Work Life Balance

Why Work-Life Balance is so Important

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

With the current rise in the number of organisations embracing hybrid and remote work patterns, there’s never been a better time to focus on helping employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Contrary to popular fears, remote working tends to drive productivity rather than dampen it – a study from Stanford found it led to a 13% performance increase – but it also raises some new challenges around achieving that all-important balance. In fact, 29% of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance according to LinkedIn, but strong leadership can make a real difference. 

Definition of work-life balance

The Mental Health Foundation describes a good work-life balance as one that leaves people feeling equally content and fulfilled in work and leisure time.

As a leader or manager, it can be hard to pin down exactly what this looks like in your employees – especially as the perfect work-life balance is different for everyone. For you, the focus should be on creating a healthy working environment, ensuring that your team is able to recognise when the balance is off and making it clear that you’re there to support them.

How important is work-life balance?

A healthy work-life balance is better for your team and better for your business too. When you put time into fostering a work environment that prioritises balance, you can expect to:

Reduce the chances of burnout 

When employees end up spending too much energy on work and don’t have the time to recharge and recuperate outside of it, burnout is a real risk. This recently classified syndrome can be a major mood suppressor and productivity killer, creating far-reaching problems for both individuals and organisations. Working to prevent employee burnout is a no brainer, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance is one of the best ways to do it. 

Raise engagement levels

It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that one of the best ways to boost engagement levels is to ask people to think a little less about work, but a healthy work-life balance does drive greater engagement

Employees who are stressed and overwhelmed are likely to struggle to truly engage with their workload, no matter how hard they try. Rested and rejuvenated staff are in a much better position to approach work with gusto. 

Cut down on absenteeism 

Likewise, building healthier attitudes to work-life balance into your culture can help reduce the amount of time your employees need to take off for stress related issues. 

According to research published by the HSE, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health throughout 2021 and 2022. 

How to improve work-life balance?

Improving work-life balance is about changing mindsets, not rolling out a new set of rules, so it can be a gradual process. Here are some powerful ways to get the ball rolling.

Fully embrace flexibility 

While the flexibility that comes with working from home can be a negative when it comes to separating professional and private life, it has the power to be a positive too. It’s all about harnessing both sides. 

We’ve spent many years getting used to the ways that smartphones and personal devices have affected our reachability and blurred the lines between work and home life. This fuzziness can be exacerbated when you have hybrid or remote set ups, when people are literally bringing the office into their home. One way to tackle this challenge is to lean into flexibility, rather than deny it. 

Flexible working doesn’t mean picking up emails out of hours; it can be about finding ways to enhance people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. Allow employees the freedom to start late so they can pick their kids up from nursery or start lunch a little early to take part in a yoga class, making up the time later on in the day, and you’re sure to see improvements in overall wellbeing. 

Take a human-centric approach 

If you’re able to lead with a people-first focus, you’re already halfway to creating a culture that encourages a good work-life balance. By putting the emphasis on recognising and developing talent while also identifying people’s individual strengths and weaknesses, you can help guide your team to identify the working patterns that are healthiest for them. 

human-centric leadership style takes its cue from the needs of each individual, making it easier to help people find their own perfect balance. 

Forget logging hours and focus on productivity 

It’s not the number of hours worked that’s important, it’s how those hours have been spent. The last thing you want are employees who are clock watching or feeling as though they’re chained to their desks even when times are quiet. 

Focus on productivity over hours logged and you’re more likely to find that employees feel motivated as well as more chilled out. They’re also likely to be more able to boost their efforts when it’s really needed. 

Value and encourage self-management 

While a hands-off approach doesn’t work for everyone, it can be a very useful tool in helping some employees regulate their work-life balance. Teams with well-developed self-management skills are more able to meet deadlines and organise their time, without feeling stressed or overworked. 

To find out how well suited your employees are to self-management, it’s essential to have a good idea of their self-awareness levels and which management styles they best respond to. 

Show appreciation for more than big wins

We all know the value of showing appreciation for the hard work employees put in but if you’re only ever rewarding your team for big wins, you’re missing out on an opportunity to highlight the importance of achieving balance. 

Rather than limiting your shout outs to deadlines met or specific targets achieved, take the time to celebrate soft skills or non-work-related special occasions. Has someone been extra friendly to a new start? Give them a boost. Have they had success with a new hobby? Share it with the team. 

Want your employees to feel empowered in pursuing a healthy balance? Make it clear that you value your team members as rounded individuals, not just for their contributions at work.

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