What Is Work-Life Balance?
A healthy work-life balance is a state a person experiences when demands in their personal life are equally balanced with the demands of their career. When a person has reached a sustainable work-life balance, they can experience various positive effects, such as the following:
- Reduced stress
- Reduced burnout
- Heightened sense of well-being
What Causes Poor Work-Life Balance?
With the rise of technology and communication at our fingertips, it’s becoming more difficult to unplug and disconnect — and to uphold clear boundaries between work and personal life. Below are some of the top causes of poor work-life balance:
- Increased responsibility at work: A long list of to-dos can feel overwhelming, especially when they begin piling up. Added pressures of these increased tasks and responsibilities at work can contribute to a poor work-life balance and employee burnout.
- Longer working hours: Spending longer hours than expected at work can take away time that could be spent with loved ones or doing other activities that fuel your personal life.
- Company culture: Sometimes, certain company cultures can make employees feel pressured to work long hours and dedicate the majority of their time toward work.
- Poor time management: Not being able to manage time effectively can lead to feelings of overwhelm and make it difficult to balance priorities.
- Lack of flexibility: If employees don’t experience flexibility within their work schedules, like not being able to work remotely or leave the office early for a family matter, then their work-life balance may suffer.
Importance of Work-Life Balance
There are endless benefits to achieving and managing a work-life balance, including boosted productivity, reduced burnout, improved overall wellness, and higher employee retention. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits:
A workload that is too heavy to manage can decrease productivity and lead to more errors and mistakes. By taking time to recharge, rest, and participate in personal activities, individuals can come back to work refreshed and more productive. To boost productivity, consider using project schedule templates to ensure that project tasks and schedules are organized, so they don’t become a source of overwhelm and stress in and of themselves.
According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, burnout is the feeling of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others. However, you can reduce or prevent feelings of burnout by working toward greater balance of your work and personal life responsibilities, so that everything feels more in sync.
Poor work-life balance can lead to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. A balanced lifestyle that allows for adequate rest, relaxation, and time with loved ones can improve overall well-being and reduce the risk of mental and physical health problems.
Higher Employee Retention
As an employer, encouraging employees to develop a healthy work-life balance can create a happier work environment. According to a recent study, companies that allow for better work-life balance have a 25 percent lower employee turnover than those that don’t.
When your employees feel that their personal life is respected and valued, they’re more likely to stay with the company longer.
17 Work-Life Balance Tips
Making time for people and hobbies in your personal life is equally important to juggling responsibilities in your career. If you don’t know where to start, here are 17 work-life balance tips you can incorporate in the office and at home.
1. Take Breaks
The first step toward work-life balance is taking advantage of breaks that are offered to you, such as a lunch break. If you work from home, consider taking a quick stretch and walking around the block to get some fresh air. You can also take mini breaks at your desk and practice breathing exercises or short meditations.
2. Improve Time Management
Having strong time management skills, both at home and in the office, can also improve your work-life balance. To practice this, there are several things you can do:
- Try project management software: A project management tool can help make sure you execute projects and tasks on time.
- Get a daily planner: You can use a planner to stay organized and lay out your tasks in a clear, digestible list. This will make them feel less overwhelming to tackle.
- Set reminders: If you have trouble remembering to do certain tasks, try setting reminders. You can set them on your phone calendar, the Google calendar on your desktop, or any to-do list app of your choice.
- Give tasks a time limit: To make sure you’re not spending too much time on a single task, set yourself a time limit to complete the task or move on to a new one.
- Limit distractions: If you feel that external distractions are interfering with your time management, do your best to block them out.
3. Work From Home if Possible
If possible, consider working from home — or, if you’re an employer, consider offering work-from-home options for your employees. According to Jabra's Hybrid Ways of Working 2022 Global Report, employees with full autonomy to choose where they work are happier with their jobs.
However, working from home can also make it more difficult to draw boundaries between work and personal life. For example, some people find it difficult to reset their mind and environment since without a commute. To get in front of this issue, make a point to decompress and unplug by doing something like taking a quick walk after work — you can even create a mini “commute” and drive somewhere to get out of the house.
4. Make Schedules Flexible
A flexible work schedule allows employees the autonomy to create their own schedules to determine a work-life balance that fits the needs of their personal lives. This could mean starting and ending the workday at earlier or later times or hybrid working, depending on personal preferences.
As an employer, consider integrating a time management tool that allows for quick and flexible changes in your employees’ schedules.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
If you feel like you’re having a tough time practicing work-life balance and things are feeling hectic, don’t be too hard on yourself — we’re only human. Practicing self-compassion and being kinder to yourself can go a long way when navigating challenges and mistakes.
