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

OpenBlend presents a structured framework for assessing your organisation's stance on work-life balance, providing insights into employee motivation and the internal drivers that have an impact on performance.

There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming individuals get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night, that leaves them with 112 waking hours, over 30% of which are spent at work. Now, this might seem like a comparatively low figure, but all sorts of other things can eat into the remaining time, including a two-way commute, overtime (of which Brits do an average of 8 hours a month, according to a survey conducted by the AAT), as well as occasional team building activities or events that happen out of hours. So, it comes as no surprise to see just how much work seeps into our everyday lives.

Since the widespread adoption of remote work since 2020, balancing work with other responsibilities, as well as much-needed ‘time-out’, has become increasingly difficult.

In a review conducted by The British Mental Health Foundation, 40% of respondents reported neglecting other aspects of their life because of work. Increasing their vulnerability to mental health problems and leading them to take time off sick as a result and, in some cases, even pushing them to resign.

The Mental Health Foundation is therefore encouraging both employees and employers to be mindful of mental health in the workplace. They suggest that businesses can do the following to encourage good workplace wellbeing:

  • Promote messages about work-life balance within the workplace.
  • Establish a culture based around achievements, not strict 9-5 hours.
  • Open up the conversation, check in with employees, and schedule regular performance reviews that are maintained through a culture of open and honest 1:1 communication. 

At OpenBlend, we believe a focus on employee health and wellbeing should be at the heart of the performance management process. What is generally known as the “work-life balance” is key to achieving happiness and satisfaction, not just at work, but in all areas of life. When you talk to your staff about performance and progress, ask them not just about their career goals, but their goals in general. What drives and motivates them? Is it money? Making a difference? Do they know what direction they are heading in, or is that something they need help with to feel more fulfilled?

To help you evaluate your organisation’s current approach to work-life, we have defined what that balance is, what we think it should be, and how the current emphasis on working from home affects the equilibrium. What can you do to promote a better balance when the lines between these two areas are so blurry? Read on to find out

What does work-life balance mean?

The phrase “work-life balance” refers to an ideal state of equilibrium between one’s personal and one’s professional lives.

Balancing the two is a delicate act, especially in today’s world, where working from home has recently become the new normal. However, at OpenBlend, we believe (and we’ve been saying this since long before the first lockdown), that the work-life balance is an outdated concept.

By its very definition, it pits one against the other, when in reality, work is a part of life, and so, for true fulfilment, both at work and at home, we need to take a more holistic approach. This thought process is what led to OpenBlend coining the phrase “work-life Blend” instead.

What is our work-life Blend?

A work-life Blend is the result of a more modern mindset which recognises that work and life, far from being separate, actually feed into one another and affect one’s overall outlook.

If you are not satisfied at home, your performance at work may suffer, and frustrations with your job can likewise spill over into your personal life and affect the way you interact with your family and friends.

With this in mind, we created a list of 28 key employee motivators that impact performance, and employee health and wellbeing. The motivational drivers include elements such as fulfilment at work, relationship with one's manager, rewards and recognition, money, and time with family and friends.

From this list, employees can identify what matters for their performance and wellbeing and are then able to create their optimum work-life Blend. Choosing those that are most important to them and scoring their current and target levels of fulfilment. This process enables their line manager to gain deeper insight into what internal and external factors might be influencing an employee's performance, their happiness and their general wellbeing.

Why is it important to balance work & life?

Achieving a good work-life balance is integral to maintaining your mental health. The Mental Health Foundation believe that our increasingly demanding work culture is the biggest threat to the mental health of the UK population. They have found that work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days every year! It is often said that your physical health has a huge impact on your mental health.

It is important that you encourage your employees to get out from behind their desks and exercise, and also to eat healthily, for the sake of their overall wellbeing. 

What else is good for your employee’s mental health?

  • Time off, including quick breaks during the day. In addition to a lunch break, encourage staff to take ten minutes every now and again to stretch their legs and get a glass of water. Holidays are also very important. 
  • Making time for hobbies. Even if someone is not into physical exercise, it is important they have time to devote to the things they love. 
  • Spending time with loved ones. 

Did you notice what all of the above things had in common? Time. Achieving a good work-life balance is all about managing the time we have effectively. Employers who recognise that overtime doesn’t always equal increased work productivity (in fact, it often has the opposite effect) will be much more likely to retain their talent. 

That is why we incorporate elements like health and exercise, time with family and friends, and flexible working culture in our work-life balance – to help you help your people find equilibrium in every aspect of their lives.

The benefits of perfecting the perfect work-life balance?

The benefits of perfecting the balance are many, both for your employees and for you. 

Benefits to employees:

  • Health and wellbeing will improve. They will feel more energised and more positive about their job if they make it a part of their life, rather than viewing it as something that is preventing them from living their life the way they really want to.
  • They will enjoy their jobs more, too. Once they see it as part of, and not all of, their life, they can enjoy the time spent in as well as out of the office.
  • More time for hobbies and socialising, which, as evidenced above, reduces resentment, increases feelings of relaxation and is a great way to look after their mental health.

Benefits to the organisation:

We also recognise that employers want to get the best out of their employees, so here are three ways that promoting a good work-life balance will benefit you and your business:

  • Happy employees are more productive in the workplace – and when individual employee productivity goes up, the overall performance of the company improves too.
  • The number of sick days, and associated costs, will go down, and employee retention will improve.
  • It sets the stage for increased employee engagement.
  • A focus on employee recognition and putting your people first cultivates a strong company culture.
  • Your company brand will get a big boost. Who doesn’t want to work for a business that takes such good care of its people?
  • It underpins employee advocacy. A happy employee is much more likely to promote your business off their own back than an unhappy one. And while employee advocacy boosts brand reputation with new recruits, it also leaves a lasting impression on customers and prospects.

What impact does working remotely have on the work-life balance?

Overall, statistics show that work productivity has gone up during periods of remote working. But at what cost?

According to a recent survey conducted by the UK’s largest healthcare charity, Nuffield Health, 30% of respondents stated that they were struggling to separate their home and their work lives.

A further 27% replied to say they were experiencing difficulty switching off at the end of the day or the working week, while 34% of those surveyed reported that working from home has placed a strain on their relationships with their partners and their children. This could be because, with 24/7 access to work emails etc, workers feel like there is an expectation from employers to be available at every minute of the day.

As we mentioned, time with family and friends is one of the biggest employee motivators. If work commitments are hurting the time they have to spend with their loved ones, the sense of job satisfaction your employees feel is going to go down, and their productivity along with it.

Here are three things you can do to help them safeguard that time while remaining at peak efficiency at work:

  • Introduce flexible working hours.
  • Encourage managers to focus on output, rather than the time spent to achieve results.
  • Endorse regularly scheduled breaks.

And for the best insight into what you can do to support your workforce, you should always ask them directly. That is the only way to really understand what they need from you as their manager.

What are the benefits of understanding an employee’s personal and work motivators?

To understand your employee’s work-life motivators is to understand what motivates your employees, both at work and at home. And when you know what they need to feel happy and productive, you will be better placed to support them and help them accomplish their goals. This will make them feel like they are part of an organisation that values them not just as employees but as people too.

Plus, understanding an employee’s personal-work motivators does not just benefit them, it benefits you as well; paying attention to every individual within your team, their wants and needs, and what drives them, will increase employee engagement because they will know their voices are being heard.

To find out what drives your employees, book a demo with OpenBlend. We have helped global brands including Avios, M&C Saatchi, and Lacoste start conversations with their employees that have led to greater satisfaction in all areas of life, as well as increased productivity in the workplace. 

Browse the latest resources