How To Improve Work Life Balance For Employees

Key takeaways

  • Work life balance is a major concern for employees, with 41% of employees saying it was the main reason they were attracted to their current role
  • Studies have shown that workers are 13% more productive when they’re happier – so it makes sense for employers to prioritize their employees’ wellbeing
  • The responsibility is on employees to find their own work life balance, but as an employer, there are many initiatives you can put in place to help your employees find a healthier, happier balance

When it comes to employee work life balance, both businesses and their employees play a part. The responsibility is on workers to find a better work life balance for themselves – but there are some things that are out of employees’ control. That’s where you come in! From ensuring your managers have the right attitude to investing in employee wellbeing, there are lots of ways you can make work life balance in the workplace a priority.

Team Brainstorming in Office

Why should you care about work life balance initiatives as an employer?

As an employer that cares about your employees, work life balance should be on your radar.

A study by Aviva found that 41% of workers were attracted to their current role for the work life balance offered, rather than the salary, which was the main factor for 36% of employees. This is backed up by research from Randstad, who found that when looking for a new job, work life balance is the most important factor for 65% of job seekers. It’s so important to potential employees that they rated it ahead of salary, job security, work atmosphere and training opportunities.

So prioritizing work life balance in your workplace will not only help you to retain your existing employees – but it could also help you to attract new ones.

What’s more, employees who are happier are also more productive – there’s even research to prove it. A study from the University of Oxford found that happier employees are 13% more productive. It also found that they don’t work more hours than their less happy colleagues. It’s simply that they get more done in the time that they have.

So, as an employer, it definitely pays to pay attention to how your staff are feeling. This is something that the HR team at Loop are mindful of. As People Manager Bas Moeyaert explains:

"From a people perspective, we must remember that our employees are like elastic bands. While we can stretch them to reach their full potential, there is a limit to how much we can stretch them. Just like an over-stretched elastic band, an employee who is pushed too far without any consideration for work-life balance will eventually snap. It is our responsibility to ensure that we find the right balance between pushing our employees and giving them the time they need to recharge and avoid burnout."

But how do we promote that work life balance for our employees? Read on to discover our top work life balance ideas to help you create an atmosphere that’s productive and positive for your employees.

1. Offer flexible working

Every employee is different. Some prefer to work from home. Others love going into the office every day. Some like working early in the morning and have a slump in the afternoon. Others are night owls and would rather start work later in the day.

There’s a thousand different reasons why employees require flexible working. Some of your employees will be parents or have caring responsibilities and need flexibility in their work schedule to carry out their tasks. Others might have a hobby that they need to finish work at 3pm on a Wednesday for. Perhaps some are in a long-distance relationship and need to travel when the roads are quieter. Whatever the reasons, flexibility in their employees’ working lives can take the pressure off and improve the balance between their personal and professional commitments.

If you give your employees flexibility at work, it’s more likely that they’ll be willing to be more flexible, too, if there’s a business need for it. After all, as Bas explains:

"At work, as in life, you get what you give. Offering flexibility makes that employees are often more willing to go the extra mile for their company."

There are two main strands to flexible working: allowing your team to work the way they want to, and trusting them to work when they want.

When it comes to working location, do you mandate that all of your employees come into their workplace every day? Or are you a remote-first business? Have you considered what impact your way of working could have on your employees? Let’s have a closer look at ways you can offer more flexible working.

Which working model is right for you?

A study by the University of Strathclyde found that more than three quarters of employees only want to work in the office for two days or less, while the rest didn’t want to work from the office at all, and would prefer to work from home every day.

But hybrid working isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer to be surrounded by their colleagues – particularly younger employees. Research carried out by Deloitte states that one in five millennials and Gen Z employees found that remote working made it harder to form connections with colleagues. Additionally, 15% said that working remotely made it harder to find a mentor.

There’s no one answer that applies to all businesses. That’s why it’s important to find out how your employees want to work. Your business model may not work as a fully remote model, or you may want to take advantage of a global workforce which a remote-first model opens up. But you can look at the different options and, hopefully, come up with an optimal solution that works for both you and your employees.

Trust your employees to work when they want

We’ve already mentioned that many employees need flexibility in their working day. From side hustles to caring duties, and from hobbies to preferences around working hours, most employees appreciate being able to fit their work around their lives – rather than the other way around. 

