We hear the phrase “work-life balance” a lot these days, but what does it actually mean?
Essentially, it is a self-defined, self-determined state of well-being that a person can reach, or can set as a goal, to allow them to balance multiple responsibilities at work, at home, and in their community. It also helps promote physical, emotional, family, and community health.
‘Balance’ may sound like an ideal that’s hard to reach; the truth is that having a realistic expectation of what balance will look like in our lives is a major part of getting there. It’s about figuring out how the different parts and roles in our lives can co-exist more in harmony than in conflict.
And just because you find balance doesn’t mean you’ll always stay there. Just like physical balance, it involves a lot of work to maintain balance, and changes in our life can shift our sense of balance.
Balance: When You Have It, When You Don’t
How do you know when you’ve got it? You know you’ve found balance when:
- You are satisfied with your work and home lives
- You can fulfill your multiple responsibilities at home, at work, and in the community without guilt or regret
- You have good physical health, emotional stability and strong social connections
- You have a sense of control over your life
- You feel that any decisions you make are informed choices rather than sacrifices
- You have realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do
How do you know when you haven’t got it?
- You’re constantly tired and feel like you’re running uphill all the time and getting nowhere
- You feel like you have no choices or control
- Life seems to be happening to you instead of you managing your life
- You can think of more things that aren’t getting done than are getting done
- You’re frequently challenged by guilt and regret that you’re neglecting areas of your life
Consequences of an Out of Balance Lifestyle for You and Your Employees
The more you or your employees feel your lives are out of balance, the more likely you and they will be to pay a physical and emotional price – and so will your business.
You probably won’t eat as healthily as you should: you’ll consume more caffeine, more alcohol, more sugar, and more fat. You are less likely to exercise regularly and are less likely to be getting enough sleep.
You are less likely to have a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment. You have a greater likelihood of either falling sick, falling sick more often, or being more sick than usual whenever you become sick. And you’re more likely to be in unhealthy or unstable relationships that are more prone to breaking down.
It’s easy to see how the costs of all of these consequences quickly add up in terms of lost productivity, lower morale and increased employee turnover.
Tips for Promoting Balance in Your Workplace
Practice and share the following tips with employees to create a work environment that supports work-life balance:
- Schedule brief breaks for yourself throughout the day and encourage employees to take their own. Your productivity and effectiveness will increase if you take even a 10-minute break every 2 hours. Believe it or not, you and your employees will actually accomplish more if you take some time out.
- At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available.
- Respond to e-mail only once or twice a day. Then, close your e-mail program to avoid being distracted as messages come in.
- Make a distinction between work and the rest of your life. Protect your private time by turning off electronic communications. Don’t be available 24/7 – and your employees shouldn’t need to be either.
- Address concerns about deadlines and deliverables early. As soon as you see that a deadline is unrealistic, communicate your concern to your colleague or client. Don’t wait until the deadline has passed.
- Take all your allotted vacation time and encourage your employees to do the same. After a vacation you’ll come back to work feeling refreshed and you will be more productive.
- Practice being more assertive, which means saying what your needs are more often and more directly. It’s being honest but not mean. Saying yes may be easier in the moment but can be a burden later on. Setting boundaries, learning to say no, and knowing when to ask for help are key skills toward finding balance. You can learn assertiveness techniques from self-help books or from watching others who use this skill effectively.
For More Information
To learn more about how you can support your employees’ health and wellness in the New Year, register for the free three-part seminar series offered by WellnessFits and Small Business BC. The first seminar, Workplace Wellness; The Benefits, Components and Barriers, takes place on January 13, 2014, and explores the how and why a workplace wellness program can improve your business.