Technology takes the lion's share of the burden in disturbing work-life balance for U.S. employees. With smartphones and notebooks, workers are constantly connected to the office. Overwhelming demands and tight deadlines leave employees with little choice but to work evenings, weekends, and vacations to keep up with the fast pace. Not only is this pace not sustainable for your employees, it actually harms their productivity and employee engagement in the long run.
What is Work-Life Balance?
While the term "work-life balance" itself has been in use for a number of years, its definition has evolved as the workplace has evolved. Workers once anticipated starting a job right after school and staying with that company through retirement, but newer generations of employees have different expectations. Developing and retaining a multigenerational workforce depends on learning and understanding each generation's work expectations.
Nowadays the oldest generation that's currently in the workforce - baby boomers, are retiring later in life. Since many of them have achieved senior management level at their companies, boomers experience moderate to high levels of stress at work. They also possess a work ethic that discourages them from using accrued leave, making for a slanted work-life balance.
Gen Xers witnessed the familial stress brought about by their parents' decision to prioritize work over life. As such, Gen Xers tend to value jobs that allow them to achieve greater work-life balance. They are more likely to use accrued leave and look for positions that offer additional perks such as maternity/paternity leave, telecommuting, remote work, and workshare programs.
Millennials, (the children of Gen X) are projected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025. Millennials entered the workforce with the highest student debt load of any generation. They also face rising housing costs, causing them to postpone marriage and children in favor of organizing their finances. This generation is most interested in finding a work environment with a career path that will support the future they envision for themselves.
How to Create Better Work-Life Balance
Physically, employees working more than 55 hours per week increase their risk of stroke. Mentally, longer hours not only increase anxiety and depression but also lead to sleep loss. So employees should make their own health a priority over work whenever possible.
For some workers, striking a healthy work-life balance translates to standing up for themselves. Employees should use earned personal and vacation time. They need to make it clear to supervisors and coworkers that they are unavailable during this time, whether they are physically out of reach or simply taking a staycation.
Instead of allowing work to become overwhelming, employees could ask a supervisor to choose which projects are a priority. Workers can hold an open and honest discussion with the supervisor, outlining assigned projects and the amount of time each will take. The supervisor then has the opportunity to decide how an employee's time would best be spent.
How Employers Can Create Better Work-Life Balance For Employees
It's not required for employers to create a work-life balance for their employees, but it's certainly in your best interest if you want to attract and retain top talent in your company. It also serves your company's bottom line. Work-life imbalance leads to health problems, costing the workplace an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion annually in healthcare payments. These health problems and resultant absenteeism also lead to a dramatic decrease in workplace productivity.
The best way to encourage work-life balance is to apply that concept to your own life. Show your employees that you value your own downtime and that you respect theirs. Don't send or respond to business correspondence after hours with your employees unless it is a true emergency.
Explore flexible work schedules for those employees who desire more freedom in their hours and a better work-life balance. Many jobs are computer-based. Employees in those positions could work from home or alter their schedules to accommodate other life events.
Finally, if you notice that an employee is struggling and does not have a proper work-life balance, don't wait until that employee burns out. Show that you care enough to talk to the employee. Find out what is on their mind. It may be a simple matter of additional training for a new job, or they may need to take an extended leave to work through family problems. Either way, your show of kindness will greatly reduce their stress level.
Helping You Help Your Employees Gain a Better Work-Life Balance
Many companies say that they want to help you manage your employees. At Inflection HR, we want to help you improve the quality of your employees' lives. With automated HR systems, we take the paperwork stress out of your employees' jobs. Through our system, you can manage employee leave, submit their expenses and participate in creating their own schedules, and offer benefits packages that work hard to improve the work-life balance culture of your business.
Your employees will feel more empowered and less encumbered by senseless paperwork. Contact us for a consultation so that we can help you create a more balanced work environment for your team.