August 22, 2022
What is a healthy work-life balance?
Why is a good work-life balance important - especially in remote teams?
How to improve work-life balance in your distributed teams
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Digitization, the always-on culture and ever-increasing expectations in the workplace have led to an increase in mental health issues such as stress and burnout among employees. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 14.7% of employees experience mental health problems at work (numbers valid for the UK).
The rise in remote work seems to aggravate this trend even further, since remote workers are found to be more vulnerable to burnout. For instance, research shows that 69% of people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced burnout symptoms.
Burnout and mental health issues cost companies a lot of money. Employees leaving work because of burnout need to be replaced, which causes turnover costs to rise, and stressed and overworked employees are not as productive as they could be, which results in less revenue for the business.
It’s thus in a business’s best interest to increase employee well-being in their organization and make sure remote workers find a healthy work-life balance. Here’s how to support your remote team in striking a balance between work and life.
As the different parts of the term suggest, work-life balance basically means that personal life and professional life are in harmony and that neither of the two overrules the other. It describes a state of personal fulfillment in both work and private life.
Working too much is obviously lethal for work-life balance, but not putting in enough effort at work can have an equally negative impact, since it reduces the feeling of achievement and fulfillment, and makes it harder to find purpose in what one does.
Achieving a good work-life balance requires establishing clear boundaries between the workplace and home and dedicating enough time to non work-related activities to recharge. As with most other things in life, this needs to be done intentionally and purposefully.
People who have a healthy work-life balance are fully present in both their private lives and work because they know how to separate them from one another. This allows them to fully focus on what they are doing in each moment and be productive and happy in both spheres of their life.
In this sense, work-life balance is different to work-life integration, which describes a practice of blending work and life together to lower stress levels and be more efficient - by fulfilling personal and professional tasks and obligations at the same time.
Work-life balance is a crucial element of the wide field that is employee health and wellness. Employees who fail to balance work and personal life will see their productivity, motivation and engagement decrease rapidly. For the business, this means less revenue - since employees are not performing at their best - and increased absenteeism.
In today’s day and age, mental health issues and burnout are increasingly common, causing companies to lose some of their best employees and leaving them to deal with the struggle of replacing them. According to Gallup, 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes.
The global analytics and advice firm further states that burnout is not simply a question of over-work (which means simply reducing working hours isn’t enough), but that “how people experience their workload has a stronger influence on burnout than hours worked”, arguing that employees can be less stressed despite more work if they are properly supported in their work-life balance by their employer.
Estimates suggest that the financial consequences of burnout and workplace stress in the United States (healthcare costs, productivity issues, employee turnover and more) amount to over $500 billion dollars every year. Even though the numbers are for the whole of the US economy, the amount illustrates that not supporting employee wellbeing in the workplace can have a severe financial impact on employers.
Looking at employee wellbeing from the opposite perspective, supporting work-life balance in your company allows you to:
Boost employee productivity, motivation and performance
Drive employee engagement
Reduce employee turnover rates
Increase revenue while simultaneously reducing costs
Improve your employer branding
With the rise in remote work, employee wellness and work-life balance have turned into a major topic of discussion, with many fearing that the lack of physical separation between work and home life makes achieving work-life balance a lot harder than it already is.
Their point is supported by research showing that people working remotely struggle with work-home balance. Without the lack of a commute which marks both the beginning and the end of the workday, workers find it much harder to switch off and “leave” work for the day, which significantly increases the risk of burnout.
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Making sure that employees have a good work-life balance is not only in the individual’s but also in the company’s interest. That’s why a part of successful remote leadership also involves helping employees find balance between work and life. Here are some actionable tips on what you can do as a leader to improve work-life balance in your remote team.
Part of being a leader is setting a good example for your team. This not only includes being motivated and engaged at work and showing cultural competence, but it also means finishing work at a reasonable time, taking regular holidays and not being available outside of office hours.
Taking a step back from work might sound like a paradox - since managers are the ones who should demonstrate good work ethics - but overly engaged managers who never take time off, work ridiculously long hours and are online at all times make employees feel like they have to do the same. In the long run, this creates a lot of pressure and leads to employees being exhausted and unproductive.
