The Perils of Paying Lip Service to Work-Life Balance

It’s true that the responsibility for maintaining a decent work-life balance largely lies with the individual who is making the choices about how to spend their time?  That said, there are many instances when the politics, culture or workings of an organisation can relentlessly derail the best work-life balance intentions of their most responsible leaders and employees.  Therefore, it is important that an organisation that purports to support work-life balance also actively enables it.

We know well that achieving a work-life balance is good for people.  Operating from a position of being well-rested and well-rounded makes one happier; more productive, efficient and innovative; healthier in every way and more resilient.

If it’s good for people, it must be good for business

It stands to reason that every organisation would reap benefits from having a consistent, highly productive, efficient, innovative, healthy and resilient workforce.  Yet, relatively few businesses set up the infrastructure, policies, practices, and culture that enable work-life balance – ironically, especially for those in the most demanding and expensive leadership positions.  For some, the very phrase ‘work-life balance’ contradicts all that they believe business is supposed to be – tough, competitive, sacrificial and survivalist. 

The maxim that there is a virtue in ‘hard’ work endures strongly in the 21st Century, and let’s face it ‘work-life balance’ does sound somewhat gentle and accommodating.  While this is not a conundrum for the high-flying dot.coms that welcome life into innovative workplaces, it is a challenge for the more traditional corporates that are still inclined to separate and sanitise work so that an employee’s sense of engaging with life can only happen in the preciously limited ‘after-hours’.

Employees are people juggling family, work, personal and community responsibilities.  Your interest may only be in their contribution to work, but the quality of their contribution to work is affected by the quality of their contributions to all the other key aspects of their life.  Supporting their capacity to deliver in all areas of life is how you support their capacity to deliver to you.  Enabling work-life balance might sound ‘soft’, but it has some serious spin-offs.

What are the benefits for companies enabling work-life balance?

  • Reduction of absenteeism
  • Less reliance on employee assistance and wellness programs
  • Avoidance of the burn-out and loss of top talent
  • Improved talent attraction and retention
  • Reduction of recruitment costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher levels of employee engagement
  • Stronger, more attractive employer brand
  • Enhanced company culture