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Strategies for improving your employee's work-life balance

Work-life balance is more important than ever. Here are 5 ways to improve it for your employees. 

There was a time when most employees considered work and “life” to be two separate things, but in the modern, technologically connected world, the lines between these two elements have blurred considerably. Workers today care deeply about their work-life balance and view their personal life and their job to be equally important.

In one of our recent studies, 53% of employees said that a job that allows them to have a better work-life balance and higher personal well-being is extremely important, and 60% of Human Resources professionals surveyed also ranked this as an extremely important job factor.

Improving employee work-life balance is essential to a happy and healthier life and a more productive career. The oversight of work priorities might have a negative effect on your personal life. Likewise, the oversight of your personal life can negatively impact work performance. One cannot thrive without the other because when your personal life is taken care of, it frees you to put more effort into work responsibilities. 

Here’s a quick shortlist of the benefits of a healthy work-life balance: 

  • Less fatigued: Fatigue can impact your mental and physical health if left unchecked. A healthy work-life balance can result in fewer burnouts, a type of mental exhaustion that can interfere with your work performance. Fatigue can result from being overworked, conflict with work conditions, or company values and principles. 
  • You’re more focused: Achieving a work-life balance keeps you from being distracted from accomplishing work responsibilities. You’ll be more organized to balance your time equally between work and personal life, giving full attention to both demands at a scheduled time.
  • Better productivity: Because you’re less tired and more focused, the attention and time you dedicate to work life and personal responsibilities will result in higher productivity. For your personal life, this means a sense of accomplishment. Your work life might result in a successful business, possibly a promotion, or growth and expansion. 

Work deadlines can make it challenging to achieve a healthy work-life balance. However, you can still do it. As an employer and employee, you can construct ways to encourage people to improve their work-life balance while improving your own. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Health first: Investing in preventative health care is essential to maintaining a healthy work life balance. Always make time for doctor visits and routine checkups. Health issues can keep you from working for days, weeks, and possibly longer. Some companies will have weight-loss incentives and offer employee workout programs.
  • Have a realistic workload: Avoid taking on more responsibilities than you can handle if you can help it. A heavy workload can result in stress that can affect your productivity and personal obligations. A good way to assess if there is an imbalance in workload among employees is to submit online employee engagement surveys. 
  • Reward yourself with short breaks: When you finish a task, allow yourself to take a 10 or 15-minute break for a piece of chocolate or your favorite snack. Maybe you use that time to take a walk for a cup of coffee, or even better, ask a colleague if they’d like to join you. Engaging with co-workers offers a sense of camaraderie within the work life—and you can also develop meaningful relationships this way. 
  • Take a lunch break: As tempting as it is to work through the lunch hour to check off another task, it’s more important to fuel your body and brain with the proper nourishment it needs to function. Fasting through work hours is the quickest way toward burnout, and no one wants that.  

The first step to improving work-life balance is an accurate assessment of employee sentiment. Here are other reasons to evaluate your employees’ work-life balance:

  • Employees may not always give their thoughts on work-life balance unprompted, and leadership cannot always guess it. Online feedback and insights allow employees to answer more candidly and honestly, giving you the data needed to make an informed assessment on managing your organization better. 
  • Using surveys or questionnaires is a great way to get a temperature check from employees. Checking in on your employees and management is like checking the temperature of your company’s morale. However, high remarks about company morale may not reflect a healthy work-life balance. Consistent surveying is recommended to detect any shifts and changes in employee sentiment that reflect a good or imbalanced work life.
  • Asking the right questions can offer a wealth of information and possibly call to attention insights about the dynamics of your organizations that need attention. Use this work-life balance survey template to see what questions to use in your next employee engagement and work-life balance survey.

An employee’s work life could be thriving while their personal life isn’t. If this is true, their work productivity will eventually suffer, so establishing a baseline on how your employees and management feel about their work-life balance can help you make better-informed decisions about your internal operations.

While work-life balance will mean different things to different workers, there are a few general trends that are clear. Here are five things that you can do to improve your employees’ overall work-life balance.