Active listening is one of the key skills remote leaders need to make sure their distributed team is doing fine. Make use of the regular check-ins you (should) have with remote team members to ask them about their wellbeing and listen out for any signs that the employee is having trouble switching off after work.
If it becomes evident that the employee is struggling to strike a balance between work and life, you should take action by suggesting to them that they take a couple of days off to recharge or join a mental health program your company offers.
You can’t expect your employees to disconnect after work with a clear conscience if you’re the one sending them emails and Slack messages after their workday has technically ended. Show your employees that they don’t miss anything if they go offline after work and that they don’t have to be available between workdays - or during their holidays - by simply not contacting them.
Remember: Even if you state in your email that it isn’t urgent and that it can wait until the next day, the recipient will probably still feel like they have to respond straightaway.
In some cases, however, avoiding contacting employees after office hours might not be enough to get them to disconnect after work. Instead, it might take some active persuasion.
Encourage them actively to clock off on time and to ignore work-related emails when they’re not working. You could even include guidelines on how to do this in your employee handbook and mention it to new employees during the onboarding process.
Did you know that allowing / encouraging employees to go offline once the workday is over is not just an option for employers trying to improve their team’s work-life balance but also a legal requirement in some countries? Read more on the right to disconnect and which countries have introduced it in our related blog post.
Separating work and personal life requires clear boundaries. The less overlap between home life and professional life, the better. While setting boundaries is primarily a mental challenge employees need to tackle themselves, you can help your team by providing them with the necessary equipment they need to set up a proper office space in their home.
Having a dedicated work space at home makes it easier for employees to recreate the feeling of “walking out of the office” and “closing the door” behind them at the end of the day. What can also help is having a separate company laptop and phone. Like this, employees can keep their private phones and laptops free of work-related apps and inboxes and won’t be tempted to check work emails after hours.
Some employees find it hard to achieve a healthy work-life balance because they don’t engage in recreational activities after work, which, in many cases, is due to the fact that they lack the necessary motivation or don’t want to go to sports classes or other activities alone. Considering that leisure activities are very beneficial for employee well-being, employers might find it helpful to encourage recreation by offering their remote teams benefits like online yoga classes or gym memberships vouchers.
In addition to physical activities, you can also get your employees to join virtual team building activities, which are also fun and thus count as leisure activities. The same goes for mental health and wellness programs, such as nutrition and sleep coaching.
Programs for employee health and wellbeing are also a great method to foster employee engagement. For more ways to keep remote teams engaged, check out our related blog post.
One reason why employees might have no work-life balance could be that they simply haven’t got the tools they need to get their work done during their normal working hours and therefore have to stay longer in the office. Not only does this mean that work starts cutting into their recreational time, but not being able to perform your job properly can also get quite frustrating after a while and weigh down on the employee’s morale and mental well-being.
In the era of digitization, there are tons of great tools available that are designed to make work easier, faster and more efficient. And those who have come to appreciate this easy way of working know that having the right tools makes all the difference.
Wondering which remote work tools globally distributed teams need? Find the complete list in this blog post.
Although some might argue that freedom and flexibility is both a curse and a blessing where employees are concerned, flexible working hours are a great way to help employees achieve work-life harmony. There are several reasons for that.
First of all, having flexible working hours means it’s easier for employees to join recreational activities without being limited by a fixed schedule at work. Second, being able to work whenever they want allows employees to work when they are most productive - which means they get their work done and can switch off afterwards. Third, employees with kids will value the fact that they get to spend more quality time with their offspring during day time while working in the evening, which makes balancing work and family much easier.
There are many different sides to employee wellbeing. Of course, a healthy work-life balance as well as mental and physical health play a major role when it comes to employee wellness, but there are other aspects too.
One aspect that is crucial, yet often forgotten, is financial wellbeing. Financial worries can have a severe negative impact on an employee’s mental health and providing financial security should therefore be one of the top priorities for businesses looking to increase employee wellbeing. Knowing they’re financially secure and will receive their paychecks on time to pay all the incoming bills is a major relief for employees.
With Lano’s global payroll solution, you can access a global network of in-country payroll partners who can help you run payroll in over 150 countries worldwide. Have your payroll processed by local experts and make sure that your employees get paid accurately and on time. Book a demo with our expert team to find out more about how Lano can help you support your employees’ financial wellbeing through timely payments and errorless payroll.
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