To many professionals, maintaining a work-life balance can seem nearly impossible.
Besides staying on top of your work, you also have to spend time with your family, attend to your personal needs, maintain friendships, invest time in hobbies… and fit all of it in the mere 24 hours each day has.
Nonetheless, ensuring a healthy work-life balance has many benefits for employees and employers alike, so you’re more than right if you’re looking for ways to master it.
Well, look no further - we’ve got you covered!
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about improving work-life balance both as an employee AND as an employer, including:
- What Is Work-Life Balance?
- 6 Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance
- 7 Benefits of Work-Life Balance
- How to Promote Work-Life Balance as an Employer
So, let’s jump right in.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Simply put, work-life balance means equally prioritizing your work and personal life.
Essentially, a good work-life balance allows you to create harmony between both areas of your life and promotes your physical, emotional, financial, and mental well-being.
That said, work-life balance doesn’t necessarily mean dividing your time evenly between your work and your personal life.
Rather, a good work-life balance comes from having the capacity to complete your professional tasks and still have enough time and energy to spend on things that bring you joy, such as your family, friends, and hobbies.
Typically, there are several factors that lead to an unhealthy work-life balance, which include:
- Too many responsibilities at work or at home
- Long working hours
- Changes in personal life, such as having children or having to take care of elderly parents
- Increased expenses with the same salary
If you’re unsure whether you have a healthy balance between your work and personal life, here are some of the signs that can help you spot a decline in your work-life balance:
- Your work consumes most of your day, including the weekends
- You don’t get enough sleep
- You don’t have time to take care of your physical well-being (e.g. you don’t exercise, cook homemade meals, or shower regularly)
- Your friends and family complain that you don’t spend enough time with them
- You often fail to meet your deadlines
- You often experience stress and anxiety
- You can’t stop thinking about your work
- Your productivity has dropped
- You don’t have any hobbies
- You check your email past your working hours
6 Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance
Do any of the above-mentioned signs hit too close to home? Worry not!
Here are 6 tried-and-tested ways to improve your work-life balance:
#1. Set a Realistic Schedule
Ideally, you want to spend 8 hours on work, 8 hours on your friends, family, and hobbies, and 8 hours sleeping each day.
As perfect as it sounds, however, this sort of schedule isn’t feasible for most people. Life is unpredictable, and on some days you may have to spend more time with your family or, conversely, a weekend at work.
For this reason, it’s important that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself to perfectly stick to your schedule.
Instead, you should measure your work-life balance over the long haul. For example, one weekend spent at work won’t affect your work-life balance, but if you spend most of your weekends working, it might take a toll on your family life.
As such, you want to set a realistic schedule based on your personal and professional responsibilities and goals.
So, let’s say your personal goal is to learn to play the guitar.
Sure, it may sound like a good idea to spend an hour every weekday evening strumming the strings, yet chances are more important responsibilities might come up that may change your schedule. As a result, you might not be able to consistently work on your new skill.
Rather than allocating a specific time to work on your goals, you want to outline your goals in your weekly schedule (e.g. spend 5 hours in total per week on guitar) and work on them whenever you have the time and energy after you’re finished with your daily responsibilities.
As long as you don’t give in to procrastination, this makes it much easier to attain your personal and professional goals, as you don’t have to follow each step in your daily schedule to a T.
#2. Prioritize Your Well-being
Your work is important, but if you don’t keep your physical, emotional, and mental health in check, your productivity will suffer - and so will your work-life balance.
As such, it’s crucial to first and foremost prioritize your overall health by building healthy daily habits, such as:
- Spending at least 30 minutes getting fresh air and/or exercise to promote your physical well-being.
- Fostering personal relationships to maintain your emotional well-being (let’s be honest - no matter how busy you are, you can always spare a few minutes to call a friend).
- Adopting a daily personal practice, such as meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, or journaling to support your mental well-being.
Prioritizing your health is key to improving your work-life balance, as it also helps you detach from your work outside of your working hours.