Additionally, research from the National Library of Medicine shows that there’s a positive correlation between self-compassion and mental well-being, such as lower anxiety, depression, anger, and burnout, and increased overall encouragement and support for oneself.
6. Plan Vacation Days in Advance
Paid time off exists for a reason. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of workers fail to use all of their allocated vacation days. If you find yourself not taking advantage of your vacation days, consider planning time off in advance so you don’t forget. Take time off even if it’s just for a mental health day or a staycation.
7. Donate to a Cause You Care About
Similar to volunteering, donating to a cause you care about can help give you a sense of purpose and boost morale. When you encourage yourself or your employees to donate and be part of other charitable events, you can further promote a positive work environment, which can lead to a better overall work-life balance.
8. Consider Volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to make social connections and give back to your community. Doing things for other people makes individuals feel more engaged and joyful, and can even lead to health benefits, such as the following:
- Lower blood pressure
- Longer life span
- Reduced stress
- Boosted endorphins, which make us happy
To encourage volunteering amongst employees, consider offering a day off or organizing an event for everyone to do it together.
9. Schedule Some Social Time
Make it a point to schedule some time to socialize, whether it's with your friends, family, or even colleagues after work. Quality time with people you care about can be a great way to break up the day and relax if you’re stressed about work or other responsibilities. Plus, having healthy social relationships are important for overall mental and physical health, which can translate into the workplace.
10. Create Employee Health Initiatives
As an employer, you have the power to encourage a more balanced and healthy workplace by creating employee health initiatives. For example, consider hosting optional fitness activities, such as the following:
- Office yoga
- Walking groups during lunch
- Fitness challenges, such as steps walked per day
- Wellness events led by experts
Your company might even offer discounts on local gym memberships as an extra incentive.
11. Prioritize Top Tasks First
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a task list that seems to be piling up, make a to-do list and prioritize the top tasks first. Focusing on these bigger items and crossing them off your list right away can give you a sense of productivity and accomplishment, which can set the tone for the rest of your day.
12. Communicate Boundaries
Be sure to prioritize communicating your boundaries to colleagues and clients in the workplace. This includes communicating the hours you plan on working and when you’re available to respond. Communicating these boundaries can help reduce the need to check on work after hours or on your time off.
To put this into practice, consider setting an autoresponder within your email that you’re out of the office. You can also set a status on your business messaging app, such as Slack, that you’re unavailable or taking a quick break. Additionally, try blocking off time in your calendar to give you space to do some heads-down work.
13. Find a Mentor
Leaning on a mentor or a work-life balance coach can also be a great resource if you’re looking to improve your work-life balance. Not only can a mentor help you practice balance, but they can also help you get the promotion you’ve been working toward or present you with a new career opportunity by giving advice and navigating whichever industry you’re in. To find the right fit, make sure you clearly state your goals and trajectory.
14. Add Exercise to Your Routine
Exercise in any form can be a great stress reducer, making it an essential part of an everyday routine. Try to sneak exercise into your day, even if it’s just a quick five-minute meditation session in the morning, stretches at your office chair, or a run around the neighborhood after work.
15. Encourage Pet-Friendly Workplaces
In addition to exercise, having animals in the office can help ease workplace stress. Allowing pets in the workplace can help make the office feel more like home, which can help employees feel as if they’re not spending too much time at work. Pets in the workplace can also lower stress and reduce blood pressure which can have a calming effect and lead to higher levels of productivity.
If you’re an employer, consider converting the office space to a pet-friendly one. Doing so may even help attract potential employees who seek this benefit.
16. Provide Feedback
Sometimes people don’t know work-life balance is an issue until it’s brought up. If applicable, you can fill out surveys or feedback forms to give input on work-life balance within the company. It’s also important as an employer to ensure you’re fostering healthy communication in the workplace. That means creating a culture that encourages feedback and allows employees to feel heard and appreciated.
According to the Office of the Surgeon General, an essential component of healthy organizations is creating an environment where employees’ voices are supported without fear of retaliation or job loss. You can also reward your employees for providing feedback and being honest when it comes to sharing opinions.
17. Ask for Help
If you feel like you’re struggling to achieve a healthy work-life balance, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s your boss, a mentor, or even a therapist, seek advice and tips from others in your network. Sometimes, employers will even offer employee assistance programs that can connect you with a professional who can help you manage stress and put you on the right path to a better work-life balance.
Improve Work-Life Balance With Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet
Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.
Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change.
The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.
When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.