Australia lags behind many other Western OECD nations when it comes to work-life balance. 20% of men and 7% of women in Australia work more than 50 hours per week. Without adequate work-life balance, relationships and health suffer. Senior leaders must demonstrate effective strategies to ensure that all employees have the opportunity to find a happy medium between the demands of work and life outside the workplace.
Why is work-life balance important?
Stress from a lack of work-life balance is one of the leading concerns of modern workplaces. Particularly, stress is considered one of the leading causes of many acute and chronic illnesses. Recent surveys of Australian employees found that 77% cited work as the biggest source of stress in their lives. This was higher than financial problems, at 72%.
An inadequate work-life balance not only affects the individual, but can also cause issues within the community. When workers feel overworked or overburdened with the demands of the workplace, they are not able to care for themselves or their families. It is difficult to engage in family life, community activities, hobbies, and even self-care when you are too busy and stressed with work. Stress, illness, and unhappiness stemming from workplace burdens will eventually hurt an employee’s productivity.
Problems stemming from a lack of work-life balance disproportionately affect families with small children and impact their decision to take a job or not. 80% of working parents say that work-life balance is one of the most important things they look for in a prospective employer.
But workers without children or partners also value work-life balance. For employers to attract the most talented workers, they will need to start implementing practices that foster a sense of work-life balance in their business.
Employers who emphasise a healthy work-life balance and flexible working arrangements will end up with happier workers who are more motivated to produce their best quality work. Employees who work for organisations that foster a balanced workplace are also more likely to remain loyal to their employer and increase their productivity.
What can happen in the workplace when there isn’t enough work-life balance?
- Employees become stressed and unhappy
- Stress and sickness within the workforce increases
- Stress can lead to increased agitation and conflict among workers
- Businesses will struggle with a decrease in productivity
- Employers may have trouble attracting new talent with poor work-life balance practices
How can employees increase their work-life balance?
For any worker, whether they have children at home or not, work-life balance comes down to time management. When the workday is allowed to drag on, workers miss out on precious time with their family or engaging in self-care or hobbies at home. Below are a few ways to achieve work-life balance as an employee:
- Know the best times to schedule meetings or calls with clients and team members so you can focus on crucial administrative work at other times. This way, you’ll be able to use your time more efficiently.
- If you work from home, an excellent way to save time and achieve work-life balance is to make sure your technology is up-to-date and high-quality.
- Establish clear boundaries around work and personal time. Do your best to set expectations with your manager regarding the times you are available.
- When scheduling vacations, offer updates and reminders to your boss and co-workers, so there are no surprises – for you or them.
Overachievers need to be particularly careful when it comes to work-life balance. Ambitious workers often don’t see when they are headed for burnout. If you are of the overachieving type, cut back and assess your goals to make sure they are realistic.
What can employers do to help their workers achieve work-life balance?
Encouraging your employees to take breaks is one way to foster a workplace that promotes adequate work-life balance. Employees look to their managers to set an example of what the broader company culture is. When bosses learn to cut back and scale down to realistic goals for themselves, staff members will soon follow suit. This builds a more motivated, loyal and happier workforce who have better productivity, leading to growing sales numbers and profits for the company.
At Healthworks, we are dedicated to improving health and wellbeing in the workplace. Even small improvements in managing time, improving stress management and setting boundaries around the use of technology can have a significant positive impact on both employees and the business.
Contact us today to learn more about our health checks and educational services for Australian businesses.