What Is Work-Life Balance, and How Do I Create It?

If you’re asking “What is work-life balance?” there’s a good chance you don’t have it. Learn how to create it for yourself or at your business.

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What Is Work-Life Balance and How Do I Create It?

If you find yourself asking “What is work-life balance” there is a good chance you don’t have it. Work-life balance refers to gaining a harmonious equilibrium between work and home lives. Businesses that want to achieve a positive culture often pursue initiatives that help employees find a healthy work life balance.

Many wonder what the ideal balance is between work and personal life?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Technology has blurred the lines between work hours and family time, since people commonly work remotely. And even if they don’t, they have devices pinging them at all hours of day and night. If this sounds familiar, what it boils down to is needing to find a way to achieve balance and be empowered to lead a healthy, stable, and meaningful life.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to pursue good work-life integration. The following are tips for employees to help better manage their work-life balance, along with ideas employers can implement in their work environments to help everyone find that ultimate balance.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” Betsy Jacobson, business consultant, via Zenefits.

The impact of poor work-life balance

Long gone are the days when people worked 9 to 5 and shut down at the end of the day. Instead, roughly 50% of American workers check and respond to emails and texts before they even have breakfast. That can increase anxiety and make people feel overwhelmed. Furthermore, many receive and respond to messages on vacation or during holidays.

A recent study in Australia found 1 in 4 workers (26%) felt “obligated” to check messages even when off-duty. The study found that 56% of workers felt psychological distress. Also, 61% expressed feeling “emotionally exhausted,” and 28% said they were in poor physical health. A study in the U.S. brought similar findings. It reported that 1/3 of employees feel overworked or overwhelmed by their jobs.

The benefits of work-life balance 

The “psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees” in the U.S. result in a whopping $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending.

A healthy work-life balance benefits both employer and employee. Forbes reports the “psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees” in the U.S. result in a whopping $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending. Savvy human resources departments understand that a poor work-life balance is harmful. Common words associated with poor balance include stress, conflict, absenteeism, and disengaged employees. All of which typically leads to a toxic workplace.

Organizations that move away from an outdated company culture to invest in work-life balance initiatives often find numerous gains. They see better productivity, higher morale, increased employee retention, decreased absenteeism rates, and an overall happy work environment. Other natural benefits of good work-life balance include fewer instances of chronic stress, burnout, and shoddy work, along with employees enjoying better mental health.

How to achieve work-life balance 

Employees can do many things to improve their work-life balance. Those who succeed find it’s well worth the effort. They feel better, give stronger work performances, and are mentally healthy. Here are a few tips:

Set realistic expectations

As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. Employees who try to make too many changes at once typically set themselves up for failure. It’s important to recognize that both home and work life evolve over time.

Establish boundaries

Boundaries are critical for a healthy work-life balance. While it’s OK to occasionally check or respond to emails during off-hours, don’t make it a habit. Set a designated quitting time and do the same for the morning starts. Schedule periodic breaks during the day to ensure the brain gets a breather and the body can recharge. Market research suggests microbreaks boost energy levels, which leads to engaged employees.

Take time off

Most employers offer a designated amount of PTO each year — use it! Whether it’s a vacation, staycation, or another way to spend time away from work, it’ll go a long way toward recharging inner batteries and becoming a better team member.

Stay home when sick

In the age of COVID-19, it goes without saying. But even if symptoms are related to other illnesses, stay home when not feeling well. No one earns points for going to the office when sick or unable to meet, never mind exceed, expectations. Other things employees can do to achieve success is to request flexible schedules, remote work, or even cross-training, to help break up monotony. Variation is extremely important to combating issues like burnout.

How can employers foster work-life balance? 

Employers can foster employee work-life balance by striving for an inclusive culture and phasing out practices that contribute to a boring culture. Good practices include encouraging open communication, and HR encouraging leadership and other team members to speak up about issues. HR can also solicit feedback regarding important issues such as scheduling, hours, workloads, and even personal issues, such as childcare.

Policies employers can initiate include flex-time, more PTO, and a lax dress code. By learning what employees want, employers can do better at providing support. For instance, they can support health by offering discounts on gym memberships, creating company-wide health initiatives such as walking/most step competitions, and offering “employee days” to help employees interact and demonstrate how they can provide company value to employees.

A positive culture

What is work-life balance? The bottom line is that a positive company culture and promotion of a diverse workforce are good for both employees and their employers. While a perfect balance isn’t likely, it’s pretty much a given that if unhealthy elements exist, maintaining the status quo will lead to disaster. On the other hand, a strong company culture helps a business not only grow, but thrive.

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