons of life.
Employees have to arrive for work clean and sober. It serves no one well for them to bring their internal and external demons to the job. The employer has no responsibility for what they do off the job. If employees find their behavior comes at the expense of their work, they should change that behavior or seek help.
However, employees everywhere and every day find themselves overwhelmed by personal loss, poor health, tragedy and grief, and family issues. The death of a partner or child will cloud an employee’s focus indefinitely. The cost to rehabilitate a drug-addicted child can crush a person. A doctor’s notice of a grave health condition will knock an otherwise valuable employee off course. It would benefit employees to seek counsel and support in situations such as these.
Otherwise, employees should report for work eager to collaborate and deliver achievements reflecting their respective talents and aligned with organizational goals. Employees might take on new responsibilities to strengthen their balance:
- Set some rules for self and family. Everyone needs to sit down and unplug occasionally. Everyone needs some “me time,” so they should establish boundaries on availability, accessibility, and accountability.
- Drop nonessential work. Some people lay out their clothes the night before work to avoid deciding in the morning. Others eat the same breakfast and lunch every day to reduce their decision-making.
- Learn to prioritize. Successful people willingly delegate work. They know how to say, “No!” politely and respectfully.
- Make flexible schedules. Calendars provide necessary discipline, but they can trap people, too. Employees can create programs with the flexibility of options or Plans B and C.
- Make it known. A healthy work situation respects people who step up and express their needs. Employees cannot expect employers to resolve problems about which they have no information.
Employers have learned that happy employees work with more engagement, produce better quality, and secure and serve customers more effectively. They have accepted the need to treat stress and burnout as absolute risks. This realization has pushed them to take more accountability for their employees’ life-work balance.
Employers used to recommend a local gym where employees could exercise at a discount. They would promote that as a work-life balance program. Today, company’s offer more extensive programs to help employees and retain talent.
- Flexible work schedules. Companies offer shorter work weeks, more extended weekends, and the option to work from home.
- Parental leaves. While the Federal government mandates some parameters for maternity and illness, many employers have expanded these benefits. Some provide paid leave for both parents and on-site childcare.
- Innovative insurance design. Employers can incentivize well-being with financial rewards for attendance, smoking cessation programs, nutritious breakroom snacks, and in-house blood drives and flu shots.
- Look and listen. Employers cannot fix problems unless they know what they are. They must train managers to join them in watching for signs of burnout. They must aggressively survey and solicit employee feedback on concerns and conditions. And they can use performance reviews more frequently than annually.
- Leading from the top. Employers who favor workaholics will produce stressed employees. Leaders must balance their own lives. That does not mean executives should golf three times a week. But it does mean that leaders will arrive and leave on time, order nutritious lunches, exercise regularly, and enjoy an active social life. Employees will notice.
State and Federal laws spell out the employer’s responsibilities regarding the health and safety of employees. However, leading employers have stepped up and leaned into helping employees reach and sustain their potential with supplemental benefits, coaching, mentoring, and leadership. Organization leaders have found that achieving a work-life balance that promotes positive well-being benefits employees and employers.