Work-life balance has always been important, and never more so than in our new normal. With work happening more and more often outside of the office, it’s not easy to unplug and unwind, even mentally. The effects of burnout are very real and are impacting organizations across industries on a daily basis, reducing employee productivity, engagement, and retention.
The importance of work-life balance
Think of the times you’ve felt most productive at your job. They were probably when you were satisfied, engaged, and rested, both mentally and physically. You had the energy and motivation to complete your tasks and even go beyond the baseline requirements of your position to make helpful suggestions, assist coworkers, and contribute to improving organizational culture.
Now think of when you’ve struggled on the job. At least some of those times were likely the result of work demands that prevented you from caring for yourself and taking the time to do things that mattered outside of work. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to give your employer your all when there are so many ongoing concerns outside of work that you don’t have the time or energy to address.
Work-life balance is the foundation of personal success and, by extension, business wins. It’s rare to find an organization today that doesn’t at least mention work-life balance when recruiting and onboarding team members. But that doesn’t mean more organizations are actually taking the time to actually address it and ensure every employee is able to keep their work and personal lives in sync. Fortunately, there are steps you and your organization can take to prioritize and restore work-life balance.
How to improve work-life balance
There’s no single “right” way to address work-life balance for yourself or at your company. Every person and organization is different and must address different issues to build a healthy work-life cycle. But chances are that trying out the practices below will help both you and your organization as a whole.
Unsurprisingly, prioritizing wellness — both emotional and physical — is the first step towards living a balanced life. And while you can’t control the stressors you face on and off the job, you can control habits that enable you to better respond to them. Try these practices to preserve work-life balance even in the most challenging circumstances:
Make mindfulness a part of your daily life. Taking even a few moments to check in with yourself, become aware of how you’re feeling, and act mindfully in response can go a long way towards improving mental wellness.
Build healthy physical habits. Exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep is just the tip of the iceberg. When you take care of your body, it takes care of you.
Use your PTO and take advantage of any flexibility your organization provides. Taking time off is something everyone needs — even employees with jobs they love need a break to recharge. Similarly, if your company allows you to work out of the office some or all of the time, move hours around to accommodate appointments and other personal needs, or provides additional forms of flexibility, don’t hold back from using them as needed.
Of course, your organization plays a big role in work-life balance, and there’s much they can do to foster a healthier balance for you and your fellow team members. Encourage your organization to adopt the following practices – or, if you’re in leadership or an HR professional, work towards adoption yourself:
Work to build a better culture. Organizational culture is at the root of work-life balance. Companies with a great culture prioritize it and take steps to avoid overwork and burnout, while organizations with suspect cultures treat work-life balance as an afterthought. Your organization can start changing its culture for the better by developing wellness initiatives, training leadership and HR on the importance of work-life balance, and giving employees the flexibility they need to thrive in the modern world.
Listen to and act on feedback. No company is perfect, and employees often have the best insight into what issues plague an organization – and how to fix them. Listening to feedback begins with accepting and acting on in-person suggestions from employees, but it doesn’t stop there. Your company should provide channels for anonymous, honest feedback, like pulse surveys and always-on, intelligent HR chatbots. And it should adopt a platform that makes it easy for managers and HR to analyze that feedback and turn it into action – before employees decide that their voices don’t really matter.
Make showing appreciation easy and fun. It feels great when someone at work – whether a peer, manager, or executive – recognizes you and your accomplishments, doesn’t it? Recognition is the biggest driver of employee engagement, and it’s a great way to make the “work” part of the work-life balance equation weigh just a bit less. Technology is again the key here, as today’s remote and hybrid workplaces need a solution that enables both social and monetary recognition anytime, anywhere.