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Is Work-Life Balance a Myth? Tips to Improve Employee Morale and Productivity

Is Work-Life Balance a Myth

Anyone who has ever been to Europe knows that afternoon drinks, long lunches, more vacation times and mandated Sunday holidays are the norm. This has why many people have decided to say that Europeans work to live, whereas people from the U.S. live to work.

However, this is changing. Around the world, and especially in the U.S., the concept of work-life balance is becoming more and more important. Fewer people are willing to work at jobs where they’re expected to put in 80-hour work weeks, or where their managers call them after hours and demand a response.

busy work Week traffic

But for many people, this work-life balance still eludes them. The rising cost of living, plus stagnating wages, make it seem more difficult to stay ahead. And when people feel a little short, the natural inclination is to work a little harder, the logic being that if I work a few more hours, then maybe I’ll get that promotion or bonus to make it all better. But this often stresses us out more, making us ask the question: Is there even such thing as a work-life balance?

Is It a Myth?

Short answer: no. It is not a myth. It’s difficult to get numbers on how many people think they have a good work-life balance, as we all define this differently. But the reality is that it is possible to strike an equilibrium between our working and personal lives.

Yet it is difficult. And most people know this, which is why job seekers tend to favor organizations where they think they’re most likely to receive a good work-life balance.

As a result, for you to succeed in attracting and retaining top talent, it’s important to pay attention to how your management style affects people’s ability to find balance in their lives. Consider the following tips for how to do this.

How to Improve Employee Morale

Offer Better Perks and Benefits

The most obvious way to make people feel like they have more balance in their lives is to give them more stuff, e.g. more vacation time, more flex holidays, more flexible hours, more money, etc. All of this will go a long way towards helping people feel like work doesn’t need to be the only priority in their lives.

company benefit plan

If you’re having trouble working out the numbers for this stuff, though, consider working with a benefits management firm. They’ll help you figure out how you can put together more competitive and attractive benefits packages that will keep people happy and working hard.

Free productivity tool to help you focus while you are working

Another thing to do is to offer perks focused on improving wellness. Many companies these days are offering yoga or mindful meditation classes to their workers, and these help people reduce their stress levels and find more balance. Another option is to build a fitness facility at your office, or offer to subsidize people’s health club memberships. These benefits help signal to people that you care about their overall well-being, and this will make it easier for them to focus on finding balance and being happy.

Conduct Stay Interviews

Stay interviews are periodic check-ins you conduct with employees to find out how they are doing. They are effective because they give you a chance to find out what is causing people trouble before these issues become too big.

It’s a good idea to conduct these interviews at least a few times a year, but the more often you can do it the better. Ask people about work, but also encourage them to share stuff about their personal lives. Understanding what people are going through outside of work will allow you to be a better manager, as you can adjust your strategies to help make sure people stay balanced and well.

one on one employee sit down

For example, maybe you have an employee who is tending to a sick family member. They may not want to say anything to you outright (after all, it’s a difficult situation), but a one-on-one meeting with them might get them to open up. You could then respond by giving them the chance to work from home some days during the week so that they can be there for those who need them. This is a hypothetical but potentially very real scenario, and responding this way is going to help employees relax, find balance and ultimately be more productive.

Be More Flexible

Flexibility and work-life balance go hand-in-hand. If you place unnecessary demands on people, such as requiring a certain work schedule for no reason, then it’s naturally going to be harder for people to find balance. Many people can do some or all of their jobs with nothing more than a computer and an internet connection, so requiring someone to stay in the office until 5 pm and miss their kid’s baseball game is needless, and it’s only going to make people resent you and their jobs.

There are many different ways you can offer workers more flexibility. For example, you could offer people a certain amount of time per week that they can work from home. Or, you can introduce flexible scheduling so that those who want to get out early can come in early and get their hours in. Or, you could make use of a flexible PTO program that doesn’t require people to ask for permission to take off early.

company benefit plan

Of course, you need to make it clear that the business is still a priority. But people know this, and if you trust them to do their jobs, you’ll likely find they will respond positively. And all of these adjustments will have little to no negative effect on engagement and productivity. In fact, many studies have found that remote workers are more engaged, which gives you even more reason to offer this option to employees.

Turn a Myth into Reality

Anyone who feels the work-life balance is a myth is most likely in an unhealthy work environment. Hopefully, this does not describe your company. But there’s a good chance you could be doing more to improve worker well-being and productivity. Implement some of the things discussed above so that you can help your employees turn work-life balance from a distant dream into a lived reality.

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Natasha Wayland

Natasha Wayland is an HR professional who has spent time in the healthcare, admin and insurance industries. Her specialty is in helping companies be better recruiters, and also in improving their employee retention rates. Now, she works for as a consultant, and she likes to write about her experiences as a way of helping other business owners and leaders succeed.