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How to improve work-life balance for employees

How to improve work-life balance for employees

Knowing how to improve work-life balance for employees is something many organizations grapple with. Helping your people balance professional responsibilities and personal time can be overwhelming, but mastering the process separates an average employer from an exceptional one.

If you don’t address how to improve work-life balance for employees in your company, you risk your team experiencing employee burnout and your business stalling. 

There is good news, though. It is possible to help your workforce achieve a balance between their work and personal lives — read on to learn 11 ways to improve work-life balance for employees.

1. Establish clear expectations for work

Achieving a harmonious work-life balance starts with setting clear expectations. When people don’t know or aren’t sure what’s expected of them, it can decrease employee engagement and productivity, increase anxiety, and result in depressed morale. 

The need for clarity on job roles and responsibilities is evident. People must be able to prioritize their professional life alongside their personal commitments without feeling overwhelmed by either one.  

Tips to make expectations clear:

  • Create and share explicit job descriptions for every role.
  • Ensure employees understand what’s expected of them during regular working hours.
  • Discourage practices like answering company emails outside of work or working long hours.

2. Encourage flexible work arrangements

It’s important to consider your employees’ day-to-day schedule. Offering flexibility in the workplace is excellent if you’re seeking ideas on how to create work-life balance for employees. Studies reveal1 that workers with flexible work hours feel more engaged, are less likely to experience burnout, have a higher job satisfaction rate, and have a healthy balance between work and family life.

Tips for creating flexible working arrangements:

  • Offer flexible hours that allow team members to choose their start and end times (although it’s OK to establish certain limits).
  • Allow remote work as an option. This offers a viable solution for those with long commutes or who are struggling to balance home life responsibilities alongside their careers.
  • Consider a 4 day work week. The 4-day week is an innovative approach to flex scheduling, reducing the standard Monday - Friday week to 4 days while maintaining pay levels.  

3. Promote effective time management

Poor time management can lead to increased stress and burnout, resulting in work-life imbalance. That said, companies focusing on effective time management see several positive effects, including improved employee morale, higher employee engagement, and reduced turnover rates.

One of the best ways to improve work-life balance is by ensuring people have the right tools to efficiently and effectively use their time.

Tips to promote effective time management:

  • Encourage regular breaks and set deadlines.
  • Use time-tracking software to help people create schedules they can stick to. 
  • Identify major time-wasting tasks and provide tools or resources so people can manage projects effectively.
  • Onboard a project management software to help people better plan and improve their overall productivity.

4. Encourage employees to set boundaries

A key aspect of achieving a harmonious work-life balance is learning to set boundaries, especially outside of working hours. An imbalance between personal and professional lives can lead to burnout and stress, ultimately impacting productivity. In studies,4 boundary setting has been linked to employee happiness and job satisfaction. 

Tips for helping employees set boundaries

  • Tell employees not to answer company emails or calls after office hours unless urgent.
  • Encourage people not to bring home major tasks.
  • Let people know it’s OK to admit they’re maxed out or need help. 
“There should be clear boundaries set between work and the personal lives of the employees. This includes defining working hours, overtime, and paid time off. When work-life balance is off employees will feel burnt out and unproductive. HR should encourage employees to take lunch breaks, sick days, mental health days or vacation time when needed. The overall culture should be focused on having a healthy work environment where employees can feel connected to each other as well as their leaders.” - Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC

5. Support regular breaks and vacation time

To find work-life balance, ensure people take regular breaks and vacation time. Taking frequent breaks positively impacts employee productivity and improves employee satisfaction. It can rejuvenate the mind, reduce fatigue and stress, and boost creativity. New research shows3 remote employees are working longer hours than ever — time off is essential. 

Tips for encouraging employee breaks and vacations:

  • Create a culture where time off is valued, not frowned upon.
  • Incorporate mandatory minimum leave policies.
  • Promote planning for vacations.
  • Implement company-wide closures where employees have no choice but to take some time for self-care. 

6. Lead by example

Searching for the best ideas on how to create work-life balance for employees? Look no further than your leadership. Leaders in any organization play an integral role in the quest for a healthier work-life balance. Management behavior influences employee habits, so if leadership constantly sends company emails late at night or during weekends, employees may feel compelled to do so as well. In order to avoid toxic leadership and improve your company culture, senior management must also be on board in creating a healthy work life. 

Tips for leading by example:

  • Prioritize personal time so it’s taken when needed. 
  • Create an open-door policy, and check in with people regularly.
  • Follow through on meetings and reviews as scheduled. 

7. Encourage regular exercise and physical activity

The importance of engaging in physical activity cannot be emphasized enough. Regular exercise has many beneficial effects on mental and physical health and can significantly improve productivity at work. 

In fact, studies show4 that when people can work out during their work days, they can manage their time better, become more productive, and are generally more satisfied with their jobs.

Tips to promote the importance of exercise and physical activity:

  • Incorporate fitness programs into the workplace to support employee well-being.
  • Consider partnerships with local gyms or virtual workout platforms as part of your company’s work-life balance offerings.
  • Allow breaks during the day so people can work out during their lunch break. 

