Welcome to the age of virtual workplaces, where the boundaries between our personal and professional lives have become increasingly blurred. This year, 12.7% of full-time employees are home-based while 28.2% are part of a hybrid workplace.
These numbers are expected to increase in the coming years, knowing that 98% of employees admit that they would like to work remotely, if given the chance.
This isn’t surprising, knowing that working from home helps employees save time and energy compared to going to the office everyday. The thought that you can wake up 2 minutes before you log into work also adds to the appeal.
But just because you work from home doesn’t automatically mean that you can enjoy a better work-life balance. The truth is remote work comes with the risk of overworking, burnout, and neglecting personal lives.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. There are practical approaches to harmonizing work and life in this fast-paced digital landscape, helping employees find the balance that they need to thrive.
In this article, you’ll learn what work-life balance really means, why it matters, and how to help your employees achieve it.
Understanding the True Meaning of Work-Life Balance
A lot of people see work-life balance as drawing a clear line between life at work and personal life. But in today’s setting, it’s not about putting work and life in two different compartments; it’s about creating harmony between the two.
A better term, to be honest, is proper work-life integration.
Work-life integration means seeing work and personal life as part of the same big picture. It's all about finding ways to seamlessly merge professional commitments with personal desires and responsibilities, rather than keeping them separate like oil and water.
Nothing is perfect in this world and there’s bound to be days when you feel like you either worked too much or slacked off too much. But with the right work-life balance, employees will have an easier time managing and allocating time, energy, and attention to both their work-related responsibilities and personal activities, interests, and relationships.
Work-life balance could involve:
- Setting boundaries so that one would not impact the other negatively
- Prioritizing self-care while also finishing tasks at work
- Managing time effectively
- Aligning work and personal life with one's values, goals and individual circumstances
It basically means recognizing the importance of maintaining physical and mental well-being, nurturing personal relationships, pursuing hobbies, and fulfilling non-work-related aspirations alongside professional endeavors.
Why Work-Life Balance Matters for Employers and Employees
When you think about it, achieving work-life balance is a win-win for both employers and employees. Here’s why:
- Health and Well-being
Constantly prioritizing work over personal life can lead to burnout, stress, and various health issues. Taking time for self-care, relaxation, and pursuing personal interests helps in rejuvenating and replenishing energy levels.
This is especially seen in high-stress environments. Studies show that 60% of absenteeism at work is caused by stress. Chronic stress also heightens the risk for heart disease, obesity, gastrointestinal problems, and mental health problems.
When there is balance between work and personal life, employees are healthier, happier, and more motivated to do well at work.
- Relationships and Family
Work-life balance is essential for nurturing and maintaining healthy relationships, particularly with family and loved ones.
Spending quality time with family and friends, being present for important milestones, and engaging in meaningful connections both inside and outside of work contribute to happier and more fulfilling relationships.
- Productivity and Performance
Employees that enjoy work-life balance are more productive. Can you imagine working when you are mentally drained, physically tired, and just overall stressed out?
When people have time for relaxation, leisure, and personal fulfillment, they come back to work refreshed and motivated. This, in turn, can boost creativity, focus, and overall job performance.
- Long-Term Sustainability
If we’re going to be realistic, there will be times when there’s a need to pull all-nighters and do more than the usual tasks. But if this becomes the normal day-to-day scenario, that’s just not sustainable in the long run.
Neglecting one’s personal needs and relationships just to do well at work can lead to feelings of regret and dissatisfaction. The lack of sleep and the high stress levels will also lead to sickness.
To ensure that individuals can maintain their well-being and happiness over the long term, the right boundaries would have to be maintained.
- Holistic Development
Believe it or not, there are so many useful skills that employees can learn outside the workplace that could be beneficial for the work they do. Allowing them to pursue personal interests, hobbies, and self-improvement activities can help them with personal growth and skill development.
For example, people who play team sports regularly are more likely to collaborate with their teammates at work. Those who are committed to the arts (painting, playing a musical instrument and the like) normally have great self-discipline.
Employees who also practice mindfulness in the form of yoga or gardening are calmer and are often mentally and emotionally healthier.
Giving employees the chance to achieve a sense of fulfillment in various areas of life can make them more well-rounded and balanced individuals.
Ultimately, work-life balance helps employees lead healthier, happier, and more sustainable lives. This then translates into the type of workers they become.
How to Support Better Work-Life Balance for Your Employees
Promoting work-life balance in a virtual workplace may seem overwhelming especially if you just transitioned into remote work or are in the process of shifting your company culture from a traditional structure to a more employee-friendly one.
But the benefits of creating work-life balance clearly outweigh the transition. Plus, you can always take one small step at a time instead of making numeroud big changes right away.
Here are some practical approaches that you can adapt in your virtual workplace one by one:
- Review employee workloads regularly.
One of the most common root causes of failing to have work-life balance is giving more than enough workload to employees. This could happen if:
- Other employees are not doing enough, forcing someone to pick up the slack for everyone else
- Employees are given tasks and responsibilities that go beyond their job description
- There is an imbalance between company growth and workforce bandwidth
Reviewing employee workload helps ensure that work is distributed fairly and equitably among team members. You can do that by:
- Tailoring workload assignments based on strengths, skills, and capacities
- Creating an environment where team members feel comfortable discussing workload concerns and limitations
- Keeping track of employee workloads to identify any potential imbalances or excessive demands on certain team members
- Ensuring employees have access to the necessary resources, tools, and support to handle their assigned tasks effectively
- Being mindful of employees' work-life balance and avoid overloading individuals with excessive responsibilities
By addressing workload discrepancies, organizations can promote a sense of fairness and prevent potential burnout or resentment within the team.