What employees (and prospective employees) are really looking for is trust. Whether they work 9-5, 12-8 or 4-12, does it really matter, as long as they get the work done? 

If it’s evident that your employees aren’t trusted, it can really damage their mental health, productivity, and their overall work life balance. A study, ‘Trust in the Modern Workplace’ by the Workforce Institute found that employees who don’t feel trusted are less productive with 68% saying that their daily output is lower when there’s a lack of trust. 

So, consider implementing a more flexible working policy in your business. It may not be possible for your business to offer fully flexible working – you may, for instance, have a customer service function that’s open during standard business hours. However, with a little thought and discussion, there are sure to be ways you can offer more flexibility for your employees.

2. Offer a generous vacation policy – and encourage your employees to use it

Did you know that the average American gets just 11 days of paid time off every year? There’s no legal requirement in the USA for businesses to include paid time off in their employees compensation plan. That’s in stark contrast to Europe and the UK. In the UK, most full time workers are entitled to 28 days holiday per year, which is equivalent to 5.6 weeks, and in the EU, employees have the right to at least 4 weeks paid holiday per year.

And yet, vacations are essential for our mental health. Time off allows employees to relax and recharge, with one study from the American Psychological Association finding that time off reduces stress levels by removing employees from environments they associate with stress and anxiety.

Vacations are good for us – and employees want more of them, with 86% of Americans saying they wished they had more paid time off, and 1 in 4 stating they wished they had unlimited PTO. So why not offer your employees a more generous amount of vacation leave?

It isn’t the most innovative of ideas for improving work life balance – but it is one of the most successful ones. But it’s only effective when you encourage employees to actually use their PTO.

Even though we all know that vacations are important for our wellbeing, Americans are still failing to take all of their PTO. Research conducted in 2022 by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 42% of US workers haven’t taken a vacation in the last 12 months. They might feel like they have too much to do to take any time off, that they don’t have anyone to hand the work over to, that they’ll be seen as a slacker, or that they won’t be able to relax when they’re on vacation.

As well as addressing the root issues behind your employees not taking their vacation time, you should look at ways to encourage them to take their full PTO allowance. You could add it into yearly performance reviews, send monthly reminders of how many days your staff have left to take, or consider offering unlimited PTO to allow employees to manage their own vacations and workload.

3. Create better paid leave packages

Vacations aren’t the only time your employees may need time off. If your business doesn’t offer paid time off for maternity and paternity leave, or to grieve when a loved one passes away, your workers will feel under pressure to return to work sooner than they’re ready to after major life events. That will, inevitably, lead to a poor work life balance.

So, what can you do? Create a package of paid leave for your employees. They may never need parental leave, adoption leave or bereavement leave – but if they do, they’ll be extremely grateful for it.

4. Review your benefits package

Do you offer any perks for your employees? If so, it might be time to reconsider your benefits package. A study by Perkbox looked into what benefits workers really want their employers to offer. It found that 52% want employee discounts, 42% would love greater recognition for the work they do, and 41% want an increased holiday allowance or unlimited PTO.

Additionally, employees are keen for benefits that support their emotional wellbeing and mental health. The study found that 41% of employees aged 25-34 want mental health days off, and 34% of 18-24 year olds would like their employer to support them with free counseling sessions.

That suggests that workers are looking to their employer for help in improving their work life balance. If you want work life balance initiatives that will make a real difference, your benefits could be a good place to start.

5. Lead by example

Better work life balance starts with managers. There’s no point in creating new initiatives to improve your employees’ work life balance if your managers and team leads work around the clock and don’t take any time off. As Bas from Loop explains:

"Flexibility begets flexibility. As HR professionals, we must lead by example and provide our employees with the work-life balance they need to thrive."

Instill a policy of practicing what you preach in your business leaders, and ensure they set a good precedent for your workers.

6. Improve your working environment

Some employees may need some adjustments to their work environment. They’re usually a small thing to offer as an employer but can make a big difference to an employee’s experience. 

Offices can be busy places, full of the sound of chatter, music playing and other distracting noises. While some people thrive in that sort of environment, others find it very difficult to focus in a noisy environment. If they find it hard to work when they’re at work, they might take their work home with them, leading to longer working days and a work life balance that’s off-kilter. 

