The Importance of Employee Work-Life Balance
As we continue on this month’s theme of employee well-being, an important topic that must be included is work-life balance. Long gone are the days of one person working and one taking care of the home, so that the working partner has no outside conflicts or family obligations. Even if this is the case for a worker, there are still going to be outside life forces that need to be taken into consideration for the long-term wellbeing of the employee. So how can companies address these needs, and how will doing so ultimately benefit the business?
Achieving a work-life balance not only improves an employee’s mental health, but it benefits the business too.
Employees with a good work-life balance are more efficient, productive and motivated. However, the current state of work-life balance is troubling. According to a study by Mental Health America:
- More than half of respondents said they do unhealthy things (e.g. drinking, drug use, lashing out at others) to cope with workplace stress.
- More than two-thirds have had their sleep negatively affected by workplace issues.
- Over 75% were afraid of getting punished for taking a day off to attend to their mental health.
- Those who worked in manufacturing, retail, and food/beverage jobs were most likely to report that work stress “Always or Often” impacted their personal relationships.
A survey by the Mental Health Foundation confirms these findings. They noted:
- 1 in 3 feel unhappy about the time they devote to work.
- 40%+ are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work.
- When working long hours 27% feel depressed, 34% feel anxious and 58% feel irritable.
- Nearly two thirds of employees have experienced a negative effect on their personal life such as a lack of personal development, poor home life and physical and mental health issues.
The MHF survey also found that as weekly hours increase, so do feelings of unhappiness. In addition, the more hours employees spend at work, the more hours outside of work they are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it.
So how can companies address these issues?
There are many ways businesses can help employees achieve a better work-life balance. Some examples are:
- Flexible working options (e.g. compressed hours, job sharing, remote working)
- Paid time off policies
- Supporting employees with caregiver duties
- Implementing reasonable time and communication expectations when outside of work (allowing employees time to truly be unreachable from work)
- Mental and physical health promoting activities (e.g. gym membership, cycle to work programs, lunchtime meditation classes)
- Medical services such as access to healthcare and health assessments at work to help employees fit appointments around their work and other commitments.
It’s worth noting that a one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance is unlikely to be suitable. An employee dealing with elder care issues has very different needs than a Gen Z worker that wants more time to travel or to go back to school.
You also want to check that the level of satisfaction with the health and wellness benefits you are providing is aligned with what your employees want and need. Conduct an anonymous survey to understand what issues workers need support on, whether it's balancing work with family obligations, identifying the signs of burnout, creating a safe and healthy work environment at home, or ways to feel less alone.
The benefits to companies that support employee work-life balance
Ultimately the efforts a company goes through to help employees achieve work-life balance will come back to benefit them. An ACAS report (www.acas.org.uk) on flexible working and work-life balance showed how a poor balance can lead to absence, low productivity and stress. But when balance is achieved, benefits can include:
- Better levels of efficiency and productivity
- Lower levels of absence, sickness and stress
- A motivated workforce
- Improved customer service
- Higher retention levels
- More applicants for vacancies
Employee work-life balance programs can be manageable and cost-effective, and result in a more engaged and energized workforce. If employees know that their company supports their aspirations and obligations outside of the workplace, they are motivated to work harder and have more loyalty than to a company that ignores their needs. These programs and policies also need to be modeled from the top. If employees see managers and senior officers exhibiting healthy work-life balance practices and using the company programs provided, they will be more likely to take advantage of the work-life benefits offered to them.
By Ann Condon, Marketing Manager
Ann Condon has been with Dion for 17 years, working in Dion’s Marketing and Business Development Department. Although this was her first position with a jewelry manufacturer, she has learned a lot over the years. Ann enjoys getting involved in “All Things Dion” from volunteering at the Dion Golf Tournament to being a part of the Dion Diamonds Relay for Life Team. She has quite a number of Dion event t-shirts to show for it!
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