Identifying what makes up a healthy work-life balance is somewhat subjective. An article from PositivePsychology.com cites research advocating that “[p]eople should feel satisfied with their own performance in various life domains and function optimally in those domains. Their performance and function across life domains should not clash.”1
The same body of research also notes that the roles people perform change as does the importance they assign to these roles. Priorities shift, by preference or of necessity, and work-life balance becomes the “degree of autonomy that people have over the demands of various roles, and their ability to meet those demands.”2
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2020 Better Life Index found that the U.S. ranks 30th out of 40 countries in terms of time devoted to leisure and personal care. A recent survey of 310 organizations by the Conference Board showed that 46% of respondents reported their healthy work-life balance had decreased.3
What are the costs?
WebMD lists some of the impacts of an unhealthy work-life balance:4
- Short temper (limited tolerance)
- Poor health
- Higher stress levels
- Lost time with family and friends
- Poor sleep
The effect of these impacts for employers on productivity and healthcare costs is obvious and has been documented.5
PositivePsychology.com cites studies showing that employees who have more autonomy around their schedules, for example, report higher job satisfaction, more motivation and better health.6
The National Institutes of Health employed a consulting group for a WorkLife Benchmark Study. After reviewing flexible work, childcare, elder care and fitness and well-being programs, the study found that work-life programs are “vital” as they affect “recruitment, retention, performance and employee engagement.”7
Bottom line? Employers who help and support their employees achieve a better work-life balance have happier and more productive employees.
What can you do?
Think in terms of work-life integration rather than work-life balance. As the Wall Street Journal suggests, “Instead of thinking of work and life as opposite weights on a scale, we should think of work as a part of life.”8
This model suggests that both employers and employees play a role in establishing a workplace that empowers a healthy work-life balance. Forbes suggests some questions management teams can ask themselves: 9
- How are your employees’ work-life balances?
- How can you support them in exploring what they need?
- Does your workplace culture contribute to stress?
- How can you prioritize appreciation?
- How are you, as a leader, modeling a healthy work-life balance?
- Do you have policies in place to ensure that employees take vacation time?
Employees should be encouraged to take their work-life balance seriously and should be assured that management is supportive. High-level strategies that support a healthy work-life balance include personal evaluation of current roles, relationships and responsibilities and an assessment of the rules and rituals (structured, expected behaviors) associated with each of those areas. Are those rules and rituals necessary? Flexible? What resources exist in each of these life areas that can nourish and support the others?
Consider scheduling from the perspective of the needs of both employer and employee. “By evaluating employees based on results produced over hours spent, companies can create a highly driven workplace with increased employee output, improved team rapport, and a flexible company culture. Additionally, a principle benefit of the results-focused workplace is the culture that it creates, allowing work to naturally be part of life, not a separate thing,” states a recent FastCompany article.11 The Mayo Clinic suggests considering options for flex time, job sharing, and compressed work hours, pointing out that the more control employees have over their hours, the less stress they suffer.12
Some best practices around scheduling include encouraging employees to:13
- Take rejuvenation days
- Schedule days in advance, prioritizing no more than 3–5 items each day
- Designate blocks of time for focused work
- Focus on results, not time spent
- Not work during off-hours, and don’t answer work emails; reset expectations with your colleagues, if necessary
Increasingly important, as many work from home, is the need to establish boundaries between when you are at work and when you are not. Encourage employees who work from home to step away from their home office in the same way they would step away from work if they were actually leaving a physical office.
Establishing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance leans heavily on stress reduction techniques like physical exercise, mindfulness/meditation practices, an “attitude of gratitude” and volunteerism. Professional help is valuable, as well, when life seems too chaotic to manage. What stress management resources are available through your company’s employee assistance or wellness programs?
Finally, both employers and employees should understand that maintaining a healthy work-life balance and a workplace that supports that balance is a continuous process. “The balance will tilt toward different domains. This tilting is normal; sometimes we need to give more to work, other times to family.”14
The Go365 App allows members to earn Points when accessing the MyLife™ mindfulness app and Unwinding Anxiety® app. Members can access virtual coaches and other helpful resources to support their health and well-being.
Humana’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Work-Life Services include confidential, accessible resources to support your employees’ health and mental well-being. EAP professionals are trained to assist your employees with emotional issues, work-life balance, plus other daily needs and life events.
To find out more about Go365 or EAP, contact your licensed Humana sales agent or request more information about Go365’s wellness program by filling out this formOpens in new window.
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1Alicia Nortje, “What is Work-Life Balance & Why Is It Important?” PositivePscyhology.com, last accessed October 2, 2021, https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-work-life-balance/Opens in new window.
2“What is Work-Life Balance & Why Is It Important?”
3Allison Pohle, “How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance,” The Wall Street Journal, last accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-improve-your-work-life-balance-11608244271Opens in new window.
4“Balancing Work and Family,” WebMD, last accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/balance/balancing-work-and-familyOpens in new window.
5Rachel Montañez, “This Work-Life Balance Study Reveals 3 Major Problems: Here’s What We Need To Ask,” Forbes, last accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelmontanez/2020/02/10/this-work-life-balance-study-reveals-3-major-problems-heres-what-we-need-to-ask/?sh=5fc5bff17277Opens in new window.
6“What is Work-Life Balance & Why Is It Important?”
7Courtney Buble, “New Guidance Helps Agencies Assess the Value of Work-Life Balance Programs,” Government Executive, Last accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2019/07/new-guidance-helps-agencies-assess-value-work-life-balance-programs/158501/Opens in new window.
8“How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance.”
9“How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance.”
10“This Work-Life Balance Study Reveals 3 Major Problems: Here’s What We Need To Ask.”
11Carolyn Moore, “We need to talk about how the new way to work is about outcomes, not hours,” FastCompany, Last accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.fastcompany.com/90634884/we-need-to-talk-about-how-the-new-way-to-work-is-about-outcomes-not-hoursOpens in new window.
12Mayo Clinic Staff, “Work-life balance: Tips to reclaim control,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/work-life-balance/art-20048134Opens in new window.
13Mark Pettit, “13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life,” Lifehack, last accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.lifehack.org/734028/work-life-balance-tipsOpens in new window.
14“What is Work-Life Balance and Why Is It Important?”