8. Provide mental health support

In today’s hectic work atmosphere, paying attention to mental health needs is imperative. Place a key focus on initiatives that promote positive mental health among your workforce by providing programs like mindfulness training and stress management sessions. These can help reduce tension, improve overall well-being on and off the job, and create a positive working environment

A Talkspace poll surveyed more than 1,400 employees nationwide and found that 1-in-3 people believe their happiness has been impacted by the stress they face at work. More than half (3-in-5) say they’d stay in a job that offers more support for mental health in the workplace

Tips for improving mental health in the workplace:

  • Foster open communication about the importance of mental health.
  • Train leadership to identify common signs of struggle and to know what to do if they suspect an employee needs help.
  • Consider offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) — confidential services designed to help people manage and deal with personal problems impacting their job performance or well-being.
  • Partner with Talkspace to offer therapy for employees.
“HR should take an active role in helping to maintain employee mental health. This can be done by offering mental health services through the employer or insurance plans offered by the employer. HR and other leaders should respect the boundaries of working hours and not reach out to employees on their day off or outside working hours. Managers should show empathy, compassion, and support towards any employees that are struggling with mental health issues.” - Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC

9. Offer support for parents

Work-life balance initiatives must include support for parents. Faced with trying to manage professional and personal lives, many working parents struggle to achieve balance in their hectic lives. The support you provide the parents in your company can be instrumental in them being able to succeed professionally and personally. 

Tips to help support parents:

  • Create family-friendly company events to foster community spirit.
  • Schedule meetings during school hours when possible.
  • Show understanding towards unexpected emergencies related to kids.
  • Offer childcare benefits or subsidies to help ease the burden of childcare costs.

10. Implement technology boundaries

One of the most effective ways to improve work-life balance for employees is by implementing technology boundaries to prioritize personal life outside the office or “normal” working hours. 

Research5 uncovered that people who feel compelled to answer work-related emails outside their regular hours report higher stress levels and have poorer health outcomes. The APA discovered that 81% of workers in the U.S. “constantly or often” check emails and texts outside of work hours — and stress levels are highest for those who do so.6 

Tips to implement tech boundaries:

  • Establish a clear policy on answering company emails after work hours. 
  • Create and enforce “communication hours.”
  • Encourage disconnecting from technology when not at work.
  • Use tech tools that promote productivity without overworking your team members.
  • Limit the number of communication channels employees are expected to use and monitor — choose one company-wide platform or app (like Slack) and instruct everyone to use it solely. 

11. Regulate employee workloads

Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check 2022 Report found that more than half (53%) of workers are burned out. Nearly as many (44%) of respondents say they work too many hours because they have heavy workloads. Substantial research7 shows a conclusive link between long work hour demands and major depression, reinforcing the need for organizations to monitor and regulate the workload expectations they place on their people.  

Tips for regulating employee workloads:

  • Ensure people take personal time off without having to exhaust their sick time. 
  • Implement mental health days into regular schedules.
  • Review workloads and make adjustments to expectations and demands. 

Invest in employee wellness with Talkspace

Helping employees achieve work-life balance is possible when the right strategies are used. Start with simple steps, like setting clear expectations and offering flexible arrangements. 

One of the best strategies for how to improve work-life balance for employees is offering mental health support. It’s central to employee well-being and should be part of every organization’s effort to prioritize balance for employees. 

Talkspace is an online mental health platform that helps organizations foster work-life balance for their employees. Learn more about how Talkspace can improve mental well-being and bring about all the benefits that positive work-life balance offers.

Sources:

  1. Ray, Tapas K., and Regina Pana-Cryan. “Work Flexibility and Work-Related Well-Being.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 6 (2021): 3254. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063254.  
  2. Pluut, Helen, and Jaap Wonders. “Not Able to Lead a Healthy Life When You Need It the Most: Dual Role of Lifestyle Behaviors in the Association of Blurred Work-Life Boundaries with Well-Being.” Frontiers in Psychology 11 (2020). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.607294.  
  3. Maurer, Roy. “Remote Employees Are Working Longer than Before.” SHRM. SHRM, July 6, 2021. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Remote-Employees-Are-Working-Longer-Than-Before.aspx.  
  4. Kohll, Alan. “Why We Pay Our Employees to Exercise at Work.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, October 12, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alankohll/2019/01/09/why-we-pay-our-employees-to-exercise-at-work/?sh=6d5514e128d2.  
  5. Talkspace. “Workplace Stress: The Impact on Mental Health.” Accessed July 21, 2023. https://www.talkspace.com/research/stress-in-the-workplace#Part-3.  
  6. Armstrong, Melissa J. “Improving Email Strategies to Target Stress and Productivity in Clinical Practice.” Neurology: Clinical Practice 7, no. 6 (2017): 512–17. https://doi.org/10.1212/cpj.0000000000000395.  
  7. Zadow, Amy Jane, Maureen F Dollard, Christian Dormann, and Paul Landsbergis. “Predicting New Major Depression Symptoms from Long Working Hours, Psychosocial Safety Climate and Work Engagement: A Population-Based Cohort Study.” BMJ Open 11, no. 6 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044133

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