Employee Work-Life Balance — What it is and the Most Popular Benefit You’re Not Offering
By: Mady Peterson
You hear the phrase all the time, but do you really know what employee 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 is work-life balance?
“Work-life balance” is a commonly used yet misleading phrase. It gives the impression that spending 50% of your time doing “work” and 50% doing “life” (or various percentages adding up to 100) equates to high-well-being and a 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
Employee engagement and work-life balance
Remote workers are spending more time at work. A recent survey reported that “nearly 70% of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45% say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before.” The nature of work has changed drastically over the past few years — with hybrid or remote work options, employees are putting flexibility at the top of their list of work requirements. In fact, a recent survey found 95% of workers want to set their own hours.
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 human resources can strengthen employee work-life balance
Work-life integration is so crucial to your employees’ 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.” Tracy believes work-life supports are one of the first steps in creating integration between work and life. They are the formal benefits, policies and practices that help employees navigate the demands of work and life. If you want your employees to feel valued, then look at your available work-life supports. We’ve outline a few ideas of where to start, but be sure to read our Why Work-life Balance is Dead 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.
Leaders are pivotal to the success of work-life supports. If leaders don’t live out and promote your organization’s work-life supports, your employees sure won’t. Why? Because all the choices leaders make send cues to employees about what is — and isn’t — acceptable. And these messages guide employee decisions. They notice if leaders collaborate, take vacations or work from home when their children are sick. So make sure your leaders demonstrate how important work-life integration is to them and your culture.
If your organization is hesitant to jump on the work-life-supports bandwagon, consider a pilot. Start small and be specific — consider focusing on work hours or providing healthy snack options. Stakeholders will be more open to a trial run, knowing it isn’t permanent. Plus, it’ll kick off an internal discussion and build an army of supporters.
Top 5 difficult situations when navigating work and life
Navigating work and life isn’t always easy. Download our e-book to get Tracy’s answers to these five sticky situations:
How can I implement work-life supports in my company despite our more rigid structure?
How can I prove to my executive team this works?
What should I do if my leader doesn’t accept work-life supports?
What should I do if my new leader doesn’t provide the same work-life supports as my previous one?
How do I know if I’m satisfied with my work-life integration?
The business benefits of employee work-life balance
When organizations provide work-life supports, they enhance employee engagement, satisfaction, retention and health — which yields better company results. And when employees believe their employer cares about their health and well-being, they are:
38% more engaged
28% more likely to recommend their workplace
10x less likely to be hostile
17% more likely to be working there in one year
18% more likely to go the extra mile for the organization
Just think of the opportunity costs of overlooking the work-life supports mentioned above. You may save money today, but you’ll lose in the future.
There’s no silver bullet for true employee work-life balance. Because every employee has a different view of what the split means to them, employers can only do so much to foster a productive culture that allows for balance. Here’s what we found when we dove in to what this really means for employees and employers.
Employee engagement and work-life balance
more engaged when employees have the right amount of balance between their work and personal life
The work-life balance benefits employees want the most: more flexibility
of employees want flexible work hours, yet only 45% of employers offer them
of employees want to work remotely but only 32% of organizations offer this benefit
Having more flexibility (either through flexible hours or the option to work remotely) gives employees the freedom to manage their time in a way that works best for them. It’s also better for you business and engagement levels.
We found that employees are 18% more engaged when provided flexible hours and 14% more engaged when provided the opportunity to work remotely.
What can employers do?
If you decide to offer employees flexible hours and the opportunity to work remotely, you’ll need to trust your employees are working when they say they are. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you with this transition:
DO make an effort to increase personal connection with remote employees. For example, video chat instead of sending an email.
DON’T investigate the time they’re putting in unless you notice a change in performance.
DO encourage remote employees to visit your headquarters when safe and appropriate.
DON’T cut remote employees out of your well-being program.
If you want to learn more about the current state of employee well-being and engagement, download the full report, including resources for building a successful employee engagement program.