In this post-pandemic era, the way we work has been thrown into the spotlight. Research has shown that a healthy work-life balance is now the highest priority for the majority of employees, with a staggering 65% of workers in the UK ranking it higher than benefits or salary in their list of needs from a job.
As such, in the last 3 years we have seen many employers radically change the working environment; implementing initiatives such as hybrid working and shorter working weeks with the aim of creating a positive work-life balance for their employees.
But why is creating an environment that encourages balance between professional and personal life so important? And is creating this balance the responsibility of the employer or the individual?
In this article, we explore what a healthy work-life balance looks like, how it can impact business operations, as well as the wellbeing of the workforce and whether creating an environment of equilibrium is realistic in our busy, modern-day society. Livvy Probert and Robbie Johnson, Co-Founders of HAWQ explain.
Understanding the importance of work-life balance
“Responsibilities and priorities, personally and professionally, will shift over time so regularly re-evaluating what is important is a key part of the process. It’s often considered that one has to suffer as a trade-off to prioritise the other. But how about we consider an alternative view and look at how we can use one to support the other, and help us get more out of both work and our personal lives?.” – Livvy Probert
The narrative on work-life balance is changing. Health and wellbeing used to be an individual responsibility, rarely mentioned in the workplace. Now, we’re seeing trends in employers stepping up and seeing the value in providing more for their employees.
A happier, healthier workforce has lower levels of absence, less presenteeism and greater productivity but the benefits for the employer do not stop there. Retention has been a key theme for employers, especially since the pandemic. Understanding what is driving retention has been discussed far and wide. Now, with inflation and food prices increasing, the tension for employers to balance employee wellbeing scheme is an additional consideration to their bottom line. For an employer who wants to improve the health and wellbeing of their team they are now looking for solutions that provide value to their entire team, no matter how diverse/remote/hybrid. Being able to measure the impact of these initiatives is becoming more and more important with terms like VOI (Value Of Investment) becoming more popular.
Providing flexible work solutions such as varying working hours and working from home can help maximise an employee’s opportunity to meet the demands of home life. Prioritising health and wellbeing products and services in benefits packages helps improve employee health. At HAWQ, we’ve found that a top-down & bottom-up approach, with management being good roles models and encouraging healthy behaviours cultivates a healthier community. By including the entire team in educating and supporting staff on how to sleep well, how to eat a healthier diet and to exercise regularly, employees become healthier and happier, and more likely to meet their responsibilities.
However, it’s not all down to the employee and the individual has to take responsibility for themselves. Whilst employers should, and are, taking steps to support their staff, employee’s need to speak up and ask for support or change where they need it.
In today’s fast-paced world, building and maintaining a work life balance is vital. Creating a balance is important to maintain good health, improve work productivity and job satisfaction and to live a happy, fulfilled life. The tipping point of a work life balance is different for everyone – different work responsibilities, different life responsibilities and a different tolerance for spinning multiple plates. Understanding yourself, your responsibilities and your priorities is the first place to start in order to create a work life balance.
It is important to understand that responsibilities and priorities, personally and professionally, will shift over time so regularly re-evaluating what is important is a key part of the process. It’s often considered that one has to suffer as a trade-off to prioritise the other. But how about we consider an alternative view and look at how we can use one to support the other, and help us get more out of both work and our personal lives?. By optimising ‘lifestyle’, we ensure that we can meet the demands of ‘work’ and vice versa. When one becomes overwhelming, it’s easy to let it trickle and affect the other side. But when work gets too much, it’s important to be proactive on both sides of the equation. Setting boundaries around working hours, discussing with managers when workload is increasing beyond capacity and investing time into supportive skills such as time management will help manage work stress. Then there’s also the ‘life’ side. By managing our health – sleep, exercise, diet, stress management etc. – we’re optimising our ability to spin those plates.
Tips to achieve the ideal balance:
Make it a priority –
If it happens by chance, you’re lucky. A good work-life balance takes a conscious, continued effort. As priorities change, each side of the balance will require difference actions. We all know practice makes perfect and there’s no magic solution.
Set boundaries –
This applies to work and life. It’s important to set boundaries to ensure you’re capable and confident to complete all of the responsibilities required of you. It allows you to get focused and quality work completed during your work hours but also allows you to rest and unwind outside of work. Setting clear expectations such as when you are and are not available is a great place to start. Is going for a run every day really achievable? Can you go to bed 30 minutes earlier?
Be proactive about health –
Ensuring you’re keeping fit and active, getting a good night sleep and eating a healthy, colourful diet will help our mental and physical health. If motivation is the killer, addressing your sleep and diet will make you more motivated to be more active.
With employers but also friends, family, people you trust and rely on. Employers are unlikely to change what they don’t know and can actively help you with your needs. Investing in relationships and building a support network is important to support your emotional health. Sharing your goals and ambitions, professionally or personally will help you stay motivated to achieve them. You might be surprised on who wants to join you on your journey too, exercising with a friend or colleague is not just more enjoyable but is additional motivation.
Livvy Probert is the Co-Founder and Head of Science at HAWQ, the health and wellbeing quotient for corporate wellbeing. Livvy's academic profile includes BA Physiology, Development and Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge and Msc Sport and Health Sciences at University of Exeter. Alongside this she is a Level 4 Qualified Personal Trainer and has a Level 1 in Precision Nutrition.