The concept of work-life balance resembles the Bermuda Triangle in the world of business, every body is talks about it, believes that it has some kind of an effect, but those who’ve actually been through it or experienced it first hand are very few.
“The employer of choice” is one of the most popular mottos most companies like to advertise about themselves although very few of them actually act in a way that qualifies them to deserve the title. When it comes to strategy setting, work-life balance and employees’ wellbeing hardly make it to top executive meeting agendas; executives want results, want productivity, hopefully with fewer resources as much as possible. Most companies are more willing to let staff go in order to cut costs, rather than investing in anything that could enhance employees’ productivity.
The unfortunate result is a new reality at the workplace; those who check emails day and night and on weekends, those who are attached to their jobs, those who rarely take a vacation are in a better position to advance in their careers. Workers in return found themselves obliged to put work on top of their priority list, ahead of their family and health a lot of times. The situation becomes even worse when they feel that they have to do that in order to keep their jobs.
“Just as food fuels your body, having a life outside of work fuels on-the-job performance,” wrote Cali Williams Yost for HBR, 2015. “But while performance goals are always top of mind for managers, many overlook the role of employee work-life balance in driving that performance.”
The secret ingredient in the heart of the whole work-life balance concept is productivity. Staff who feel that they are making a difference in the world through their day-to-day job are the ones who are engaged and productive. In a study on 500 employees published recently on HBR, participants were asked to describe their feelings in each and every one of these experiences: A time when the felt productive at work, unproductive, busy, or not busy at all. The results yield that people reported their best and most happy with life when they described being productive. “It is by feeling productive, these data suggest, that we believe we are making some sort of a difference in the world,” the researcher Francesca Gino wrote reported on HBR.
Now, reaching those high levels of productivity are attained when work-life balance turns into a practice of employees through training and awareness, and through workplace policies and practices. In an initiative by Quest Diagnostics, a leader in diagnostic information technology services, researchers spent six weeks with 40 employees with the goal to provide them with the skills to set their priorities, on and off the job, and then make those priorities happen in a way that sustain both their wellbeing and high performance; the results out of this initiative supported most of the researches in the field, people tend to be more productive when they apply the work-life balance concepts to their lives. 100 percent of participants reported that their productivity at work either increased by 46 percent or stayed the same, 88 percent said they more actively managed their work and life, and 72 percent said they’re more aware of and had more respect for the differences in people’s work and life realities.
“This supports research that shows managing the fit between work and off-the-job activities improves performance,” researches concluded on HBR, 2015.
As a manager, the next time you attend a strategy meeting, you may want to propose new initiatives to enhance your staff engagement by enhancing their work-life balance practices instead of jumping to cutting cost through layoff decisions.
And as a staff, remember that your value at the workplace is determined by how innovative and productive you are; skipping that trip with your family to the mall in the weekend in order to catch up on emails, or canceling your planned summer trip because the work would be affected by your absence would add you no additional value, you will only end up burned out and exhausted.