The Importance of Work-Life Balance

Managers are increasingly aware of the importance of promoting a healthy work-life balance for employees, which increases job satisfaction.

The Price of a 24-7 World
Technology has improved people’s lives in many different ways. People can live longer, healthier lives because of technological advancements. A student can access vast resources of information to complete assignments and a mother can see and talk to a daughter who is thousands of miles away. The advancements in the way people access information, communicate with one another, and complete tasks have allowed for flexibility in the workplace. Global markets have opened up and communication has allowed instant access to local expertise, enabling income streams and relationship building anywhere in the world.

With email, texting, instant messaging, and fax, people can communicate instantaneously. With the advancement in smart phones, laptops, and tablets, employees are able to leave the office but still do their work. This has allowed more employees to bring their work home with them. While such access does allow them to spend more time at home, it has blurred the lines between work and life. If the boss sends a text at eleven at night, does the employee have to answer it? When should a person shut down the laptop and spend time with friends and family or pursue their own interests?

Technology also allows some employees to work from home offices full time, and they never have to visit their place of business. While telecommuting eliminates the need to drive to the office, the ability to work from home can make work consume a person’s life. What was once a forty-hour-a-week job can easily become a sixty-hour-a-week job. The person in this scenario will be both stressed and less effective professionally.

The Importance of Work-Life Balance
As with most things in life, moderation is the key. People who are constantly tied to their jobs deal with the symptoms of stress and burnout. Overworked employees are more likely to suffer health problems, more like to be absent and/or sick, less efficient, less sociable, and overall more difficult to work with. It is in the best interest of both the employee and employer to avoid these pitfalls through smart human resource management.

The Role of Management in Promoting Work-Life Balance
Human resource (HR) management is a particularly versatile element of the organization, and its responsibilities are often much less clear than a textbook might imply. While hiring, training, employment contracts and regulatory considerations are well within the HR framework, so too is ensuring that employees are both healthy and satisfied at work. This requires taking stands on behalf of the employees, and putting organizational and managerial expectations and policies in place to ensure that employees are treated properly.

One example of what HR and/or upper management can do in this regard is override the culture to encourage employees to take time for themselves. Upper management must communicate to lower managers, through words and by example, that work communication past a certain time of night (or on the weekends) is only acceptable in highly time-sensitive situations (or never at all). HR can suggest to employees that they turn off their work phones in the evenings and leave their work computers in the office unless absolutely necessary.

Another useful tool for management is flextime. This is particularly useful for individuals in global markets, since they are often on the phone early in the morning or late at night with clients or suppliers on the other side of the globe. Employees might also work only four days a week, but work 10 to 12 hours each of those days (from, say, 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). Businesses focused on quarterly results could offer long weekends at a company-wide level at the beginning of each new quarter (when workload is the smallest). HR professionals should be observant and creative, identifying when employees are pushing themselves too hard and offering solutions.

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