You hear the phrase all the time, but do you really know what work-life balance is? To bring you up to speed, we’ve got everything you need to know — including how you can best support your employees.
What it is
“Work-life balance” is a commonly used yet misleading phrase. It gives the impression that spending 50 percent of your time doing “work” and 50 percent doing “life” (or various percentages adding up to 100) equates to a high-well-being, successful you. If only that were the case.
We draw our definitions of what this term really is from two work experts, Dr. Lucy English and Dr. Tracy Brower:
- Lucy illustrates “work-life balance” as balancing a towering stack of plates, which represent bills to pay, carpools to run and projects to finish at work while trying to keep it all from crashing.
- Tracy says work-life balance isn’t actually about balancing. Instead, it’s about integrating. “Work-life integration” expresses the importance of blending the demands of work and life into a unified both.
Regardless of what you call it, both terms explain it’s impossible to separate work from life and life from work.
“Work is part of life. Life should be part of work, in that we should be able to bring our whole selves to work – or more of ourselves, at least” – Dr. Tracy Brower.
Why it matters
Americans are spending more time at work. A recent survey reported that over the last 30 years, Americans have worked an additional month per year. And this extra four weeks is taking its toll on the workforce. Not only do Americans feel less productive, but they also blame high workload as the main cause of stress in their lives. And it’s no surprise that employees who feel overworked also report more mistakes, an increased desire to leave their companies and more anger towards their employer.
The demand for work-life integration is here, and it’s only growing. Employees bring their best selves to work when they’re provided with the necessary support resources. When employees have control over a flexible schedule and feel there’s enough time to finish their projects at work, go on a run and take their kids to soccer, it benefits you, too. And as a result, your employees will be less stressed, happier and more efficient with their time at work.
How to strengthen work-life integration in your workplace
Work-life integration is so crucial to your employee’s well-being that we partnered with Dr. Tracy Brower to write an e-book all about it. In it, we outline what Tracy calls “work-life supports.” We’ve outline a few below, read the e-book for more.
- Job Management: Employees who see a long-term future with a company can better integrate work and life. Help your employees set clear development goals to align their work with their passions and highlight growth areas.
- Flexible schedules: Seventy-four percent of employees want flexible work hours, but only 46% get it. And those who do are 18% more engaged at work. There’s a demand for flexible work schedules and it comes at no cost to your company. Allowing your employees to have more control over their schedule will increase overall engagement.
- Physical work environment: Create places where people can effectively meet, collaborate, be inspired by or focus on their work.
- Technology: Everyone has different technology they prefer to use and communicate with. Allow your employees to choose which devices they use.