With technology enabling 24/7 access, the separation of work and personal lives are no longer defined by a physical location, which can create a situation ripe for stress and burnout. Employers that foster work/life balance to help ease the burden are likely to see high levels of productivity and employee engagement.
Defining work/life balance
In general, work/life balance means acknowledging the importance of both personal and professional goals and designating time to achieve them. Striking a healthy balance may be a highly individualized process and the hours spent on personal vs. professional goals can vary based on changes in schedules or activities at work or home. With a balance in place, an employee can spend the time needed at work versus at home without feeling that they are missing out on important career or personal milestones.
Often, employees with an adequate work/life balance are more satisfied with their overall career choices. Alternatively, when the balance between time spent at work and time away from work is poor, employees may suffer from stress and burnout, even when they enjoy their jobs.
The importance of work/life balance
Many small business owners and employees alike want the option to get their work done when and where they need to do it, and complete it more efficiently. For some, being able to squeeze in a midday workout can help alleviate stress. Others may solve childcare scheduling issues by taking advantage of flex time options. A 2017 Paychex survey revealed that respondents considered missing time at home to be their biggest source of job-related stress. More than 80 percent of those surveyed wish they could spend more time with their kids.
When the balance between time spent at work and time away from work is poor, employees may suffer from stress and burnout, even when they enjoy their jobs.
Benefits of establishing this balance at your business
Understanding the importance of work/life balance and how it relates to career choices can help businesses increase employee satisfaction and performance.
Here are some advantages for employers:
- Encourages teamwork: Allowing employees to set their own hours by offering flexible schedules or work from home options not only helps to improve work/life balance, but also stresses the importance of teamwork. Businesses that plan schedules in advance may limit work interruptions and foster employees to work together to complete tasks and hit deadlines.
- Reduces absenteeism: A flex time option may dramatically reduce rates of absenteeism.
- Attracts talent: A small business owner who cares about work/life balance is often perceived positively by top talent. Such an approach may also positively impact recruitment and retention efforts — an important consideration for both new and established businesses. For example, it could make your business more attractive to job candidates for whom an inflexible work schedule is a "non-starter."
Of course, employees also benefit from work/life balance by lower stress levels, increased motivation, and higher overall satisfaction with both their professional and personal lives.
If employees are stretched thin but the business can't afford to hire additional staff, you may want to consider the benefits of outsourcing.
Improving the process
Many businesses currently have or have considered some form of remote work arrangements. While these schedules aim to create a healthy work/life balance, figuring out what works best for your team takes time. Here are some considerations:
- Understand the indicators of work/life balance when reviewing current policies and procedures. Making work/life balance a priority means crafting in-house policies with this goal in mind. Data gleaned from exit interviews, employee surveys, turnover rates, and overtime reports can identify areas of opportunity. An integrated HR system offers the ability to pull data and determine if new policies are working across the company.
- Consider outsourcing administrative functions. If you believe employees are stretched thin, but the business can't afford to hire additional staff, it may be time to consider the benefits of outsourcing. This could include administrative functions such as running payroll, which can free up employees to devote more time to more strategic priorities.
- Be mindful of overtaxing your staff. Review overtime hours worked by individual and department. Analyze job descriptions and responsibilities. Consult with expert HR professionals to ensure your company is adequately staffed. An independent opinion can help determine where you need to shift resources or reallocate job responsibilities.
- Explore technology options. Recent developments in HR solutions can help small businesses work more productively. For example, time and attendance tracking can be automated and even integrate with your payroll. This can help your business ensure accuracy, increase productivity, and cut down on time spent managing such tasks.
Leverage technology to improve efficiency
Embracing the latest technology is one of the most effective ways for businesses to work more efficiently while creating a healthy work environment. For instance, payroll and HR technology solutions can alleviate some of the tedious but necessary administrative tasks that need to be completed, allowing employees more time to devote to professional development during the work day, while easing the pressure to spend long hours on the job.
Many businesses now utilize mobile apps to share and report HR information. The integration of an HR system allows for online payroll processing and increases the speed and accuracy of tracking time and attendance. HR solutions are also available to process employees' expense reports and provide benefits information to those currently away from the office.
As businesses adapt to maintain an engaged and happy workforce, now is the time to use technology to your advantage.