Managing people

How to improve your work-life balance

Despite all the technology available to modern employees, most of us are busier than ever. 

20 December 2022

Work-life balance is the concept of effectively splitting time between work and other important aspects of life. After all, everyone has responsibilities and hobbies outside of work, such as taking care of the family or playing sports. But between long commutes, unpaid overtime, and access to work from mobile devices, it’s becoming harder to switch off.

Employers who offer better work-life balance benefit from improved productivity, greater employee engagement, and better staff retention. However, budget constraints and mounting work pressure make it challenging for work-life balance to be the priority for many organisations.

So how can you encourage a better work-life balance in your workplace?

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance describes the balance an employee needs between their professional life and personal life. A good work-life balance occurs when an employee has harmony between different aspects of life, including work, family, friends and hobbies. When an employee successfully achieves this, each area supports and complements the other. 

Someone with poor work-life balance may devote long hours to work, putting in constant overtime and leaving little time for family. They could also be an employee who works night shifts and sleeps through the day. In this case, their role leaves them unable to socialise with loved ones, who may work during the day and sleep at night.

Poor work-life balance: who’s affected?

If a job is highly demanding or working conditions are poor, it can negatively affect employee mental health. 

Employees with poor work-life balance suffer from high levels of stress in the workplace and could struggle with job performance. However, there are also a host of social flow-on consequences. Long or unsociable working hours can cause the breakdown of domestic relationships and friendships. Physical health and well-being also take a toll, particularly if employees are working too hard or are too exhausted from work to exercise on a regular basis.

However, poor work-life balance doesn’t just affect employees and their social networks. It also affects employers. The downside of work-life balance issues includes higher levels of work stress, sickness absence, presenteeism and staff turnover, and a lack of loyalty or commitment among employees. 

Any or all of these factors can significantly undermine organisational success and affect the bottom line. In the most serious cases, employees have fallen seriously ill or have been unable to work due to stress or burnout. This leads to workers’ compensation claims, which cost employers both in terms of compensation and hikes in insurance premiums.

Employee burnout

In the worst cases, poor work-life balance leads to burnout. Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by extended periods of excessive or stressful work. Employees who experience burnout suffer from emotional exhaustion, increased cynicism, and reduced efficiency. Employees suffering from burnout also experience a feeling of detachment, which often leads to them simply ‘going through the motions’.

What are your responsibilities?

In line with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, employers are required to manage health and safety risks in the workplace. These obligations cover risks to an employee’s physical well-being, but they also extend to mental health risks, such as stress and burnout.

Work-life balance strategies 

There is a range of actions employers can take to help employees better balance their professional and personal lives. Some work-life balance tips include:

  • Incorporate a work-life balance policy into your existing mental health policy at work.
  • Train employees on time management skills and strategies to help them better manage their workload. Diaries, apps, and to-do lists are all useful.
  • Cut down on meetings to reduce unnecessary time wastage.
  • Encourage regular exercise. Regular exercise reduces stress, anxiety, and depression among employees. Set up a weekly lunchtime yoga class, or provide corporate gym membership rates for your team.
  • Set up boundaries for employees and managers. For example, consider setting up a ‘no work emails after 6 pm’ policy.
  • Establish flexible work or remote work as part of your organisation’s work-life balance policy.
  • Provide access to resources to help employees practice mindfulness, such as ReachOut’s Breathe app.

Ultimately, encouraging work-life balance benefits everyone in the workforce and contributes to a healthy workplace environment. Employees have more time to spend with their families and have greater job satisfaction. Meanwhile, employers reap the rewards with improved productivity and employee engagement, and decreased turnover.

Need help?

My Business Workplace has a range of WHS resources available to download as well as many other topics. 

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