As an employer, it’s important to support your team members to work in the way that suits them best. Some ways you could improve the woking environment include:

  • Offering quiet places to work, like private offices and ‘no phone call’ areas, where employees can go if they need a little extra peach and quiet
  • Supplying workers with earplugs to help them focus by reducing the impact of background noise by up to 24 decibels
  • Placing noisy equipment like printers in a separate space to reduce the impact of this type of noise
  • Considering using dividers in an open plan office
  • Considering the use of sound-absorbing acoustic wall panels at strategic places around the office to soak up noise
  • Encouraging employees to create an open and honest dialogue about noise leves in the workplace, giving everyone the opportunity to explain what they find difficult so you can find a solution that works for everyone

7. Encourage employees to take breaks

Even seemingly simple things, like taking regular breaks throughout the day, can help to restore some balance in an employee’s life, helping to relieve stress and help them refocus.

Encourage your employees to step away from their desk throughout the working day, wherever they need it – and ensure everyone takes a lunch break, too! If you can, encourage employees to get away from their desk and get outside at lunch time. Some companies have a policy of workers all taking their lunch breaks at the same time, so they can go outside and get lunch together, while others organize a soccer game once a week at lunchtime to encourage employees to get active. Ask your employees what they’d prefer, and find a solution that works for you!

8. Have regular check-ins with your staff

Whether it’s setting up an automatic reply to emails stating their working hours, blocking out chunks of ‘no meeting’ time in their calendars, or putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their desk, let your employees set their own rules. When they have focused time without any distractions or disturbances, it can allow them to get through their most important tasks – which may mean they take less work home with them.

As well as time boundaries, it’s important that employees feel able to speak up and say “no” to tasks when their workload is too much. Create a culture in which employees feel like they can be open and honest about how they’re feeling and how much work they have on their plate.

Consider offering assertiveness training to employees, to help them better vocalize their needs and get more comfortable with saying “no” and having uncomfortable conversations. Time management training is also a good idea. If employees have a better understanding of how much work they can realistically do in a day, they’ll be better able to advocate for themselves and push back if managers, colleagues or clients are requesting more work from them. 

Feeling more in control of our own time can help us all to feel less stressed, and may help to tip the scales when it comes to creating a better work life balance.

9. Allow your employees to set their own boundaries

Like anxiety, there seems to be a link between misophonia and ADHD, in that many people who suffer from misophonia also have ADHD, and vice versa.

Research into misophonia is still in its infancy, so there is little evidence to suggest that the two are linked. However, one 2020 study did look at comorbidities of misophonia, with a sample of 575 people. They found that 5% of the participants (31 people) also had ADHD, and 3% (14 people) had autism. It’s not definitive evidence, but it does suggest that there could be a link between the two.

People with ADHD are often hypersensitive to sights, smells and sounds, which can be distracting and can cause a strong emotional response. This is because people with ADHD can have difficulty filtering out and processing unnecessary external sensory input. To put it more simply, if you have ADHD, you may struggle when there’s lots going on at once and become overwhelmed. 

Let’s say you’re trying to focus on getting some work done. But the people to your left are talking, and the person to your right is eating lunch. There’s also the whirr of the printer behind you, the hiss of the coffee machine and the clattering of plates being loaded into the dishwasher. The sensory overwhelm can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, anger and disgust, very similar to the feelings triggered by misophonia.

10. Ask your employees what they want

Want to know what work life balance problems and solutions your employees face? Just ask them! As Bas from Loop highlights:

"Balance is unique to every workplace. Find what works for your team and work it out together for a thriving work-life harmony."

Conducting an employee survey is a powerful way to find out what your employees actually want when it comes to improving the way they work and their work life balance. Ask a set of questions to get insights into how your employees rate their work life balance, and include a poll asking which work life balance solutions they’d most like to see.

By conducting a survey every month or every quarter that asks the same questions, you’ll have tangible results that you can monitor over time. Hopefully, by implementing some of the work life balance ideas they suggest, you’ll be able to see a downward trend in how many employees self-report as stressed or overwhelmed over time. 

You could also form an employee group who are tasked with coming up for ideas for improvements. They’d have to present them to management, of course, but it’s a valuable way of finding out what your employees value most, and which improvements would actually make a difference to their lives.

Work life balance in the workplace means something different to every employee. But, as an employer, there is lots you can do to improve the work life balance for all of your team members. From offering more PTO to opening up channels of communication between employees and managers, fostering a healthier and more productive workforce has many benefits for your employees and your business alike.

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