Work-life balance addresses how an organization's workforce prioritizes their personal and professional activities. Work-life balance is a timely matter given the increased amount of technology used to complete work activities and its ability to interrupt home life.
Each employee defines their ideal work-life balance differently, depending on commitments to family, work priorities, health, and leisure.
Until the early 20th century, typical blue-collar workers labored for 70 to 100 hours per week during The Industrial Revolution.
Automotive innovator Henry Ford pioneered the modern “9-5” workday in the 1920s to provide his employees more opportunities for balance and leisure. Companies would follow this model over the next two decades and the US government would eventually codify 40-hour work week into law. During this time, the press described the time between work and home as work/leisure balance.
The relationship between work and home evolved in the last quarter of the 20th century with the introduction of new technology and a shift in business priorities towards shareholder value. Employees could now stay connected to their work outside the office over email and instant messaging. With previously set boundaries now eliminated, the concept of work-life balance was introduced.
Work-life balance continues to change today, with employees looking for more flexible work arrangements that support their lifestyles. Companies have responded, introducing childcare, elder care, and employee assistance programs. For some companies, the prominence of such initiatives provides a boost in company brand image and recruiting.
The COVID-19 pandemic created additional dialogue around work-life balance. As workers shifted into remote settings while also fulfilling family responsibilities, workers felt increasingly stressed out. In response, companies updated their benefits offerings by expanding existing employee assistance program services while offering access to mental health counseling, health and wellness programs, home office stipends, and flexible work hours.
Work-life integration and work-life balance are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are differences between the two.
Both systems seek to find an equilibrium between personal and professional lives. Your workers should evaluate their life priorities and needs, then set out to adopt one with the intent of lowering their stress and increasing well-being.
You can support better work-life balance in many ways. While stress levels will differ by industry, following are a few ways employers can support work-life balance:
The following are some ways to improve work-life balance:
Technology can cultivate or harm your workforce’s work-life balance.
At work, digital tools help your workforce to get work done, including automating routine tasks, providing communications channels, and improving collaboration. Such resources are especially helpful for teams working in virtual or hybrid arrangements. Additionally, technology can drive work-life balance by helping your workers maintain focus and organize their day. With more structure, your employees can plan their days and leave work at a manageable time.
Digital tools can also make work-life balance more elusive than ever because the ability to work from anywhere can make your employees feel they always need to be available. Unaddressed, the invasion of technology in their personal lives can lead to worker burnout, low performance, and attrition.
Addressing how technology affects your employees’ work-life balance starts with a conversation between your leadership and employees.
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