Work-life balance can be defined as the level of prioritization between professional and personal activities in one’s life. It also refers to the degree to which job-related activities are present in the home and which home-related activities are present in the workplace.
Is there an ideal work-life balance? That question is open to discussion. Many believe that happiness means doing work that you love – where there is little to no differentiation between your personal and professional life. However, that is not always an option, and for many people, it is not even something to strive for. I for one, do believe in work-life balance but I recognize that it more closely resembles a teeter-totter where you are always making slight adjustments in order to keep each side satisfied. If your work stresses you out and requires time and energy that you’d rather spend in other ways, it is time to make changes and find a better balance.
Today’s Topical Issue
The importance of work-life balance and discussions around the topic have been making a buzz for quite some time now. The reason for this is that, due to the increased use of technology in our work, it has allowed us to take our work with us wherever we go and to access our work from wherever we are. This can be both incredibly empowering and incredibly restrictive. Who hasn’t seen that person on the beach frantically typing away on an electronic device? On the one hand, they are missing out on enjoying the warm, beachy environment and on the flip side, it is unlikely they are doing their best work given the “non-work” conditions they are in. I imagine this must be the worst kind of purgatory! The expectations of work and work performance are now blurry lines. These blurry lines can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety and should be addressed as soon as they are recognized. If you are running your own business, it is important that you recognize these blurred lines and take steps to regain control of your schedule. Remember, it is YOUR business and YOUR decision to determine what you do, when you do it and where you do it from.
Essential for a Healthy Work Environment
Why should this matter to you? By utilizing the cloud-based software and mobile technology that we have today, employees can easily stay “permanently” at work! But maintaining a healthy work-life balance, you will reduce the stress and the risk of burning out in the workplace. One of the most common health problems in today’s workplace is chronic stress, which can lead to chronic aches and pains, digestive troubles, hypertension, and even heart problems. Stress also affects your mental health as it can be the cause of insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
In the information industry, mental stress was recognized long ago as a significant health and economic problem as the employees perceive the need to do more work in less time. Employers need to get a sense of responsibility for their employee’s health because stressed-out employees are more prone to errors.
One of the best ways to satisfy your employee’s need for work-life balance is to address your own first. As the boss, your responsibility is to set the example. Once you have that under control, your next task is to document and implement the expectations that you have for your employees. Without these parameters in place, your team may be left wondering if they are expected to act on that email on Sunday morning or if it’s enough to simply sending an acknowledgment reply is sufficient. This can be very stressful and leave them in an untenable situation. Once you have created this safe structure for your employees, you now have the freedom to provide for additional flexibility and empowerment. This new flexible work environment can include options such as the ability to work from home, flexible work hours, and earned Personal Time Off. Implementing some (or all!) of these elements has been proven to decrease stress, and help employees maintain healthier habits, as well as boosting levels of job satisfaction.
As economic, generational, and cultural changes continue to occur, the attitudes on work-life balance will continue to evolve. Staying present and engaging with your team to assess their stress levels will keep you focused on maintaining a positive and productive environment. Last, remember that EVERYONE needs at least vacation annually. You can mandate time off for your team — so remember to mandate it for yourself also. Time spent away from work is the single most effective way to regain work-life balance.