Across all sectors and areas of the UK workforce, unsatisfactory work life balance has become the norm. There are many factors that come into play when examining the root causes for poor work life balance. Increasingly unmanageable work demands and the stress that comes with a culture of overwork have resulted in a dwindling work life balance for many.
That said, improvements to work life balance are beneficial for employees and employers alike, leading to increases in talent retention, productivity and quality of work. Before addressing the impact of work life balance on the competitiveness of your business it’s important we first come to terms with how poor work life balance can impact your organisation.
What is the meaning of work life balance?
work life balance has become something of a catchphrase seen on many LinkedIn feeds and career pages, despite being a rare occurrence within the UK workforce. It can mean different things for different people, but the principal idea is that you are able to dedicate enough time to achieve a state of satisfaction and fulfillment in your personal and professional lives.
Ultimately, to have work life balance means you aren’t compromising your personal life for your career and vice versa. There’s no exact formula for how much time is needed for work and personal matters in order to achieve work life balance. The amount of time dedicated to each area of life is completely subjective.
What are the common symptoms and signs of poor work life balance?
- Being distracted by work when socialising or spending time with family and friends
- Feelings of irritation, anxiety or dread when you think of work
- Thinking about work when trying to sleep
- Feeling chronically tired, stressed or exhausted
- Poor sleep resulting in forgetfulness or difficulties concentrating
- Difficulty maintaining or forging relationships
- Feeling like you’re failing at work, at home and in your social life
- Low job morale and burnout
Your physical health can also be affected by:
- Stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhoea
- Rapid heart palpitations or chest pains
- Low energy
- Falling ill more easily
- Repeated illness or infections
The most common cause for long-term sickness and absence from UK workplaces today is mental health related—with stress related absence having risen sharply. People who work long hours and experience poor work life balance are more likely to suffer from heart issues and higher incidences of clinical depression and anxiety. A recent survey from the Mental Health Foundation provided some added context to just how insidious poor work life balance can be, with 1 in 4 people facing depression and over 50 percent reporting irritability.
What are the top causes of poor work life balance?
Better work life balance can have a measurable impact on your workforce and business performance—reducing working days lost, presenteeism, and staff turnover. When it comes to addressing the root causes of negative work life balance, these are top factors negatively impacting people’s ability to thrive at home and at work.
Working longer hours
Technology is both a gift and a curse making it possible for us to work wherever, whenever we want—but what good is this flexibility if it means we’re working longer hours (just from different locations)? Throughout the lockdown, being able to work from home and not having much else to occupy our time, many people worked longer hours than usual and employers are now facing an epidemic of work burnout. Expectations to quickly respond to an email or jump on a call only increased with the merging of home and workspaces, throwing most everyone’s work life balance out of whack.
Here are some recommendations for preventing long working hours:
- 60 percent of employees dealing with poor work life balance cite micromanaging or overbearing bosses as a primary cause
- A culture of long working hours and heavy workload is often a symptom of unclear job expectations; if you can relate to feeling your work responsibilities piling up without any clear results then this is something you will need to rectify and raise with your manager
- As a manager you can introduce OKRs (or alternatively suggest to management) setting these clear and measurable goals with realistic timelines and methods for tracking key performance metrics
- Having clear goals and objectives will empower your employees to set boundaries and make an impact on high priority projects with little need for micromanagement or busywork
Studies have shown time spent reading and responding to emails can be a significant drain on employees’ ability to get important work tasks that require more concentrated thought done. With less time available to complete key priority items people are faced with two choices – either finish at 5 not having completed their more important tasks or work longer hours. The majority of us choose option two, with working parents logging back onto work after the kids have gone to sleep and those without family responsibilities sacrificing their social lives and personal routines to get more work done.
Though it can sometimes feel impossible to keep a clear inbox, small efforts put into unsubscribing from unnecessary email notifications and newsletters, filtering emails into folders and replying to important emails the first time you open the message can save you twice as much time in the future.
Adopt these techniques for more manageable, productivity-enhancing emailing:
- As a manager it’s important you be transparent about expectations for email communication and model good email etiquette avoiding sending late night and weekend emails, setting up autoresponders that proudly reference family commitments and silencing work emails after hours. This will let your people know it’s okay—in fact celebrated–to have a life outside of work
- As an employee it’s important to communicate your boundaries when it comes to having a personal life; needing to sign off at a certain time doesn’t make you less committed to your job. That’s where having clear job expectations and communication with your manager as to your key responsibilities is key.
- Break the habit of responding to emails afterhours by removing your work email from your phone’s Mail apps(you’ll still be able to check your work emails in emergency situations using your phone’s web browser)
If there’s one thing that productivity experts can agree on it’s that notification overload is taking a toll on the efficiency with which we work. Your average professional is managing five or more communication and project coordination tools—from Outlook to Slack to Microsoft teams to Zoom to Hubspot to Salesforce. From automated notifications to meeting requests to message notifications, it’s hard to not get bogged down by the constant ‘chime’ of incoming alerts.
Try these techniques for reducing notifications and finding a better balance:
- Pay attention to when you work most productively and let this dictate how you organise your time, committing yourself to a more structured work routine (encourage others on your team to do the same by sharing your workday schedule with them)
- Switch on Do Not Disturb mode on your Mac or PC to stop pop up notifications from distracting your work on a high priority task (you might also want to set up an autoreply on your messenger or email)
- Set a schedule for yourself with dedicated periods blocked out for responding to chat messages and emails (you can set up a snooze period directly from your Teams or Slack portal)
With a firm understanding of these top offenders, you can now begin to make adjustments to your working style. That said, the onus isn’t just on workers. Senior business leaders and employers must also do their part to create a working environment that promotes work life balance with the right tools, policies and benefits in place.
How can Bubble For Work help?
Bubble For Work is transforming the world of work with its one-of-a-kind inclusive wellbeing, health and family support platform. Visit here to learn more about Bubble For Work’s wellbeing and Working Parent Club offering and schedule your demo today.