So, if you have a habit of checking your work emails on your commute, for example, consider using that time for something that supports your overall well-being, whether it’s listening to music, meditating, or chatting with your friends.
#3. Learn to Say ‘No’
‘No’ is a short, yet powerful word - and so, it’s no surprise that many people have a hard time being firm in saying ‘no’ to their employers, family members, and other people.
While being a helpful colleague is great, moderation is key as people-pleasing behavior can negatively affect your career and health.
For example, you may agree to take on more projects than you physically can complete, which can lead you to unmet deadlines and expectations, little to no time for personal life, and burnout in the workplace.
As such, learning to say ‘no’ is vital to improving your work-life balance since it allows you to set boundaries and create harmony between your work and personal life.
Just think about it - if you set the right priorities at work and at home, learning to say ‘no’ to lower priority tasks will allow you to have more time for meaningful activities both at home and at work.
Saying ‘no’ at work doesn’t come easy? Consider proposing an alternative.
For example, if a colleague asks you to take on a task, negotiate to take on just a part of it or ask them to help you with a task you're currently working on first.
#4. Make Good Use of Your Breaks
Truth be told, people aren’t designed to work non-stop, and you may be surprised to find out that working long hours doesn't increase your productivity.
In fact, according to research, the most productive employees have 17-minute breaks following every 52 minutes of work.
As such, to improve your work-life balance AND productivity, it’s important that you take regular breaks while working.
Not to mention, you should use your breaks to the fullest instead of checking your emails or scrolling industry-related news.
So, here are some tips to ensure high-quality breaks that will leave you refreshed and energized:
- Leave the office. Instead of staying in the office (or your room, if you work from home), go out for a walk. You can also grab lunch at a nearby restaurant or organize a short picnic with your colleagues.
- Socialize. Talking to your colleagues or calling your friends can help you de-stress and boost your mood.
- Have some ‘me time.’ Spend time doing whatever brings you joy and helps you relax, whether it’s reading a book, drawing, or watching your favorite TV series. This works especially well for introverts, and even more so for those with jobs that require plenty of communication (e.g. customer service).
#5. Work From Home the Right Way
Maintaining a good work-life balance can be significantly harder when you’re working from home - at the end of the day, your home is also your office, so you may find it hard to separate the two.
So, here are 3 effective tips that can help you create a healthy work-life balance while working remotely:
- Define your working hours. If you have a flexible schedule as part of your remote job, make sure to set specific working hours. Ideally, you want to find out when you’re most productive and do most of your tasks during that time. This will allow you to increase your productivity and avoid working until the late hours of the night.
- Designate a working space. Working from bed can make it difficult to unplug from work. Luckily, you don’t need a separate room to create a workspace - a desk is more than enough. If that’s not possible, consider using separate Internet browsers for your work and personal activities to create a distinction between the two.
- Have a morning routine. Although you may be tempted to work in your pajamas, it actually can have a negative impact on your mental well-being. As such, make sure to have a morning routine to help you get ready for work, such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, and dressing up for work.
#6. Speak Out
To improve your work-life balance, consider telling your employer about your needs. This way, you might find a solution that will work great both for you and your company.
If you have children, for example, try asking your employer for a flexible schedule, compressed workweek, or another option that would allow you to spend more time with your family and take care of your children.
If, however, responsibilities at home keep you from being productive at work, you might want to talk to your family about possible solutions.
For example, if you’re trying to manage having a full-time job and taking care of an elderly parent, you may want to discuss the option of joining a program at an adult daycare center.
Alternatively, if you feel like your work-life balance is getting out of control, you may want to talk to a mental health provider to explore your options and learn to cope with your work and personal responsibilities healthily.
7 Benefits of Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance has several benefits to employees and employers alike, including:
- Prevents burnout in the workplace. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed at work, you’re at a higher risk of experiencing burnout in the workplace. As such, by helping you prioritize your health, set boundaries, and make time for yourself, a good work-life balance helps you avoid occupational burnout.
