10 Work-Life Balance Tips That Help Soothe Stress
Burnout is thought to be a leading cause of the Great Resignation—a phenomenon that saw 2.6% of America’s workforce leave their jobs in October 2022 alone.
While burnout can be attributed to many things, the biggest cause is arguably a lack of work-life balance. If your company culture ignores—or even discourages—work-life balance, you may see higher rates of absenteeism, turnover, and even reputational damage.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, companies that actively cultivate work-life balance enjoy a wealth of benefits, from higher job satisfaction, to improved employee retention, to an increase in productivity.
Read on to discover five actionable strategies HR professionals can use to improve work-life balance—and company culture overall.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance refers to the balance between time allocated for work and time allocated for your personal life.
Achieving and improving work-life balance is challenging for everyone—employees and employers alike. Trying to carve out time for family, friends, self-care, hobbies, and community can feel eerily similar to having too many tabs open in your brain. Couple that with trying to meet the demands expected in professional life, and the sensation multiplies.
If an employee spends most of their time working and feels like they’re neglecting the other areas of their lives, they often experience frustration, burnout, and unhappiness.
A good work-life balance indicates a well-balanced life, which fosters employees’ well-being and helps them to thrive in both their professional and personal spheres.
Why Is Work-Life Balance Important?
When organizations promote good work-life balance, employees are less likely to experience stress and more likely to have a positive outlook on their professional and personal lives overall.
Beyond that, job candidates are more likely to choose your company if you promote a healthy work-life balance. In one survey, 72% of respondents stated that work-life balance is a critical factor when choosing a job.
Good work-life balance can fuel employees with:
- Better health
- Greater loyalty, commitment, and engagement
- Increased productivity
Focusing on how to improve work-life balance for employees is a vital part of an organization’s success. If your people are feeling their best, they’ll do their best work.
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5 Work-Life Balance Tips for HR Professionals
1. Offer Parental Perks
66% of working parents in the U.S. meet the criteria for parental burnout. Between work, parenting, and life in general, it’s no surprise that many parents are feeling on edge.
As an employer, you’re in a unique position to take on some of the weight through the benefits you offer. Providing even modest parental perks will go a long way to impress recruits and retain current employees.
From on-site childcare to financial planning services, many companies are getting creative as they seek to set parents up for a healthy work-life balance.
If investing in a new benefit isn’t in the cards, consider expanding current parental leave programs or offering flexible return-to-work programs to help new parents adjust to their new lives.
Here are a few other perks to consider as you work to support parents at your company:
- Paid or unpaid parental leave
- Flex-time or remote work opportunities
- On-site childcare
- Additional sick days that can be used to care for children
- Counseling programs
2. Give Generous Paid Time Off
The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee employer-paid vacation days. Imagine working months—or even years—without any breaks.
The baseline number of paid days in the U.S. is 14 per year, but we’re seeing more and more companies innovate when it comes to PTO policies. The number of paid days off is increasing across the board, with many companies going so far as to offer unlimited PTO.
Employers are recognizing that time away from the office not only provides space to recharge and maintain work-life balance, but it increases productivity and innovation as well.
Bonus: While providing your employees with much-needed time to refresh, your generous PTO policies will also serve as a recruiting tool.
When deciding to accept a new job, 61% of survey respondents in a Gallup poll said that greater work-life balance and personal wellbeing is very important to them. And as we know, paid time off is a huge part of that.
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3. Promote A Flexible Work Schedule
Life doesn’t cease to exist between the hours of 9am to 5pm, so it’s unrealistic to expect your employees to handle all personal life events outside of regular working hours.
If your industry allows for it, enacting a flexible work policy will go a long way to increase retention and loyalty. This could mean something as simple as a general shift in work hours—allowing employees to come in early and leave early or come in late and leave late.
Supporting flexible work schedules might also mean allowing employees to leave during the day to attend family and personal events or work from home when no meetings are taking place.
Working in the office for 40 hours a week can become monotonous and decrease employee productivity. On the other hand, letting your staff work outside of the office or at home can increase satisfaction, boost productivity, and foster creativity, improving their work-life balance. Plus, it can be another appealing perk for potential candidates.
4. Offer Employee Wellness Initiatives
Contrary to popular belief, health and wellness initiatives are not just good for employees. Studies have shown that incorporating well-rounded wellness initiatives into your overall benefits program can drive down the cost of healthcare, increase productivity, and decrease absenteeism over time – all of which will save your company money!
Perks that can help keep your employees in tip-top shape include:
- On-site gym or gym stipend
- Flu shot clinics
- On-site stock of healthy snacks
- Wellness stipend
- Company-hosted blood drives
- Smoking cessation programs
5. Encourage Breaks During The Day
One simple work-life balance tip you can offer your employees: Take a break. And when we say “take a break,” we don’t mean “eat a snack while you stare at your computer screen.”
Studies have found that breaks during the work day can lead to greater productivity and reduce the risk of burnout. Here are some ways to encourage your team to take breaks:
- Designate break zones in the office
- Create a lunchtime walking club
- Lead by example
5 Work-Life Balance Tips for Employees
As an employee, you play a critical role in balancing life away from the office. Prioritizing work can quickly become the default if you don’t put effort into creating balance. After all, it is what pays the bills. Below, we reveal some work-life balance tips that can help you, as an employee, keep your work-life balance … balanced!
1. It’s Okay To Say No
Saying no can be daunting—whether saying no to your child asking for an extra cookie before dinner or saying no to your boss asking you to stay an extra hour. But setting boundaries is necessary when it comes to creating work-life balance.
Editor’s Tip: When you decline, clearly state your reasoning and keep your communication polite and courteous.
2. Prioritize Breaks
Make use of breaks to tackle personal tasks. Fold the laundry, go for a run, or have coffee with a friend. Your lunchtime breaks offer some time for you to escape the office and enjoy your personal life. If you have an hour lunch break each day, that’s five hours a week where you can prioritize personal relationships, errands, or physical wellbeing.
3. Request Flexible Working Hours
As the saying goes: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you need more flexibility in your life, ask your manager if you can work flexible hours. It could be you starting earlier so you can finish earlier. Or maybe you could split your time between working from home and the office. Map out what flexibility looks like to you, then talk with your manager about how to make it work for both you and your team.
4. Make Your Health A Priority
If you’re feeling sick or burnt out, take a day off. Your health is a priority, and most companies will understand that if you’re not feeling 100%, your performance won’t be 100%. (Not to mention, if you venture into the office with a virus, you could spread it to the rest of your team.)
5. Separate Work From Your Personal Life
Improving work-life balance can be as simple as physically separating work and life. Here are a few ways to actively separate personal from professional:
- Delete work emails from your personal phone
- Don’t answer work calls or messages outside of work hours or if you’re enjoying family time
- Leave your laptop at the office
- Only work your contracted hours
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Next Steps: Strike the Right Work-Life Balance
It’s hard to encourage a healthy work-life balance for employees when executives and managers are setting the tone by working long hours or not taking much time away from the office over the holidays.
Culture starts at the top, so organizational leaders need to set the tone. Think about it-–if executives are coming in early and staying late every single day, how can they encourage their employees to do the exact opposite of the behaviors that they exemplify?
Make sure that managing work-life balance is a significant focus across the entire organization and that everyone from company executives to individual contributors are leading the way by prioritizing personal lives.