Winning With Work-Life Balance

Living a full yet balanced life sounds like a dream in our fast-paced society, especially as technology blurs the line between commitments at work and home.

Indeed, a recent report shows that Australia is one of the worst places in the world for work-life balance. Additionally, we’re in the bottom third of nations when it comes to leisure and personal time, with one report stating 61% of people work while on holidays.

Logic dictates that we need to work as hard as possible to afford our dream lifestyle or achieve career goals. However, it can come at a cost.
  • Poor work-life balance causes burnout: The Harvard Business Review says burnout is a debilitating state of work-related stress that occurs when employees feel more pressure than support. It’s terrible news for employees but worse news for employers. Burnout can cause great employees to turn into disengaged, cynical and inefficient dead weight.
  • Poor work-life balance impacts your physical and mental health: When our bodies are run down, we are more susceptible to health problems. Stress can also cause problems for our immune system, affecting our overall wellbeing.

Australia is one of the worst places in the world for work-life balance.

Is good work-life balance bad for productivity?

Not according to studies. In 2009, the Boston Consulting Group required 250 employees to take one day off per week during critical periods for the business. Despite initial resistance, the workers came appreciated the breaks which made them feel they didn’t need to be on-call round the clock. Surprisingly, there was no change to their productivity, despite losing 20% of their work week. It also seems that providing a balance between work and life commitments makes a lot of sense for developed countries and large companies. In Sweden, they enjoy five weeks’ vacation by law, 480 days of paid parental leave and more than a dozen public holidays a year on top of generous leave provisions if they need to care for their families. It’s also common for Swedish workers to clock out at five on the dot. Meanwhile, in France, they’ve recently enforced a law that requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish hours during the day when they disconnect completely from work. And companies like GE, Netflix, LinkedIn and Virgin America, really allow workers to manage their own time and work output by providing unlimited leave hours. These programs are built on trusting employees to perform in exchange for the enjoyment of personal time.

Respecting your teams right to disconnect when they are on leave or outside their working hours is crucial to achieving work-life balance.

How can I help employees with their work-life balance?

  • Help your team avoid burnout at work: Recognise that regular breaks will increase productivity, creativity and engagement to the task. Encourage your team to take breaks, and role model the behaviour by taking breaks yourself.  Where possible, allow flexibility in working hours and location.
  • Have a clear structure to make work-life balance achievable: Communicate company and project priorities clearly so that your employees know what warrants their time and effort and what can wait. Have regular check-ins to assess progress and to realign tasks.
  • Let your employees switch-off when not at work: Respecting your teams right to disconnect when they are on leave or outside their working hours is crucial to achieving work-life balance. Lead by example and cut after hour communications – one tip is to save emails as drafts and only send them during regular business hours. Set expectations with employees that continue to work while on leave or after hours: talk to them about their workload and encourage them to release duties to a coworker.  
  • Role model work-life balance: When taking leave yourself, ensure you switch off. Be clear with an effective out of office auto-reply and refrain from using phrases like ‘I’ll check email periodically’ so that there is an opportunity for a disconnect. Remember, your actions speak volumes.

So, as an ancient proverb says, “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.”