- Promotes productivity. Improving your work-life balance enables you to attend to your personal needs, including sleep, nutrition, and socializing. As a result, it can improve your productivity and efficiency.
- Boosts employee engagement. Studies show that employees are more engaged with their jobs in companies that support family-friendly policies and a healthy work-life balance.
- Supports physical, emotional, and mental well-being. A healthy work-life balance helps you avoid overworking, manage your stress levels, and prioritize your health.
- Helps to attract top talent. Most employees are looking for flexibility in the workplace, so offering them a good work-life balance can help you attract and retain top talent.
- Improves personal and professional relationships. By enabling you to spend more time socializing with your family, friends, and colleagues, work-life balance allows you to build stronger relationships.
- Increases employee retention. A healthy work-life balance can increase employee satisfaction, which in turn helps to retain employees.
How to Promote Work-Life Balance as an Employer
Now that you know that a healthy work-life balance has many benefits for employers, including helping you attract and retain employees, you may be wondering how you can promote the work-life balance in your company.
So, here are some tips that can help you ensure that your employees have a good balance between their work responsibilities and personal life:
- Conduct surveys on employee work-life balance to find out how your company could improve their work-life balance.
- Encourage employees to speak up if they feel stressed and overloaded with work.
- Remind your employees to take regular breaks.
- Depending on your company policies, allow your employees to visit mental health providers under the same conditions as they would see other healthcare providers.
- Provide stress and time management skills training for all employees.
7 Employee Benefits You Can Offer to Improve Work-Life Balance
In addition to the tips mentioned above, you might also want to offer your employees benefits that will improve their work-life balance, such as:
- Flexibility. If possible, offer your employees flexible working arrangements, such as remote work, job sharing, compressed hours, and paid or unpaid leave. Ideally, you want all of your employees to individually choose what works best for them.
- Workplace daycare. To accommodate employees that have children and promote their work-life balance, you might want to provide an on-site childcare facility. This way, your employees will be able to spend more time with their children without having to sacrifice their work hours.
- Volunteering time off. Consider providing paid time off to employees that want to volunteer. Besides promoting a healthy work-life balance, volunteering can positively impact your employees’ health and allow them to improve their soft skills, including empathy, patience, and teamwork.
- Designated quiet space. Providing a designated quiet space for your employees allows them to take a moment to recharge, collect their thoughts, and relax from the bustling office without having to leave their workplace. To create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, offer comfortable seating, reading materials, and calm background music.
- Gym facility. If you have the opportunity, provide an on-site gym for your employees to help them easily get their 30 minutes of daily exercise. Alternatively, you can provide your employees with membership discounts at a nearby gym, pool, or yoga studio.
- Pet-friendly office. Allowing your employees to bring pets to work can help them reduce stress and improve their work-life balance.
- Company outings. Socializing is a key component of a healthy work-life balance, so you may want to organize company outings for your employees to strengthen their social bonds. Ideally, you want to offer them an activity outside the office, such as go-kart racing, bowling, karaoke, board games, paintball, camping, or attending a painting class.
By now, you should be able to not only spot if your work-life balance is getting out of hand but also know exactly what to do to improve it.
And, for all the employers out there, now you know exactly how to promote a healthy work-life balance for your employees so that they’re happy, healthy, and productive!
So, here’s a quick recap of the key points we’ve mentioned in this article:
- Work-life balance refers to the capability of equally prioritizing both your work and your personal life.
- You may experience a decrease in work-life balance if you have too many responsibilities in one area of your life.
- To improve your work-life balance, make sure to set a realistic schedule and boundaries, focus on your health, take regular breaks, and clearly communicate your needs.
- Among other benefits, a healthy work-life balance improves your productivity, job engagement, overall health, and relationships.
- As an employer, you can promote work-life balance by providing your employees with benefits, such as an on-site gym, company outings, designated quiet space, and flexible working arrangements.