Work-life Balance and Employee Engagement – Is There a Link?

work life balance

Being Busy Is In These Days. Working Past Normal Hours And Getting Work Home Is Extremely Normal. Not Being Busy Is A Rare Phenomenon.

 

However, is working for more than 12 hours actually a good thing? The answer is no. The human brain can only be productive till one point. When your employees get overwhelmed and burned out, the actual productivity is going to fall irrespective of the number of hours spent at work. This will be characterized by incessant staring at laptop screens, dull faces and complete mental absence from performing the task at hand.

All elements of a human being’s life are interconnected. If one aspect isn’t going right, it is bound to affect other areas as well. There are people who can strictly compartmentalize their personal and professional lives and not attach emotions to everything. But the very nature of being human doesn’t allow us to be like this all the time. This is why we need a healthy balance. Negative mood, stress and anger are hazardous to performance. Employees with a more positive outlook are much more satisfied at work and tend to be more productive.

“I find that I am at my best professionally when I am well-rested and have time away from email to actually think.”

~ Brian Halligan, CEO – HubSpot

A disrupted or topsy-turvy work-life balance is going to wreck employee productivity. It is important for mental peace which automatically translates into contentment both at home and at work. Finding this balance is a challenge because increasing workload and too many goals make it difficult to make clear demarcations on where one thing stops and the other begins. Besides, there is no one way of doing this. Every job demands are different and the way one person might want to balance will be different from another. However, it shouldn’t be ignored by organizations and efforts should be made to help employees achieve this.

There is a direct relationship between work-life balance and employee engagement. The Corporate Executive Board which represents 80% of the Fortune 500 companies, found that employees who believe that they have good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t. The negative effect of a work-life conflict leads to a reduced effort at work, lower performance and increased absenteeism and turnover (Anderson, Coffey, Byerly, 2002), reduced health and energy (Frone, Rusee, Barned, 1996), and increased stress and burnout (Anderson et al, 2002).

“Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to you: Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationship is.”

~ Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter

Americal Sociological Review published a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This study followed 700 highly skilled tech professionals who reported working more than 50 hours a week. They were divided into two groups.

The employees in the first group, known as the Treatment Group, were given greater control over when and where they worked. Their supervisors also provided direct support for their families and personal lives. The employees in the second group, names the Control Group, continues to work in the same conditions.

This study continued for six months and it found that there was a significant reduction in work-family conflict in the first group. The Treatment Group reported feeling more in control, less overwhelmed and had time to spend with their loved ones. They productivity was also doubled, increasing the average hours of work at home from 10 to 20 hours per week.

What this study points out is that a healthy balance can be created by offering more autonomy to the employees, trusting them and also management supporting them explicitly in professional and personal areas. Management efforts and actions play a vital role. Management has to understand employee needs and concerns and extend support and mentoring when challenges are encountered.

People who feel they have more control over their work life are more engaged. The feeling of having greater flexibility in how they organize and perform their tasks or take care of their personal lives makes them focused. This is because they do not feel like being all over the place. It enables them to devote their full attention to one aspect of their lives at a time, be it personal or professional. Work-life balance programs can pave the way for making more and more employees feel at ease. When organizations make employees feel like they matter, employees are bound to reciprocate by being more dedicated and productive.

“I don’t think a lot of founders really want to hear this, but you set the tone from day one, so who you are is going to be reflected in the culture of the early team. So for us, that was a culture of being scrappy, but honest. Working hard, but also having that sense of balance and sort of respecting one’s life outside the office. Making it happen no matter what.”

~ Julia Hartz, @juliahartz, co-founder of Eventbrite

Neuroscientist Gregory Berns says that the root of satisfaction comes from doing things that make us stretch or challenge us. The reward of a job well done is the brain’s party drug of dopamine, the chemical signature of satisfaction. Employees need to be given the tools that enable them to do their best at work and make them feel like they are growing. Organizations have to invest in their employees and also trust them.

Providing digital training through mobile devices, tracking their performance, having regular and planned one-on-one’s and giving continuous feedback are just some of the many ways to make employees bring out their best. Offer your employees flexible options like work from home or alternative hours. Giving such chances boosts morale since it enables employees to schedule their work hours around their personal lives. It also helps them feel like they are trusted. Technology can help you track and stay in touch virtually. However, make sure you set boundaries so that the rule of availability is adhered to.

There is a lot of advice by leaders on how to achieve work-life balance. Employers need to look into the mental health of their workforce and take necessary steps to ensure that they are happy. For organizational success, it is vital for the biggest assets i.e. the employees to be able to balance across all meaningful areas of their lives. And with an honest effort, achieving this balance is truly possible.