Work-life balance has been one of the leading discussion topics in the business world over the last few years. New trends and practices re continuing to emerge as our understanding of employee well-being, productivity, and work-created lifestyles deepens.
In 2023, the evolution of work-life balance has evolved at an accelerated pace, driven by technology, shifting workplace culture, and competition created by the workforce shortage.
Younger employees consistently make decisions about where to work based on where will provide the best work-life balance. How that is approached continues to change year on year. In this blog, we will explore the most impactful developments in work-life balance.
Whether you are an employer seeking to enhance your company culture or a professional seeking a fulfilling lifestyle, this guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to achieve harmony in today's rapidly changing world.
Work-Life Balance Outpaces Pure Compensation
Money will always be a driving factor in employment decisions, but the most recent working generations have discovered that it doesn't necessarily create a good work-life balance. Money can't buy you good health or time with your family without the addition of good work-life balance policies.
During the Great Resignation, we saw millions of people walk away from unsatisfying jobs in order to prioritise their personal lives. Often, to take up lower-paying roles that provided a superior working lifestyle.
Many people today are prioritising a healthy work-life balance over the pure compensation of salary and benefits. High salaries paired with long hours and extreme stress leave no time to enjoy the money, while lower salaries with more enriching lifestyles are being seen as more valuable overall.
The Rising Importance of Employee Health
One of the major contributors to the work-life trend has been the public reveal that work has a profound effect on a person's lifetime health. One's working lifestyle can determine how much a person moves in a day, whether they have time to exercise, keep a personal life, and even the quality of their nutrition.
This has caused both employees and businesses to place a far higher value on work-life balance from the perspective of employee wellness, physical health, and well-being.
The Connection Between Demanding Work and Poor Health
The first big reveal in work-life balance stats is that desk jobs have a negative impact on your heart-health and digestive health. Science has discovered that people who sit at a desk all day - especially in restrictive jobs where leaving the desk is discouraged and long hours are enforced - can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and even blood clots due to lack of physical activity.
Employers had to change their tune as employees changed their priorities to avoid early onset health problems. A better work-life balance became a must. Daily exercise, workplace gyms, walking breaks, and more forgiving hours were on the rise.
Employers Held Responsible for Working Lifestyle
As a result, the business world realised that employers play an important role in employee's overall health. Workplaces that provide healthy work-life balance in the form of healthy catering have healthier employees.
Those who provide ample time for sleep experience less workplace stress and burnout. Decisions that managers and companies make can profoundly affect the short-term and long-term health of their team members, and responsibility for healthy work-life balance must be accepted.
Post Pandemic Remote Work and Scheduling Flexibility
The recent experience with the pandemic also pushed the work-life evolution further than we thought possible - on both sides of the line. Companies that thought it was impossible to achieve productivity with employees working at home had to rapidly implement remote work, while many workers suddenly spending more time at home realised how important family time and a personal life truly is.
The Remote Work Productivity Discovery
First was the evaporation of the productivity myth. For decades, employers thought that if professionals were allowed to work at home, productivity would plummet. In reality, the exact opposite occurred.
In the most powerful work-life balance stats, it was found that employees working from home typically increase productivity by about 13%. No commute, fewer distractions, and the ability to tailour their environment leads to more work, not less.
Balancing Work and Family Times
Employees also saw all that family time they had been missing while away from home. Without losing hours to the commute and able to check in between work tasks, professionals can spend more time on their personal lives; with their kids, growing closer with their partners, and even reconnecting with friends - without impacting their work productivity.
The 'Best Hours' Principle
Flexible schedules once thought of as a privilege, also revealed that quite a few people are more productive outside of typical working hours. Night owls and early risers get their best work done at unusual times -and should be allowed to do so because it benefits them and the company with a more flexible work schedule and personal time.
The Fall of Micromanagement
Lastly, the pandemic revealed just how ineffectual and demoralising micro-management can be. Micromanagers cause work-life balance problems, workplace burnout, and high turnover.
Companies that set boundaries, empowering their remote teams to self-manage and collaborate, thrived while teams using activity-tracking software saw an increase in stress, frustration, and resignations.
Remote Work Unlocks "Work From Anywhere"
After restrictions were lifted and millions of new businesses were newly remote-capable, we saw a new and delightful work-life trend rise: Work from Anywhere.
With employees able to connect to work resources through laptops and phones, they were also able to travel and work outside the home without coming into the office.
Employees who travel for work no longer had to become isolated on trips. They could achieve work-life balance on the go.
Those who traveled for fun could take infinite working vacations. Those who liked to travel down to the coffee shop could DIY a coworking space and take care of a little coffee cake inspired mental health while still maintaining remote productivity.
In fact, this trend has breathed new life into travel opportunities as a work perk and a unique way to approach a better work-life balance for more adventurous professionals.
The Emphasis on Mental Health and Productivity
Mental health has also taken a spotlight role in work-life balance trends. In addition to realising that physical health is influenced by work environments, it's also been acknowledged that mental health strongly influences an employee's contributions.
No matter the source (work stress or personal strife), poor mental health can lead to lack of focus, lowered productivity, and negative work relationships.
It's only natural for employers to begin prioritising mental health, and for employees to respond positively by seeking jobs with policies that nurture mental and emotional well-being.
Mental Health Days and "No Questions Asked" Personal Days
One significant trend in this realm is the rise of Mental Health Days. These are special sick days that do not require a doctor's note. Sometimes called "no questions asked" days, it means that employees can take a day to destress and handle personal issues without needing to explain themselves.
As long as they don't leave the team in the lurch everyone is in favour of the occasional personal day "just because".
In many company cultures, a mental health day can also be taken as a remote work day, in which employees can contribute to their projects but minimise personal demands.
This type of off-day has also led to remote sick days in which employees can take a remote day instead of a full day off if they are feeling under the weather, choosing not to infect their colleagues or turn on their camera during meetings.
Making Mental Health Resources Available
The second mental health trend is the availability of mental health resources. Many workplaces have added mental health to their wellness package, including access to wellness apps, meditation programs, and private consultations with mental health professionals whenever employees feel they need this type of support.
Drawing The Line Between Work & Life
Lastly, and very importantly, is the trend of drawing the line. While we are seeing many workplaces try to build a more inclusive and healthy company culture, it's also vital that employes be able to fully disconnect from work when it's time for the "life" half of the balance.
Team Activities Become Optional Perks
There are an increasing number of team-building opportunities in company cultures looking to build positive bonds, but these activities need to be optional.
Some people need their limited off-time for family life, hobbies, and private lives no matter how cool the company camping trip or retreat may be.
Employers who understand this and always leave these invitations open will enjoy greater appreciation from their teams and participation when they have the time and energy instead of feeling obligated to take part in every activity.
Clocking Out and Switching Off
While millennials and Gen Z professionals are often characterised by being tied to their phones, there has been a very strong "switch off" trend when it's time to be personal. Especially when it comes to work.
Bosses who call and text all the time are now understood to be intrusive - a problem that peaked during the pandemic when employees were thought to be "always available"
Many employees will turn off their work number entirely and set themselves as unavailable in order to enjoy uninterrupted time with their family or just relax and unwind without work thoughts getting in the way.
It's important for employers to respect off-time and know when to wait for employees to clock back in before expecting additional performance or contribution.
Embracing Work-Life Balance in 2023
Work-life balance has become an essential part of the modern business world. Employers are taking responsibility for shaping the lifestyles of their employees, while many workers are taking charge by choosing jobs that support their dual existence as employees and people. Together, we can build a healthier, more balanced, and more productive workforce.