Work-life Balance

by Barbara Buffton

In a nutshell

1. What do we mean by work-life balance?

There is no perfect ‘one-size fits all’ balance you should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us, because we each have different priorities and responsibilities. The ideal balance will vary according to several factors:

  • Are you single or married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are you starting a new career or nearing retirement?
  • Are you happy working long hours or not?


2. How balanced are you right now?

In order to identify what kind of work-life balance or imbalance you have currently, it’s important not just to find out where your time is being spent but also how you feel about it. A wheel-of-life model and a questionnaire will help you to identify problem areas.

  • In which areas do you feel you have an imbalance?
  • How would you know if you were spending just the right amount of time – enough time – at work or at home?
  • What would it feel like if you were to spend more time, or less, on each separate activity?


3. The business case

The benefits to business of tackling this issue responsibly are demonstrably huge, and include the following:

  • Reduced rates of absence
  • Employees who are more focused and more productive
  • Enhanced staff morale
  • Reduced overheads thanks to flexible working patterns
  • Declining stress levels among senior managers


4. The personal case

An improved work-life balance brings several benefits:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved job satisfaction
  • Happier home life
  • Enhanced quality of life
  • Improved health


5. What’s stopping you?

There are three main things that are responsible for a failure to achieve a healthy, rewarding and enjoyable work-life balance:

  • Sometimes we become focused on one thing to the detriment of other aspects of our lives, especially if this particular thing seems really important to us at the time
  • Often, the culture where we work perpetuates a work-life imbalance – and it can be hard to go against such a culture
  • The things we say to ourselves – our self-talk – often reveal certain unhelpful beliefs we hold about what is right and wrong.


6. Six steps to balance

If you want to make any changes at all, there is a certain sequence of events that can help, for example:

  • Step 1 – Take responsibility
  • Step 2 – Consider what is happening right now
  • Step 3 – Get resourceful
  • Step 4 – Decide what you want
  • Step 5 – Take action
  • Step 6 – Build new habits.

You will undoubtedly also have to do something different, which is not always easy, as it involves changing some habits. Habits are notoriously difficult to change, because we’re used to them!


7. Flexible working patterns

There is a huge choice of different working patterns that companies can introduce to enable employees achieve a better work-life balance.

  • Staggered hours, term-time working, V-time, banked time, flexi-time, compressed hours, annualised hours
  • Swapping shifts
  • Flexible places of work, home working
  • Sabbaticals, additional holiday purchase


8. Terms used in this topic

This is a list of the common terms used when talking about work-life balance, in which context they can have a specific meaning. Some – such as additional holiday purchase, annualised hours or job sharing – might help your organisation to implement improved work-life balances for employees.