The concept of striking a balance between your professional and personal life is not a new one, but even so, it is evolving with time and being discussed with increased regularity.
So what are the challenges standing in the way of a better work-life balance, and how can this idea benefit businesses and employees alike?
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Stress, fatigue and artificial obstacles to happiness
Burnout is a big issue impacting the workforce at the moment, and so organizations of all sizes are looking for ways to make sure employees are happy and satisfied in their roles, rather than stressed and overburdened.
Technology is partly to blame for this state of affairs, as team members can find it tough to disconnect from their day job even when they are enjoying personal time, since having instant access to work email via a smartphone leaves them tethered to their work wherever they are.
This always-on approach to communication and connectivity is bad for employee’s mental health, and by extension can have a negative effect on their productivity, loyalty, and longevity in a role.
Solutions which work
One of the first steps towards establishing an improved work-life balance is for businesses to empower employees and allow them to avoid burnout, rather than stoking disaffection.
For example, companies can make it easier to apply for time off by setting up a system for staff holiday bookings that is stress-free and straightforward to use. Such a solution will also ensure that there are no clashes or conflicts when time off is being arranged, and keep everyone on the same page while leaving employees in the driving seat.
The other side of battling burnout requires managers to ensure that employees are actually assigned to duties that they enjoy and are within their remit in terms of skills and experience. If workers are happy with the tasks they are assigned, they will experience less stress and lower levels of other associated feelings, such as anxiety.
Understanding the advantages
There is a multitude of strategies for achieving an improved work-life balance, and it would be a mistake to think that it all boils down to giving employees more time off at the expense of their office hours and thus the business’ ability to generate revenues.
As mentioned earlier, overworked employees are generally a lot less productive than those that are well-rested, satisfied, and actually spending less time at their desks, which costs companies money.
It is all about quality rather than quantity; expecting employees to spend eight hours a day in the office, then continue responding to work emails after hours, might seem sensible, but will catalyze fatigue and cause them to ultimately resent their roles rather than relishing them.
A growing number of experts are advocates for a four-day working week without reducing salaries, and trial runs have proven this to be effective. Thus the idea for focusing on a work-life balance is not only intended to enhance job satisfaction, but also boost productivity and profits.
Flexibility is another facet of this shifting debate. The last couple of years in particular have shown that allowing employees to set their own hours and work from home where possible can help some people to thrive, even if the complete eradication of the traditional office still seems a long way off.
Obviously, this is something that needs to be looked at on a business-by-business basis, and even at the level of the individual employee. Even so, the growing consensus is that building businesses which keep work and personal time in a more favorable equilibrium is worthwhile.