Why Work-Life Balance Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

To help employees achieve a work-life balance, employers must understand work priorities and motivations. Here are actionable ways to find the right mix.

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Why Work-Life Balance Isn't a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

“You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles,” said motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. Yet, for many workers, this unfortunate situation happens all too often. It’s especially common for top performers who put workplace priorities ahead of personal priorities.

Yet, there’s always a price to pay. When the work-life balance gets too far out of sync, something has to give. It can lead to burnout, poor performance, or resignations. What’s more, employees can suffer the consequences for a long time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people took stock of their lives and reordered their priorities. As a result, 95% of employees say work-life balance is very or somewhat important when choosing or staying at a job, and 72% say it’s very important. Smart businesses understand this. They keep work-life balance in mind when recruiting and managing employee retention.

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance is an almost mythical thing. It spurs images of employees that have a perfect balance between their work and non-work life, keeping everything in perspective, and not sacrificing one for the other.

In reality, jobs with work-life balance are rare. Balance rarely happens without managers making a concerted effort to achieve balance.

Is work-life balance important?

A work-life balance is essential to living a healthy, productive, and happy life. And, it’s one key to retaining employees. 57% of employees in a study by job board Monster said maintaining work-life balance is the most important aspect of work.

For individuals, this requires them to:

  • Be introspective
  • Determine what are their priorities in life
  • Take control of their career path
  • Simplify their lives.

This can create tough choices. For example, some people choose to focus on building a career and accelerating their earnings so they can retire early. Others might emphasize the importance of a regular schedule so they can have more time to enjoy themselves with friends and family. Others may want flexibility in scheduling so they can go back to school or attend events.

And there lies the problem for most companies: Work-life balance means different things for different people. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Some people choose to focus on building a career and accelerating their earnings so they can retire early. Others might emphasize the importance of a regular schedule so they can have more time to enjoy themselves with friends and family.

How to find the right mix of work-life balance for your employees

The concept of work-life balance is that employees can perform well at work with a meaningful and rewarding job while also being able to take care of themselves, their families, and other responsibilities. When things are in balance, people can lead more fulfilling lives.

Taking the time to find out employee priorities and motivations has now become an important part of the human resources process.

But work-life balance can mean different things for different people. Even with these differences, there are some common themes.

Instill a sense of purpose and growth

People spend a lot of their waking hours at work. They want it to mean something more than a paycheck. Providing purpose can go a long way in helping employees stay engaged. 97% of employees that have a clear sense of purpose at work are more satisfied.

Employees also want to know that they can continue to grow and prospect in their careers. This might mean a larger paycheck, more responsibility, increased authority, or training to learn new skills. Others want stability. Employers will need to understand individual motivations to help employees achieve the work-life balance that matters to them.

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Provide flexibility and choice

Employees want to work for managers who respect and value them — and not just as employees. This means employers must be more flexible in how they manage employees. Accommodating important moments in employees’ non-work lives is key to helping people achieve a work-life balance.

Keep in mind, though, that this can mean different things for different employees. For some, it might mean time off to attend a child’s sporting event. For others, it can mean taking care of a sick pet or leaving early to spend time with an out-of-town friend coming for a visit.

While not every job offers flexible work hours, providing flexibility and choice when possible makes a big difference.

Prioritize employee well-being

more than half of employees are now prioritizing their health and mental well-being over their job.

Microsoft’s Work Trends Index shows that more than half of employees are now prioritizing their health and mental well-being over their job. That shouldn’t come as a surprise after the past few years of dealing with a pandemic. Employers need to put a priority on employees’ overall well-being.

This can be a challenge for managers that grew up thinking they should maintain a healthy distance between employees’ professional and personal lives. In today’s work environment, managers need to be closer to the employees to know what’s important to them and how things both at work and at home might affect their performance.

Employers can have a conversation with their team members about what they value. Talk about ways you can help them focus on the important things in their lives. Be clear about what you can and cannot do, but offer suggestions about alternatives.

One emerging trend in HR is adding mental health benefits to health insurance plans. Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs), for example, can help employees manage problems they encounter at work or in their personal lives.

Employers must work to help create work-life balance

recent study by Monster also emphasizes an important data point employers need to take into consideration: Nearly three-quarters of workers said their employers are not taking steps to prioritize their work-life balance. Companies that ignore this do so at their peril.

Ioana Lupu and Mayra Ruiz-Castro, writing in the Harvard Business Review, also point out that creating a work-life balance is not a one-time activity. As people’s jobs and lives change and grow, their priorities and perspectives change, too. This requires a continuous cycle of re-evaluation to keep things balanced. Employers need to have a strategy in place to review employee priorities over time.

If you’re looking for more expert advice, we’ve summarized 10 popular books on creating work-life balance to offer you some additional perspectives. You can read more in our blog post, Our Top Work-Life Balance Books Offer Expert Advice.

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