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Work-Life Balance for a Balanced Budget

Man experiencing good work life balance

According to the 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada, two-thirds of Canadians are working 50% more hours each week than they were 20 years ago, bringing their total workweek to over 45 hours. Factor in less flex time and more familial obligations that include not just children, but also aging parents, and you have the recipe for a seriously burnt out workforce. In fact, about half of the 25,000 Canadians who responded to the survey also said that they take another seven hours’ worth of work home with them every week, often catching up on emails even on their days off.

The cost of overwork is immense for individuals, for society, and for businesses. Overwork related stress has been linked to rising levels of dissatisfaction with life, decreased creativity and productivity, and even serious health risks. Studies have even shown that exhausted employees can take up to five times longer to do their work, and the National Institute of Occupational Health in the US found that turnover, absenteeism, and workers’ compensation caused by overwork accounts for over $300 billion in losses every year.

So what can employers do to improve the lives of their employees and, in turn, bolster their bottom lines? Here are a few good tactics to consider:

  • Allow for flexible work hours

    Flex hours may include letting employees choose their own schedules, allowing them to occasionally work from home, or even giving them extra time off. Just make sure that your employees understand that these options are privileges, not rights, and make it clear exactly when and how they should be reachable throughout the day. Otherwise, some may try to take advantage of the situation.

  • Help your employees manage their time and their stress

    Provide resources that teach people how to better manage their time, and make it obvious that management is open to helping them cope with their stress. Also remember that if an employee approaches you with an issue, take their individual situation into account rather than defaulting to company rules and regulations. Doing so will reinforce their value to the company.

  • Foster face-to-face communication

    Employees should be able to have face-to-face conversations with their fellow employees and their managers. Doing so increases understanding and a sense of belonging. It also has health benefits since pent up stress can lead to physical illnesses, like heart disease.

  • Encourage breaks

    People should always take 30 to 60 minutes away from work during the day, and they should also shift their attention to something new every 90 to 120 minutes. Our brains are hardwired to do this anyway – and they will do it whether we like it or not. Focusing on one thing beyond this time can increase errors. Obeying your nature ensures you’ll come back to the task at hand refreshed.

Remember that it’s also important to involve your HR department when instituting these practices. They will be most helpful in determining exactly how each tactic will benefit your employees and strengthen your organization.

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