Why is work life balance so hard to achieve?

Work life balance Ellis Fox Blog

It’s mid-summer, a time of year when many families take a vacation. Yet for some people taking time off work is more stressful than just staying at the office. It sounds counterintuitive, but there are those so deeply invested in their work, that they fear things will go wrong if they’re not there.  Plus, there’s the stress and pressure of making sure that everything is up to date and handed over to a colleague before they go on leave.

Even then, many companies still expect employees to be available, and don’t think twice about contacting them with queries while they’re on holiday. It’s justified as a five-minute call. The problem is that five-minute call often interrupts family or leisure time, after which it’s mentally hard to switch off and relax again. It can ruin a holiday, even cause family conflict and doesn’t enable an employee to properly disconnect.

It’s sad, given how much lip service is paid to achieving a healthier work, life balance.  When hiring for a new role, companies seek out high achievers with promises of a rewarding tenure. They expect those they hire to deliver on their promised value, but do companies do the same? Or do they conveniently forget the promises made in interviews of promoting an environment that fosters a better work life balance?

Employees take their cue from their managers and colleagues. If managers don’t put in the effort to help employees achieve a better work life balance, and demonstrate that they support it, it won’t happen, regardless of corporate policies. It’s easy to say that employees need to put personal boundaries in place, but this is hard when historically people are penalised for doing so.

With this in mind, what can managers do to help foster a better working environment?

1 – Get to know team members. Do they have a family or special interests? What’s important to them? Gaining insight into their lives provides context to their requests for flexibility or time off. It also doesn’t put them under pressure to explain their situation, because it’s already understood.

2 – Manage workloads. If someone is hitting their targets and getting through their work, don’t add more to their plate. Instead reward them with time off. If the goal of work is productivity this is achieved when employees get sufficient rest, not by putting them under more pressure.