There is no denying that the recent pandemic and current economic challenges have changed the work landscape. As we continue to navigate in this new stage of normalcy, an element that has taken priority for employees is proper work/life balance. In fact, a 2022 survey conducted by Microsoft stated that 53% of respondents are more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing ahead of work. Similarly, the Hays 2023 UK Salary and Recruiting Trends Report determined that 56% of employees are now willing to accept a lower wage in exchange for a better work / life balance.
It is clear that in order for any organization to retain their talent, offering high wages is not enough. They also must ensure the work environment promotes a healthy work/life balance. In this Astronology®, we will discuss how HR professionals and organizational leaders can help improve work/life balance at their organization.
Work/Life Balance: Not a One – Time Achievement
We must start with a realistic view of achieving work/life balance – it won’t always look “perfect.” In truth, it may not be achievable every day. The Harvard Business Review article, Work – Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement, explains that work/life balance is not achieved overnight and can shift in concept depending on the stage of one’s career. The article suggests work/life balance is really a continuous cycle of five stages. While the article describes these stages from the perspective of an individual contributor, below we’ve adapted those stages for leaders to consider:
- Stage One – Pause and Denormalize: Take a mental pause and evaluate with the following questions:
- “What is currently causing stress, unbalance, or dissatisfaction?”
- “How are these circumstances affecting performance and employee engagement?”
- Employees may want to additionally ask themselves:
- “How are these circumstances impacting my personal life?”
- “What is being prioritized?”
- “What is being sacrificed?”
- “What is getting lost?”
- Stage Two – Pay Attention to Emotions: Awareness of the organization’s emotional state will help leaders to determine the changes needed to keep staff content with their work environment.
- Stage Three – Reprioritize: With both cognitive and emotional awareness addressed, you should be able to prioritize what needs to be adjusted and what possible solutions exist for those adjustments.
- Stage Four – Consider the Alternatives: Before selecting a solution consider all suggestions and alternatives that could help alleviate the imbalance.
- Stage Five – Implement Changes: Time to take action. This could be a “public” adjustment – something that explicitly changes employees’ expectations; or a “private” adjustment – leadership (or individual employees) informally changing work patterns without necessarily attempting to change other employees’ expectations.
Upon reaching the fifth stage, be mindful of the need to revisit these stages throughout our personal and professional lives. Be comfortable with re-evaluating.
Work/Life Balance Tips for 2023
Here are nine practical tips to address work / life imbalances that HR professionals and organizational leadership can explore or encourage employees to consider:
- Set clear work hours and stick to them.
- Say no to extra responsibilities that will lead to excess stress.
- Recommend that staff use time-blocking to plan out the work day.
- When working from home, work within a defined workspace.
- Take “Microbreaks” – short breaks (five minutes or less) to do an energy management activity such as stretching, a brief walk, or mindful meditation.
- Encourage “mindful eating” – actually sit down and give food (for many this would be lunch) full attention, eating slowly and deliberately. It gives the mind the ability to reset focus and allow a refresh once returning to work.
- Resist “instant messaging” culture (i.e. answering/sending emails outside the bounds of the work day).
- Consider developing work programs such as seasonal or permanent four – day work weeks or hybrid work environment.
- Increase the organization’s work/life benefits such as unlimited PTO or wellness provisions.
Wrap – Up
Promoting the proper work/life balance will be a continuous priority for HR professionals and organizational leadership as life and work ebb and flow. Managing work/life balance realistically means regular mindfulness of staff & their needs, and openness to address those needs.
How does your organization address the driving need for work/life balance? Do they have a unique program or special benefit features that has been successful among employees? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below.