What Is Work Life Balance?

June 12, 2023

If you are a job seeker, you want to do everything you can to find reliable employment. That being said, you still have everyday responsibilities and a life to live. Understanding work-life balance will allow you to handle all of those duties without becoming overwhelmed. Employers also need to be part of the discussion and know what a work-life balance looks like for their employees. 

As a Cleveland direct hire agency, DeLong Staffing Specialists is keyed into this topic and its importance. Here are our best answers to some commonly asked questions about work-life balance in the real world.

What Does Work Life Balance Look Like?

The short answer is that work-life balance is best described as a state of equilibrium in which a person’s career, personal matters, and other key areas of their lives are given the needed attention and priority. “Balance” gives the illusion of everything being divided into neat, even sections, like a perfect pie chart. But in reality, certain parts of our lives will be more weighty than others. It’s really more about flexibility and taking a realistic approach.

A true work-life balance puts everything into proper perspective, which is going to vary from person to person. No one part of an individual’s life would be weighted so much that it overshadows other important aspects or threatens to negatively affect them personally. Clearly, this is a highly subjective equation, one that everyone needs to calculate for themselves.

Why work life balance matters

Finding and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is good for everyone involved–employees, employers, clients, and families. Acknowledging its importance is the first step to fighting burnout and fueling innovation within a company. There are very practical benefits for employers too, like less absenteeism, a greater sense of loyalty, and increased productivity. Taking a flexible approach also enables employers and employees to more quickly adjust when life throws a curveball.

Is work life balance possible?

Whether it’s from increased responsibilities at work or at home, or due to a major life change, there are many factors that can jeopardize a healthy work-life balance. The key to finding the right balance for you is to accept that there is no perfect equation, just a flexible give-and-take exchange.

Energy levels, motivation, and personal health can vary every day, week, or month, depending on the individual. Making the most of what you have to give on any given day will help you to be productive at work, but also enable you to make time for friends and family, and for yourself. View work-life balance as a continuum, something you achieve over time. Maybe every day isn’t ideal, but from the perspective of a month's overview, you’ll be more able to see that you’ve managed to successfully juggle all your responsibilities and take time for yourself as well. 

How is Work Life Balance Achieved?

Besides accepting that “perfect” does not exist, and instead working for your own personal adaptation of ideal, there are some key steps to take that can help you to develop a healthier work-life balance.

  • Find a job that you love. Capitalizing on your natural or acquired skills and working with a temp-to-hire agency that prioritizes your needs is a great way to find a job that fulfills you or allows you to monetize something you already enjoy. 
  • Set practical work boundaries for yourself and make your team aware of them. Avoid answering (or sending) emails or making calls on personal time, and consider having a separate device for personal use.
  • Set goals that you can realistically achieve and forgo tasks that aren’t high priority. Analyze your workday to find the most productive hours, and then capitalize on that time, blocking it out for important projects. Avoid trying to multitask if that doesn’t work for you.
  • Ask for help from friends and family if the vast majority of home responsibilities fall on your shoulders. If you can afford it and if it works for you, hire outside help to handle routine tasks and free up your valuable time. The same is true at work–reach out to your employer if responsibilities stack up too high and find ways to share the load.
  • Make your health a priority. That means that physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual practices that bring you healing or joy should be worked into your life wherever possible. 
  • Utilize forced downtime (commute, lunch, days off, etc.) to unplug and feed your creativity or curiosity. Whatever you choose, the goal is to engage in activity that stimulates your mind but isn’t work related.
  • Plan to use available time off and take a vacation. A trip could be an overnight stay, a day trip, a staycation, or that once-in-a-lifetime adventure–whatever allows you to recharge mentally and physically.
  • Make time for yourself and the important people in your life–family, friends, and romantic partners. Build those relationships while also taking out personal time to help refill your tank and preserve your individuality. Strike a balance between your needs and others’ demands.

Just like stretching is key to avoiding injury during a strenuous workout, being flexible in your routine is vital to handling what life, work, and family might throw your way. As you work on various parts of your work or home life, stay open and ready to adjust.

