We all talk about achieving work-life balance, but is that really possible in your company?
For many employees, a combination of intrusive technology and pressure from bosses means work-life balance is a thing of the past. For example, according to one survey:
- 57% of employees think technology has ruined the definition of a family dinner.
- 60% blame bad bosses for the most negative impact on work-life balance.
- 38% have missed life events because of bad work-life balance.
In this tutorial, we’ll cover the importance of work-life balance for a successful company, and then we’ll go into some work-life balance tips and strategies. With these techniques, you’ll give your employees a much better chance of achieving work-life balance. And we’ll also look at some examples of companies with the best work-life balance, so that you can learn from what they’re doing right.
These tips will work for anyone who owns or runs a small or medium-sized business or who works in HR for a larger company. We’ll go through things you can do at the company level to help employees get the balance right. If you want to know how to balance work and life as an individual entrepreneur, then check out this article:
The Importance of Work-Life Balance
Before we look at ways of achieving work-life balance, let’s see why it’s important.
Adult life is a juggling act. We try to balance the often competing demands of family, friends, work colleagues, and bosses. We try to stay on top of things like paying the bills and household chores while also meeting all our work deadlines. And in the middle of all this, we try to have some quality time just for ourselves, indulging in pure, unadulterated leisure.
The idea of work-life balance is that employees are able to lead fulfilling lives, taking care of themselves and their families and any other responsibilities they may have. Work is an important part of their lives, but it doesn’t take over and prevent them from attending to other things and people that they value.
Part of that is about the number of hours worked. This index, for example, ranks countries according to the amount of time workers in various countries have available for personal care and leisure (the average is 15 hours a day, or 63% of the total). If your employees are expected to work 50 or more hours a week, chances are that'll start to affect their ability to take care of other important aspects of their lives.
But work-life balance is also about more than the number of hours. It’s about many things, such as:
- the flexibility to take care of personal issues at short notice
- enjoying workplace benefits like parental leave and enough vacation time, so that they can be present for the most important moments in their own lives and those of their loved ones
- being able to switch their phones off at night and enjoy a family meal without checking for out-of-hours email
If people don’t have good work-life balance, it can lead to workplace stress, which can have negative effects on employees’ physical and mental health. That has knock-on effects on things like productivity, job satisfaction, medical costs, and absenteeism.
Good balance, on the other hand, can help people to do a better job, to enjoy their work more, and to be more productive. They’re also likely to be more engaged and to stay in their jobs longer, reducing costly staff turnover.
Better work-life balance is something that your employees want too. According to Statista, 95% of U.S. employees view work-life balance as important.
Guess what? If 95% of your employees want something and it'll help them to do a better job, it’s probably a good idea to give it to them.
But what does that look like in practice? We’ll cover that in the next section.
Work-Life Balance Tips and Strategies
Now that you know the importance of work-life balance, let’s look at some examples of how you can put it into practice. These policies and benefits will help your employees manage the complexities of life better and feel more fulfilled both inside and outside the workplace.
1. Flexible Work Schedules
This is perhaps the most important policy of all. If employees have to clock on early each morning and stay until late in the evening, they’re not going to have time to take care of important things in their family lives.
In some jobs, rigid working hours may be needed, but in most cases they’re not. Wherever possible, allow employees to do their work in their own time. Maybe they want to arrive late some days so that they can take the kids to school, for example, or take a longer lunch break to check on an ageing parent. Allow these requests wherever possible.
And if you can allow even more flexibility, such as working different days, working part-time, job sharing, and remote work, then do that too. Some companies even offer unlimited vacation these days—see the next section for an example of that.
2. Limits on Email
Although flexible work schedules are important, they can also lead to a blurring of the lines between work and personal life—particularly with modern technology making it so easy to do things like replying to work emails at the dinner table.
The bottom line is that if people feel pressure to respond quickly to emails at any time of the day or night, then they’ll keep checking their phones even when they’re supposed to be enjoying some leisure time. But as a leader, you can set expectations and help shape the company culture.
So make it clear that people aren't expected to respond to emails received out of hours or while they’re on vacation. Encourage employees to commit to enjoying some downtime every day. Unless there’s a truly urgent situation, like an important deal being concluded, staff shouldn’t be on email outside of work hours and should switch off notifications.
3. Health and Well-being Programs
An important part of non-work life is self-care. If you can allow employees to take care of themselves both physically and mentally while they’re at work, then you’re contributing greatly to their sense of balance and ease.
