By JD Farrugia
Nov. 15, 2022
Having a better work-life balance is about much more than just having more time away from the office. A good work-life balance means satisfaction and fulfillment during the workday as well as in other areas of your life. It includes engagement at work and enough time and energy for personal and family life.
The World Health Organization argues that work can either be protective or disruptive to a person’s mental health. A healthy and well-compensated work environment makes people feel accomplished and confident and is a great way for people with psychosocial disabilities to integrate into society. An environment that creates a poor work-life balance can negatively affect someone’s mental health and well-being.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s attitudes and approaches to work have been shifting. Employees are demanding more flexibility, prioritizing their well-being and personal time while also wanting more from their professional lives. Human resources executives must create the conditions to help their colleagues achieve the best work-life balance possible if they want a happier, more engaged workforce.
According to work-life balance statistics presented by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 29th for work-life balance out of the 41 member countries. Italy, Denmark, and Norway top the list.
Ten percent of American employees are working long hours compared to the OECD average. The Netherlands is the country with the lowest number of employees taking on long working hours at just 0.3%.
US workers typically dedicate 61% of their day to personal care and leisure activities, which amounts to 14.6 hours per day. This is lower than the OECD average of 15 hours per day. Italy is the OECD member country with the most time devoted to personal care and leisure, with 69% of their day or 16.5 hours.
For the United States to increase its work-life balance ranking, the OECD suggests improving the lives of working families through policy. The US is the only OECD country that does not have a national paid parental leave program. They suggest that paid leave programs will result in a number of benefits, including better child well-being and more new mothers returning to work.
According to Microsoft, the COVID-19 pandemic caused people to re-prioritize how they approach work. More workers now consider how their jobs affect their health and well-being as a major part of the “worth it equation” — in other words, what people want from work and what they’re willing to give in return.
The research shows that 53% of respondents are more likely to prioritize health and well-being – especially parents (55%) and women (56%). Forty-seven percent of workers are now more likely to prioritize their family and personal life ahead of work.
Employees are now valuing the importance of work-life balance, and their employers need to understand and embrace this shift. This could include extending healthcare benefits to include family members as well as making work schedules and time off more flexible.
Workforce.com offers a flexible scheduling solution that makes it easier for employees to take time off and swap shifts. Flexible scheduling is particularly useful for caregivers or those with chronic health conditions who might need to take unexpected personal days or want to utilize vacation time to spend time with loved ones.
The level of burnout experienced amongst US workers has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. In a nationwide survey by Indeed, 67% of US workers claimed that burnout worsened during the pandemic.
In a pre-COVID survey, 43% of respondents were experiencing burnout. In 2021, that percentage increased to 52%. Millennials continue to experience the most burnout, with 59% of respondents feeling burnt out – a 6% increase since COVID. More baby boomers are experiencing burnout — a 7% increase from 24% to 31%. Gen Z and Gen X respondents showed the highest increase in burnout, with 11% and 14%, respectively.
Gallup has conducted extensive research on employee burnout and the effect it has on employees as well as their companies. Burnt-out employees are significantly more likely to take sick days, require medical care, and search for new jobs.
Employers can help their teams reduce stress levels and burnout by:
Your employees who are experiencing a work-life imbalance might be quiet quitting. Quiet quitting refers to how people are doing just enough to meet their job responsibilities and not get fired. This is not just bad for employee well-being but also for your organization’s productivity.
In one study, Gallup estimates that over half of US workers are quiet quitters. By the beginning of the summer of 2022, “the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees was 1.8 to 1”. This is the lowest engagement reported in nearly a decade.
Companies looking to increase employee engagement to eliminate quiet quitting need to tackle poor management practices.
Focus on training your managers and helping them adapt to new, hybrid ways of working. If their work-life balance is off, the rest of the team will feel the impact. But if they can model what engagement and satisfaction at both home and work look like in this new work format, employees will likely follow.
Together, managers and employees should find ways to minimize burnout and prioritize mental health. They should have at least one meaningful one-to-one conversation per week. These conversations could uncover the initiatives and changes management needs to make to create more satisfying work environments. It is also an opportunity for employees to talk about any struggles they may be experiencing outside of work that can be impacting performance.
Employees in some industries are more prone to worse work-life balance than others, particularly labor-intensive industries with low Net Promoter Scores and high turnover rates.
Statista found that restaurants have the lowest Net Promoter Score among employees, at 14%. The commerce industry (20%) and the public service sector (22%) followed the service industry at the bottom of the table. In August 2021, 971,000 employees quit their jobs in leisure and hospitality – the highest number of resignations recorded.
A report by One Fair Wage shed some light on why restaurant work, in particular, exhibited low job satisfaction statistics and high employee turnover rates. Low wages and tips cause 76% of restaurant workers to quit their jobs.
Many others were leaving due to hostility and harassment at work. Thirty-nine percent of restaurant workers had concerns about hostility and harassment from customers and 26% from their co-workers and/or management.
Restaurant owners and HR staff need to have frequent conversations with employees about working conditions and employee well-being in order to harness better conditions for work-life balance. Regular team and one-to-one meetings need to be scheduled. Anonymous feedback forms should also be available in order to find out more about employees’ concerns.
Many companies around the world have been experimenting with four-day workweeks to address work-life balance issues and to increase employee retention and engagement.
Between 2015 and 2017, the Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic National Government carried out two trials of four-day workweeks. The experiment, which involved over 1% of Iceland’s working population, increased employee work-life balance as well as productivity. Microsoft Japan also trialed a four-day workweek and enjoyed a 40% increase in productivity.
US companies looking to introduce a four-day workweek should start by enhancing their workforce management processes. To do this, they should:
There are a number of ways you can help your employees achieve a more harmonious work-life balance, from ensuring they have enough time and energy outside of work to enjoy their personal lives to investing in their physical and mental health.
An important element of a healthy work-life balance is an environment that reduces workplace stress and brings out the best in people. With Workforce.com, you can create better scheduling and communication processes that foster such an environment.
Get in touch with us and see how Workforce.com can help you build a happier workforce.
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