- Promote efficiency.
We’ve always been told that we need to work hard to accomplish our goals in life. But hard work has traditionally been linked to long hours, unreasonably tight deadlines, and an unbelievable workload that should be handled by two or three people.
The truth is, work should not be measured by the hours you put in, but how efficiently you get things done.
Employees need to learn how to work smart, and not just work hard. To help them do this, here’s what you can do:
- Streamline processes, making sure that unnecessary steps are removed
- Set clear goals and prioritize high-value tasks
- Continuously provide training for skills enhancement
- Minimize delays in communicating needs
- Use technology to automate repetitive tasks
- Empower employees to make decisions
- Encourage team members to problem-solve together
- Never stop evaluating and improving systems and processes
When you promote efficiency in the workplace, you can increase productivity, reduce waste of resources such as time and money, and improves overall performance.
- Lead by example.
Leaders set the tone in any organization. When leaders prioritize their own work-life balance and demonstrate healthy boundaries, it shows team members what to aim for.
In a traditional setup, there are two scenarios that are sadly very common, but should be avoided:
- Leaders leaving work early and expecting team members to do the work for them
- Leaders staying unreasonable hours and expecting team members to stay with them
In the virtual workplace, there are similar scenarios that need to be avoided, like:
- Leaders expecting team members to be online all the time and available to take calls beyond their work schedule
- Leaders overloading team members with tasks thinking that just because they work from home means that they have more time to work
By modeling work-life balance behaviors, leaders inspire employees to prioritize their well-being, establish boundaries, and find a harmonious integration of work and personal life. It creates a supportive culture where employees feel encouraged to achieve work-life balance and reduces the stigma or pressure associated with prioritizing personal time and well-being.
This is why culture-setting should always start from the organization’s top tier. When the leadership team does not align with the healthy culture that you want to set, it’s going to be a tough journey towards implementing work-life balance in the workplace.
- Implement health and wellness programs.
Health and wellness programs are beneficial in setting work-life balance in the workplace. When there are health and wellness programs in place, you promote healthy habits, stress reduction, and self-care practices, making employees better equipped to manage the demands of work while also nurturing their personal lives.
Here are a few things you can do to implement health and wellness programs:
- Assess employee needs and preferences
- Provide resources on stress management, nutrition, and mental health
- Consider if flexible schedules are possible in your work setup
- Establish wellness committees for planning and engagement
- Encourage mental health breaks
Wondering if you can get everyone’s buy-in? Make the deal even sweeter by incentivizing participation.
For example, you can have friendly wellness challenges and give prizes to those who meet and exceed targets. It can be anything related to physical activity, healthy eating, or stress reduction.
You can offer random coffee chats with the CEO, where winners are drawn via a lottery system. You can even integrate these initiatives with your DEI activities.
These may seem like simple steps but could have a huge impact on your employees’ overall wellness, giving them better work-life balance.
- Organize non-work related activities.
Just because it’s the workplace doesn’t mean that it should always be about work, work, work.
Organizing non-work related activities helps employees build friendships at work, making the workplace more enjoyable for them. It improves employee engagement and morale, provides stress relief, and is one of the best ways to promote work-life balance.
What type of non-work related activities can you implement? Here are some ideas:
- Remote games and activities like a Murder Mystery game or an online scavenger hunt
- Themed events like encouraging team members to wear specific costumes for month-end team meetings
- Volunteer activities where team members can give back and contribute to a greater cause
- Recognize and celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, or personal achievements
- Have virtual coffee breaks in lieu of the traditional water cooler talk
It may not seem to be directly related to work, but embracing non-work related activities is an investment in the success and happiness of employees.
Finding work-life balance in a virtual workplace may seem challenging at first, simply because it’s hard to draw a boundary when both work and life are happening at home. But when team members find that sweet spot between work and personal life, they become happier, more productive, and more fulfilled, making it all worth it.
How Apps Like CoffeePals Contribute to Work-Life Balance
Watercooler talk is one of the things that give people a breather in an in-office setting. There’s something that makes people lighter when they engage in fun work banter or simply catch up on each other’s lives as they lounge around the pantry or any other similar space in the office.
Just because your team has transitioned into a virtual setting doesn’t mean that these fun chats are gone. In fact, virtual coffee chats can be just as fun and engaging.
CoffeePals contributes to work-life balance by providing a platform where team members can build their cross-department network, meet new friends, and build stronger relationships with their teammates.
Imagine grabbing a random coffee with a colleague from work, but this time, you meet virtually. That’s exactly what CoffeePals is for.
Because the app automatically schedules this new version of the traditional watercooler talk, you don’t need to go through the hassle of organizing meet-ups manually. Even better, everyone gets to bring their own beverage to the table – perfect for the non-coffee drinkers in the group!
From posting thought-provoking questions that everyone can answer to drawing a lucky winner of a coffee chat with the organization’s big boss, this is a platform that can help you implement a lot of the initiatives you have in mind to promote work-life balance in your virtual workplace.