OpenBlend answer: what is work-life balance and why is it important?
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 of 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 over the past year, 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 their employees, and schedule regular performance reviews.
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 actually is, what we think it should be, and how the current emphasis on working from home is affecting the equilibrium. What can you do to promote a better balance when the lines between these two areas are now so blurry? Read on to find out
What does work-life balance actually 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 Blend drivers that impact motivation and include elements such as fulfilment at work, health and exercise, rewards, 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 Blend of 8 key drivers, choosing those that are most important to them and scoring their current and target levels of fulfilment regarding these Blend elements out of 10. Businesses want to minimise the gap between target and actual score in order to optimise productivity.
Regular conversations and employee-led one-to-ones allow you to follow their progress. When an employee selects their Blend elements, by setting their target and actual score, managers are able to spot and monitor these Blend gaps. Regular check-ins enable employers to monitor this gap and flag movement to address the productivity impact. Obviously, the goal is to get them all to 100%, so that you can ensure they are feeling happy and satisfied and working at their best. But while their target and actual scores remain lower than that, having this insight helps you to know what you can do to help them achieve their optimum work-life Blend.
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. If you want to know what else you can do to support employee wellbeing, check out our recent feature on that here.
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. A lot of employees have cancelled holidays over the past 12 months because of international travel restrictions - but it’s important to remind them, sometimes a week at home doing nothing is just as good a switch off as lying on a beach somewhere hot.
- 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. This will reduce stress and feelings of frustration if, before, employees felt like their jam-packed workdays were preventing them from doing this.
- Spending time with loved ones. With our path out of lockdown laid out in front of us, there is hope that we will soon be able to meet up with friends and family in person again. Before that, taking advantage of technology to organise virtual meetups can help. It’s not the same, but it’s amazing how much better a cup of tea and a chat with someone you love can make you feel.
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 staff.
That is why we incorporate elements like health and exercise, time with family and friends, and flexible working culture in our Blend – to help you help your people find equilibrium in every aspect of their lives.
The benefits of perfecting the perfect balance or Blend?
The benefits of perfecting the balance are many, both for your employees and for you. We have broken this down so you can see why you should make helping your staff achieve a good work-life balance a top priority this year.
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.
We recognise that the key to finding a balance is creating a Blend of home and work lives, that takes into consideration everything from personal and emotional drivers to reward and recognition at work. Data we have collected shows that health and exercise was the #1 driver for 64% of anonymously surveyed OpenBlend users in 2020. Time spent with family and friends came in at #2, while fulfilment at work was of high importance to 37% of employees.
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?
Everyone is feeling the pressures of the pandemic differently, so while some people are extolling the benefits of working from home, others are finding it much harder to cope with.
Overall, statistics show that work productivity has gone up during these 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 have mentioned, time with family and friends is one of our key Blend elements. In fact, this year and last year, it featured in the top ten most popular Blend elements for 50% of our users. Therefore, if work commitments are having a negative impact on the time they have got 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-work Blend?
To understand an employee’s work-life Blend 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, and how far from achieving their optimum Blend they think that they are, 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 Blend does not just benefit them, it benefits you as well; paying attention to every individual within your team, their wants and needs, what drives them, will increase employee engagement because they will know their voices are being heard. Ultimately, this will improve overall business performance as well.
How important are an individual’s key drivers to understanding their Blend?
In a word: paramount. We call these elements “drivers” because they are the things that propel individuals through life, the things that motivate them the most. By understanding how important these drivers are to your staff, you will be able to create a people-centric company culture that not just reflects but embodies these aspirations.
- In order to stay apprised, you will need to have regular conversations with your staff. Some questions you could ask them to better understand their key drivers are:
- How close do you feel to achieving fulfilment in these areas? (Think: has that number gone up or down since the last time you spoke?) 2. What can I, or the business, do to support you in achieving fulfilment in this area?
Like we said in the beginning, the work-life Blend is all about taking a holistic approach, as opposed to separating “work” from “life” – because what is work if not a part of life? And for most people, their job is a very large part of their life. Talk through, in some detail, each individual element in this way to create a full picture of what you can do to support this individual, their team, and the wider company infrastructure.
To find out what drives your employees, book a demo with OpenBlend online. 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. For more information on how we can help you find your Blend, give us a call on 01628 613040 today.