Topic: Employee Experience


Work-Life Balance Is Dead (if It Ever Existed)

Work-life balance is one of those things everyone talks about, but no one seems to achieve. It’s like an imaginary destination no one ever really reaches. Find out why work-life integration is a much better goal for many reasons, not the least of which is that we can actually hope to achieve it.

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Updated on 

February 12, 2024






Work-life balance

Let’s be honest, there is no separation between work and life. And no such thing as work-life balance. No matter how hard we try to reach equilibrium, somehow, we always fall short. Employees everywhere are familiar with the intense struggle between the daily stress of deadlines and assignments at work and finding personal time for outside interests. Time at work often interferes with home life, causing us to stay late or work all hours of the day or night. In the long run, this lack of personal time leads to higher stress levels and a lack of concentration. When these things happen, productivity plunges.

Work-life integration blurs the lines between work life and home life and reflects things the way they really are. The need for personal time at work and the need to occasionally work at home are realities anyway, so why not treat things as they really are and combine the two?

Once we accept work-life integration as our immoveable reality, we can live in the ebb and flow of both work life and home life and achieve a sort of balance (even though technically we have eliminated separation of the two altogether).

Work-life integration

Work-life integration incorporates diverse aspects of employees’ lives into a single whole, rather than treating them as two distinct halves. Many U.S. Corporations are moving more toward the more European approach of fusing professional and personal time. Wherever such work-life integrations go, they lead to reduced stress and increased productivity. According to a Harvard Business Review study, a happy and engaged workforce leads to a greater sense of accomplishment, drives business results with a 37% increase in sales, and increases productivity by 31%. Wellbeing through work-life integration is simple and has huge implications for overall employee health and satisfaction.

The concept of work-life integration—the blend of our personal and professional lives—is on the incline everywhere. Corporate wellbeing is evolving into a holistic vision encompassing more than just physical health. Employee wellbeing is a multi-faceted thing. Work-life integration requires providing employees with resources that are constantly working to improve employees’ physical, social, emotional, and financial health.

Wellbeing achieved through work-life integration can help our teams stay focused and accomplish more. But how do we attain it? Here are six steps that will help you and your organization achieve work-life integration.

1. Prioritize to manage time effectively

Time management is imperative to keep stress levels intact. It’s no secret that prioritization and proper sequencing of tasks allow us to get everything done on time. Start by determining which tasks need to be accomplished before moving onto the next step. Tackle big challenges in small steps. Encourage small rewards such as a coffee or quick break between steps. Some of the productivity tools available today, such as Wunderlist, are designed to help us stay organized and maximize our time.

2. Use benefits and perks

What kind of benefits does your organization offer to keep employees feeling energized? Is there adequate vacation time, family time, and the flexibility to occasionally work from home? While there is value in working hard, a recent study found that 1 out of 5 people work 50+ hours per week, 49% use their available vacation days, and the majority still go to work when they are sick. It’s important for employees to use paid time off to recharge. In order to combat workaholics, some employers are offering vacation bonuses or stipends ranging from $2,000 to $7,500 to help employees feel less stressed, happier, and rested.

3. Recognize and celebrate life events

Exceptional teams enable people to come together. Like good families and friend groups, great organizations create community by allowing people to be all of themselves. They look beyond work to share life events such as birthdays, marriages, and personal achievements, elevating the human element that matters so much. As employees work and grow together, shared experiences increase solidarity and support. Each individual feels valued which leads to personal fulfillment, great work, and loyal retention.

4. Unplug with short breaks

Progressive organizations promote healthy work habits by encouraging employees to get away from their screens and recharge. Downtime is essential to being more energized. Is there an exercise area or outdoor place nearby where employees can take a walk? Breathe? Laugh? Get the blood flowing? Some of our best thinking occurs away from work. Taking short breaks throughout the day helps us to take our mind away from the task at hand and jump back in with more energy and a clearer mind. Health professionals recommend standing at least two hours a day with the goal of four hours a day. Try standing desks and perhaps use a timer to remind employees to stand or take quick breaks to move around.

5. Create spatial productivity

Consider how teams are most productive and what spaces inspire them most. Seek ways to design your workspace to enhance collaboration and inspire idea sharing. Workspaces that enable a variety of work styles can enhance productivity and be significant drivers of creativity, innovation, and collaboration. Consider a variety of spaces, from personal-focus spaces, perfect for quiet work and one-on-one conversations, to communal spaces that help build camaraderie and invite idea-sharing. See the 2018 Global Culture Report which emphasizes a shift in people strategy toward holistic employee wellbeing and collaborative work spaces.

6. Schedule flexibility

The days of working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday are outdated. Many employers are noticing the demand for flex schedules where employees are not glued to a strict schedule, one that allows for some personal time throughout the week. Many of the services we rely upon (primary care physicians, dentists, chiropractors, physical therapists, etc.) are only available during standard business hours. Other important life events, such as children’s performances at school, also occur during standard business hours. Today’s workplace requires scheduling flexibility and telecommuting to accommodate these time conflicts and create better work-life integration.

7. Put health first and always

Great organizations know that addressing the holistic emotional, social, financial, and physical wellness of employees is vital for increased engagement and productivity. Encourage employees to speak up when they’re in a bind or need additional resources to feel happy and healthy. When employees feel they have the support they need, productivity increases.

Each of the tips outlined above will promote better work-life integration, higher self-fulfillment, and increased productivity.

For more information on helping people thrive at work, discover Culture Cloud, O.C. Tanner’s integrated suite of culture-building apps and solutions.

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