How Work Life Balance Has Changed

Technology has changed the work-life balance equation because we are all now more reachable outside of work hours. Increased connection brings more integration and altered expectations, blurring the lines between personal and work time. The creep from the office into personal life is now being called into question.

At the same time, increased cost of living has led some workers to compromise their personal needs in order to hold on to vital employment. Oftentimes extra work responsibilities only add to the unhealthy and out-of-balance focus on work over self.

In the not-too-distant past, advocates of labor laws were trying to establish weekends and abolish 100-hour work weeks. Individuals might have rightfully felt that they didn’t have any self-advocacy. They may have been told that they should be grateful for their employment and that they needed to find ways to manage their workload and home responsibilities. This approach won’t hold water today. 

We have collectively come to see that striking a healthy work-life balance is vital to one’s well-being and that this is a fundamental right that must be protected. Individuals want to be encouraged and supported by their employers, not just as employees, but as people. In the end, when employees have a work-life balance that works for them, everyone benefits.

Solutions that are finding success include a flexible approach to scheduling, a compressed workweek, job sharing, and other creative time-management options. At the heart of these solutions is open, honest, unhindered communication that focuses on burnout prevention and stress management. Meaningful, engaging work is taking center stage, and employers do well to incorporate measurements of productivity that focus less on numbers, more on the intangibles: purpose, creativity, and engagement, among others. These factors keep employees' minds involved and help to maintain motivation, making the most of the talent and energy they have to give your company.

What will work life balance look like after the pandemic?

Flexibility is the key to a successful work-life balance in any phase of life, but it’s especially needed during times of uncertainty and upheaval. That’s precisely what the pandemic brought to all of our lives, and the effects could linger for years to come. Knowing this, employees should feel empowered to take necessary steps to balance their work and personal life, and employers should be willing to work with their team to make sure that they’re offering individuals what they need to feel engaged and fulfilled.

Work-life balance will continue to gain attention and to be central to some job candidates’ criteria. Direct employers and temp-to-hire agencies alike will need to factor this in going forward.

Employers’ Role in Work Life Balance

Employers need to foster an open line of communication with their employees. Then, when individuals start speaking up, it’s time to listen. Many employers assume that all is well, unless they hear otherwise. In fact some rate their employees’ work-life balance as being far more healthy than how their employees rate it themselves. The disconnect–and the solution–is to be found in communication.

Encourage employees to discuss work-life balance openly, and informally. Team members should be able to talk about this real-life concern with one another. The more visible and comfortable the process, the more likely it is to take hold and be the first step toward meaningful change. In the meantime, providing health and wellness resources for employees is one way to combat burnout and reduce stress. Offerings can vary, but it’s best to get input from employees on what services they would most appreciate.

Some employers are also becoming more flexible with scheduling and are even reimagining a typical workweek. Whatever you may choose to do within your own company, remember to set the example of the work-life balance you want to see in your employees. That tone will carry more weight than words.

How does work life balance affect employee performance?

When our mind is tuned in to accomplishing the most during our workday, and when realistic boundaries are set, then we can truly relax during our planned periods of downtime. Having a balanced approach to work and personal responsibilities means that when you are engaged in one, you aren’t worrying or thinking about the other. This can allow for heightened focus during work hours and improved performance overall. If an employee knows that when they leave work, that time is theirs, and that there’s no threat of intrusion, then they can disengage from work and be ready to pick it up with a fresh perspective tomorrow.

Our brains and bodies crave support and engagement, and when we get what we need we inevitably feel more connected, creative, and ready to collaborate. An effective work-life balance is beneficial for employers in the long run because it helps employees to consistently give their best.

Employers and Job Seekers: Work With a Pro

At DeLong Staffing Specialists, we know that work-life balance is vital, but it can be a hard note to hit. As a temp agency in Cleveland, Ohio, we’re ready to help. For employers who are interested in hiring temporary employees directly, and for job seekers who are hoping to find temp to hire jobs that will do more than pay the bills, our skilled recruiters and account managers have what it takes to make a good match. Contact us today to learn more