What is Work-Life Balance? A Manager's Guide for Success

by Sarah Niderost, 8 minutes read
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You're a manager. And being the team-leading champion you are, you do whatever possible to keep everyone happy and productive. But it's not always easy.

Large projects can turn into time-eating nightmares that gnaw away at personal freedoms (and hobbies). Before you know it, you're dealing with burnout across the board.

And this is especially true for teams working remotely. Work-life balance is virtually non-existent, as employees allow work projects to leak over into home life.

While this may appear as innocent ambition — it's not something you want to promote or even allow. But what can you do as a manager to ensure your teams balance work and life efficiently?

Read on to learn what it takes to build a workplace around a healthy work-life balance.

What is work-life balance, and why is it important?

what is work life-balance

Work-life balance is the process of managing work and personal life. In other words, it's juggling the stresses of work and home.

When one side becomes too overbearing, it can lead to an imbalance. For example, piling on too much work onto an employee will cause them to stay later each day.

This takes them away from family, friends, and hobbies. As you'd imagine, it eventually leads to stress and frustration. So what was once a committed employee is now a disgruntled worker.

Work-life imbalances can occur for a variety of reasons. At work, this may be increased workloads or being assigned complex tasks (outside of their expertise). Then, there may be a newborn at home on the homefront, or other increased responsibilities (i.e., caring for a sick parent).

When there's an imbalance in work and life, it causes issues on both sides. You'll notice your workers' efficiency, drive, and productivity decrease. And soon after, they become distant and unengaged. Over time, it can lead to burnout, which may cause all sorts of physical and mental ailments.

With a burnt-out workforce, you'll battle with:

  • Low employee retention

  • Increased absences

  • Poor productivity

  • Reduced revenue potential and higher costs (recruiting/training new hires)

  • Sick workers

Keeping an eye on your team is vital for their health and the company's financial well-being.

Why is it so difficult to maintain work-life balance?

how to maintain work-life balance

Creating a workplace that values work-life balance seems simple enough. So why do companies struggle with stressed-out employees? Well, there are several culprits behind the trend.

One is the hustle culture we currently live in. Being constantly "on" and "grinding" is a signal of a great worker who wants to succeed. This is especially true in America.

Almost half of U.S. workers (48%) consider themselves "workaholics." And 58% even check their work emails while in bed.

So it's not always an overbearing manager behind the work-life imbalance. Sometimes, you have workers who proactively snag up multiple projects and promise quick turnarounds. Or take on long work shifts.

But hustle mentality can become toxic and shouldn't be something you encourage. So it's critical to create a work culture that promotes turning off at the end of the workday (and staying off at home).

However, it's going to require effort on both sides to make this work.

According to one report, the reasons behind the work-life balance problems include:

  • Overbearing bosses (assigning too much work or hours)

  • Working beyond standard business hours

  • Inflexible work hours and schedules

  • Incompetent co-workers

  • Long commutes

What are the five steps to work-life balance?

strategies to create work-life balance

Before you can begin implementing strategies to create work-life balance in your organization, you need to educate your workers. If they're not committed to taking time off and recharging, then your efforts will be fruitless.

What good is it to force vacations if they're going to spend it on work-related projects from the beach?

So here are some tips to give your workers to keep them from turning into workaholics.

1. Learn to say “no”

It's not something you'll hear from most managers. But team members must know when to decline a task — as long as you can clearly give your reasoning. If you have too much work, you need to talk to your manager who can help prioritize.

2. Learn to recharge

Paid time off, vacations, and off days should be spent relaxing. Not working (or thinking about working). Encourage logging out of work emails and communication tools until it's time to "clock in."

3. Learn to prioritize (and reprioritize)

What are the goals and values of your workers? Maybe at one point, it was to work hard to earn a promotion. But now that they have a newborn, their priorities have shifted.

So make sure your teams know their priorities inside and outside of work and properly balance the two.

4. Learn to set (and keep) work-life balance boundaries

Have an open dialogue with your staff about their working hours. Use a verified time tracking app that allows for two-way transparency so both you and your employees have visibility into their schedules.

5. Learn to focus on mental health and well-being

Leading an active and healthy lifestyle can stave off the effects of work overload. For instance, taking time to meditate, drink lots of water, eat healthy meals, and schedule regular breaks (even if it's just five minutes).