So organise health and wellbeing programs. If you’re a small firm and can’t afford to build a fitness centre in your office, then you can do things like providing vouchers for a local gym and arranging daily meditation classes in a spare office. Whatever your budget will allow in this area will be a very worthwhile investment.
There are other things you can do to support mental health in the workplace:
4. Childcare and Other Family Benefits
When employees have young children, that juggling act we talked about earlier becomes all the more demanding. As an employer, you can take a lot of the pressure off by providing childcare facilities in the workplace.
By providing on-site childcare, you take a lot of the stress and worry out of your employees’ lives. They know their children are safe and close by, and they also don’t have to deal with driving across town to drop off and pick up their kids before and after work. There are benefits for companies too: 90% of parents using on-site daycare report increased concentration and productivity on the job.
Also, don’t forget about generous parental leave to allow parents to spend time with their new babies.
5. Monitor and Adjust Workload
Providing a generous vacation allowance doesn’t mean much if people are so busy that they feel they can’t take time off. So it’s important to monitor your employees’ workload regularly and to make adjustments if people are so overloaded that they constantly have to put in extra time.
In some companies, working later than everyone else is valued as a sign of commitment. Try to create a healthier workplace culture, in which you trust your staff to do their jobs and are happy for them to leave at a good time to spend time with their families and friends. If you do that, they probably will be truly committed to your company, instead of just faking it by logging lots of hours.
6. Work More Efficiently
To free up more time for your employees and save them from having to check their phones at home, try simplifying and optimising your work processes.
This Harvard Business Review article pinpoints several problems, such as poor time management, uneven workload, and “excessive collaboration”, in which decision-making processes are unnecessarily complicated and drag in too many people. Simplify your processes and provide your employees with better tools to manage their time, and you’ll help them achieve a better balance.
Companies With the Best Work-Life Balance
So, what does a good work-life balance look like in practice? Here are some examples of companies with the best work-life balance and the policies they’ve implemented to achieve that. Here are some companies with the best work-life balance policies:
1. Keller Williams Realty: Flexibility and Wellness
Real estate firm Keller Williams was the top-rated workplace for work-life balance in Indeed’s 2019 rankings. The company achieved this by implementing a policy of real flexibility, allowing its associates to make their own schedules.
It also runs the KW Wellness program, aimed at helping associates to take care of their physical and mental health and to use stress-reduction techniques. And for the important events in life, both good and bad, employees can not only take the time they need but will get support from the firm: 89% of Keller Williams associates believe the company will assist them in a time of need.
2. HubSpot: Unlimited Vacation
Yep, you read that right. HubSpot employees can take as much vacation as they like. On top of that, they can work from home whenever they need to. The firm’s code states:
“Results matter more than the hours we work.”
There’s also the HubCare program, which offers “mental health and emotional support, work-life, and well-being resources.” And the Healthy@HubSpot initiative provides access to fitness facilities, nutrition consultations, workshops on stress management, and more.
3. GEICO: Sponsored Events
Insurance firm GEICO sponsors various extra-curricular events for its employees. There are plenty of company-sponsored sporting events, such as soccer, basketball, and softball. And some GEICO offices arrange annual fishing or golf tournaments.
The GEICO Corporate Community Citizens program also coordinates a range of charitable and community service events and fundraisers for employees to participate in, and there are fitness programs in most locations with everything from weight-loss programs to yoga and tai chi classes.
How Will Your Company Achieve Work-Life Balance?
In this tutorial, you’ve seen the importance of work-life balance and learned some important techniques for achieving work-life balance. You’ve also seen a few examples of companies with the best work-life balance.
You can learn more about health and well-being at work in these articles:
- ProductivityHow to Improve Work-Life Balance in Your Small BusinessMarc Schenker
- BusinessHow to Create a Positive Work Environment for Your BusinessAndrew Blackman
- HealthHow to Practice Mindfulness at Work (Guide to Better Focus)Brenda Barron
- ProductivityHow to Wake Up Early & Feel Great (Ready to Set Your Alarm for 5 AM?)Celine (CX) Roque
Helping your employees juggle competing demands and live a more complete, fulfilling life will put them in a better position to work effectively, creating better results both for your staff and for your company.
Now that we've shared some work-life balance tips and you've looked the policies of some companies with the best work-life balance, you've got a better understanding of the work-life balance importance. Why not start putting what you’ve learned into effect in your business today?
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2019. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.
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