Today’s employees want to have flexible schedules and be able to work remotely whenever possible. This allows them the time they need to take care of business in their personal life – so that it doesn’t interfere with completing work tasks. Most modern workers aren’t looking for a set eight-hour workday or a straightforward five-day workweek. Instead, they want more flexibility, including longer workdays for four-day workweeks and flex hours where they can come in as late as they need to or as early as they want to – as long as they remain and work for the appropriate amount of time. Some employees would even rather work through their lunch hour in order to leave earlier, or work some weekends in order to have time off during the week to take care of personal tasks.

  • Research finds that flexible scheduling matters more than you think. One study found that 66% of Millennials surveyed would like to shift their work hours to later in the day or put in some time in the evening instead. The desire for flex schedules is so strong that 15% of male and 21% of female employees said they’d even be willing to give up some of their pay or postpone a career advancement in exchange for less hours or more accommodating schedules.
  • Over half of employees today would change jobs for flextime. NBCNews.com reports that over half of employees would switch jobs for flextime opportunities. And, Gallup consistently finds that flexible scheduling plays a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a particular job.

What kind of schedule do your employees want? Survey your team today and find out. Get started →

Research also finds that work-from-home and offsite options have an impact on employees’ decisions to take or leave a job – again, particularly among the millennial generation. You’ll also find that offering this opportunity to parents can be especially motivating and reduces both employee stress levels and the number of days they have to take off from work.

  •  Letting employees work from home regularly actually lowers some expenses. This is true both for companies (think utility bills, supplies, and even coffee) and your workers (gas, parking, vehicle wear and tear, etc.).
  • The Gallup study found that worker engagement is actually higher when employees can spend time working remotely.This allows your employees the flexibility they need to take care of sick children, run errands, handle personal issues, and then be able to focus on completing their workload.
  •  37 percent of today’s workers say they would actually be willing to change jobs so that they can work offsite at least part of the time.

In order to truly take advantage of the benefits your company offers, employees need to be clear on the options that are available to them. This helps workers actually use the benefits and improve their work-life balance. It’s also essential to make sure that your workplace culture encourages your employees to use these benefits, instead of simply having them there on paper, but tacitly discouraging your workers from using them.

Whether it’s simply offering discount rates to local health clubs or allowing your employees more flexible lunch schedules so that they can get in a workout and shower before returning to the office, encouraging healthier employees who exercise regularly reduces sick time and makes for a happier workforce. Exercise breaks are already incorporated into many Japanese companies, and China has mandatory exercises twice a day at state-owned companies. American companies can learn a lot from these practices.

  • Employees who can exercise at work are more productive, happy, efficient and calm. A study at Bristol University in England reinforced this conclusion.
  • Regular exercise actually changes the brain, improving memory and thinking skills. A study at the University of British Columbia, showed that regular aerobic exercise actually increased the size of the part of the brain that is used for learning and verbal memory.

If your employees’ weekends and workdays all blur together, then their minds and bodies never have the time they need to rest. While there may be some work-related activities that they need to –or even want to– take care of during their “time off,” it’s essential that they actually do have some time to relax and enjoy themselves in order to avoid burnout.

  • One recent study showed that over half of workers in the United States didn’t use their vacation time because their hectic work schedules didn’t allow time for it. Encouraging your employees to take time off and use their vacation days is essential for a healthy work-life balance.
  • Another research study found that after a resort vacation, employees felt more energetic and less stressed. The vacation also had a strong, positive impact on the molecular networks associated with improved immune function, making them less likely to get sick.

While improving the work-life balance of your employees won’t happen overnight, and your particular company may not be able to integrate all of these strategies, adding any of these elements can have a drastic, positive effect on your employee's morale and performance.

Now that you know how to improve work-life balance, build your next survey using methodologies to help you fully assess the internal health of your organization. Whatever strategies you choose to encourage a better work-life balance among your workers, you’ll want to start by assessing how your employees already feel about their work environment.

At SurveyMonkey, we provide additional information, numerous survey templates, and a custom-built solution to assist your company in providing a better balance between work and your employees’ personal lives.

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