Teaching good habits is the key to getting more workers on board with maintaining a work-life balance.

How do you improve work-life balance for your employees?

work-life changes during Covid-19

Alright, it's time to create a workplace that values boundaries and balanced workloads. Here are five ideas to test with your in-house teams.

1. Offer onsite childcare

Finding reliable childcare can be tough. More students are homeschooling, which means more parents have to stay home or work odd schedules.

And thanks to the pandemic, there's now a caretaker shortage.

You can reduce the burden on in-house employees by offering on-site childcare.

2. Allow flexible working schedules

Flexible work schedules are one of the most popular requests from employees today. Working remotely during the pandemic gave more workers an inside look at what work life could be like. And now they're not letting it go.

But this doesn't mean you have to go fully remote. Consider allowing employees to work from home a set number of days per week. Or to choose which hours suit them best. You'll find some workers are more productive with the new arrangement.

For some, having a flexible work schedule is so important they're willing to take a pay cut. And 81% say they'd be more loyal to employers allowing flexible work options. So it's a win-win.

3. Maintain a consistent (and predictable) workday

Consistency is key when you're trying to create a work-life balance. Of course, you can't control all aspects of a business. For instance, in restaurants and grocery stores, an influx of customers can happen on a whim.

But you can control how much you assign to each worker on a given day. If there's more to do, consider putting more people on the task to even out the load. The goal is to be consistent.

When workers know what to expect each day, it's easier to plan ahead and stay within work-life boundaries.

4. Set a limit to how much work/hours workers can take on

Maybe you work in an industry where workers can request more hours and projects. If so, keep an eye on how much they're taking on and how they're performing. Are they meeting deadlines? Is the quality suffering?

If you see issues in these areas, they might be overwhelmed and need help.

5. Increase the pay (or offer better incentives)

You want your team to take time off and not feel pressure whenever they're not working. Unfortunately, this isn't possible when there are financial woes at their doorsteps.

One way to help them through this ordeal is to give raises, bonuses, and other incentives to boost their income.

Roughly 28% of workaholics are financially motivated. So use this to encourage taking more time off.

How to promote work-life balance for remote workers?

how do companies promote a work-life balance

When you adopt flexible work schedules, it's easy to fall into bad habits that ruin the work-life balance. Don't let this happen.

Here are five ways you can ensure it doesn't.

1. Focus on productivity, not hours worked

One mistake team leaders make is treating employees as though they're lazy. They micromanage their teams in the name of promoting productivity — yet, it does the exact opposite.

Instead, focus on the output of your workers. If it only takes four hours to complete a task, reward them with time off or extra breaks. Don't penalize them by forcing them to put in more hours for no reason.

2. Use communication tools vs. email

Email overload is a real problem for employees, especially since the pandemic (and the invention of smartphones). We carry around our mini-computers everywhere, granting managers the power to blur the lines between work and home.

It's gotten so bad that people applaud reaching inbox zero (having no new or unanswered emails in their inbox). Managing email inboxes is unproductive and hurts work-life balance.

So limit emails and use solutions like a workforce management app that has a built-in communication tool.

3. Prevent Zoom (and meeting) fatigue

In the workplace, meetings can become a time-consuming annoyance that wastes everyone's time. And it's now gone virtual with Zoom meetings.

Remote workers are being bombarded with hours of back-to-back meetings. Some even spend five or six hours in video conferences. But enough is enough — reduce your meetings and share a simple message with them on your communication tool.

If there's no need for everyone to be there in real-time (at that very moment), then create a team message and have ongoing discussions there.

4. Stick to sending communications during "office hours"

It's tempting to send an employee a "quick" message about a task when they’re not working. But don't.

Instead, write the note and schedule it to be sent the following morning (or workday). Sure, workers don't have to check and respond to your message. But odds are, they'll get a notification, and will anyway. And so begins the overlap that breaks work-life balance.

Give workers the good work-life balance they deserve

You're the leader of your pack. And as pack leader, your job is to ensure the well-being of your squad. But you can't do this if you're allowing bad habits to persist.

Use the above strategies to create a work culture around work-life balance. And adopt tools to make the process seamless.

HR and management teams use Deputy to organize flexible schedules for their teams. It also tracks timesheets and enables workers to request time off. If you're looking for a collaborative tool to instill work-life balance, then try Deputy for free today.

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