How (and Why) to Support Employee Work-Life Balance

Many people work inconsistent schedules or check their email outside of the office. It can be a challenge for some employees to maintain effective work-life balance when they feel either from perceived managerial pressure or their own pressure that they don’t have enough time for both. Establishing effective practices to help your employees achieve work-life balance is key. Learn what work-life balance is, understand what causes work-life imbalance, review the benefits of supporting employee work-life balance and read tips for how you can support work-life balance. 

 

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What is work-life balance? 

Work-life balance is the process of maintaining separation and success in your personal endeavors and at work. Finding the time to devote the appropriate energy to each area is a challenge for some employees, especially those who regularly work overtime, have long commutes or take care of a number of personal responsibilities outside of work. Many companies support work-life balance by implementing procedures and providing benefits that help employees effectively balance all their responsibilities. 

Related: Managing Stress in the Workplace: An Introduction

 

What causes work-life imbalance?

Any number of factors and stressors can cause work-life imbalance. The specific causes of work-life imbalance can vary from person to person within the same company. Common causes of work-life imbalance include: 

  • Rising expenses: Generally, for middle-class people, expenses continue to rise while salaries and wages stay stagnant. 
  • Increased workplace responsibilities: Employees find they have more responsibilities at work than they can complete during their shifts. 
  • Longer hours: Some employees work extended hours either to ensure they complete all their tasks or to make extra money to cover their expenses. 
  • Growing personal responsibilities: Many employees find their home responsibilities increase as they purchase homes, get married, have children and take care of aging relatives. 
  • Unsupportive supervisors: Some employees have supervisors who do not support their personal needs, making it a challenge to manage both work and home responsibilities. 

Related: Avoiding the Monday Blues (for You and Your Employees)

 

Benefits of supporting employee work-life balance

Taking the time to review how your company approaches and supports work-life balance can have lasting positive impacts on your organization: 

  • Increased productivity: When your employees are well-rested and suffer from less stress, they can focus fully on their work responsibilities, improving their productivity. 
  • Decreased time off: Employees take less time off work when they have the time they need off the clock to manage personal responsibilities already. 
  • Higher morale: Overall employee morale is higher when the company as a whole feels supported and well-rested. 
  • Fewer sick days: When employees have time to rest and relax, they’re less likely to get sick, resulting in fewer sick days and missed work. 
  • Increased retention: Employees who have adequate time away from work to handle their personal needs are less likely to leave that position in search of something else. 
  • Improved collaboration: Employees who feel respected and supported are often more inclined to innovate and collaborate with their colleagues. 
  • Increased savings: With fewer days off and decreased turnover, your company will save money on paid time off and recruiting. 
  • Improved public reputation: By establishing an effective work-life balance policy, people will want to come work for your company.   

 

Tips for how managers can support employee work-life balance

Improving work-life balance for your employees takes some thought, but you can see improvement by implementing a few new policies and providing several benefits. Use these tips to help you support your employees’ work-life balance: 

 

Be flexible

Consider allowing employees to work flexible schedules, depending on their role within the company. This could mean setting office hours from 7am to 7pm and allowing employees to work eight hours within that range. It could also mean allowing a combination of teleworking and in-office working to accommodate personal demands at home. Think about what schedule might work best to help your employees manage their time and try it out. 

 

Provide paid time off

Give your employees paid time off, or PTO, to use not just for illness but also for personal time and vacation. A bank of PTO allows employees to manage their time away from work as they see fit rather than worrying about using too many paid sick days or not enough paid vacation days. 

 

Limit carryover

To encourage your employees to actually use their PTO, limit the number of days or hours they’re allowed to carry over from one year to the next. By setting limits, you’re showing your employees you want and expect them to take time away from work to spend with their families, resting or managing personal responsibilities rather than stockpiling their PTO for the future. 

 

Model balance

Model work-life balance yourself to show your employees it’s something you care about. Leave work at a reasonable hour. Try not to check your messages or email for work when you’re at home. Take vacations and PTO. Stay home when you’re ill. All of these actions will communicate to your team that you expect the same balance from them. 

 

Respect time off

When your employees are taking PTO, respect their time by not emailing or calling them. Make it a company wide expectation that when you’re away from work, even if it was a last-minute decision due to illness, that you’re off work and not expected to communicate with other employees or complete any tasks at home. 

 

Allow unpaid time off

There are some situations in which your employees may need to take an extended period off work or exceed their PTO. Consider each independent situation, but try to be flexible and grant your employees unpaid time off to manage their needs. For example, if an employee needs more time at home before returning to work following the birth or adoption of a child, think about granting them extra unpaid time. 

 

Sponsor activities

Regularly plan bonding activities for your employees and their families. Sponsoring a family picnic on a Saturday or an after-work happy hour on a Friday night will encourage your employees to get to know one another on a personal level and spend time enjoying an activity without the pressures of work. Camaraderie and high morale at work encourage retention. 

 

Manage work flow

If your company experiences busier seasons and slower seasons, do your best to balance those hours for your employees. For example, if you know you’ll have a busy few months during which employees will need to work overtime, consider reducing hours or offering additional PTO during slower seasons to help employees find that work-life balance. 

 

Consider unique job structures

Allow job sharing or part-time work if employees are struggling to manage their personal responsibilities and work responsibilities with a full-time schedule. 

 

Reward healthy habits

Encourage employees to prioritize their physical and mental health by offering benefits, perks, prizes and rewards for going to the gym, participating in athletic events or taking time to meditate. You can give employees extra time off specifically for exercise or give out prizes for meeting health and wellness goals. 

 

Minimize distractions

Keep the workplace free of unnecessary distractions to help employees stay focused. Minimize meetings and find other ways to keep employees productive when in the office. 

Work-life balance is vital to a successful workplace. Find a few ways to improve your employees’ work-life balance and see the benefits with a happier workforce and higher productivity. 

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