Work-life balance – it’s a phrase we use daily, if not hourly, and one that rolls off the tongue often without much of a thought for how we define or implement it.
It’s a see-saw that comes to mind, the idea of us constantly moving from one side of the balance to the other – but it’s not as cut and dry as just ‘work vs life’, and the way we define what work-life balance means is a very personal and subjective thing.
It then follows that this matters for those of you work with in an HR role – if you are to manage people, to help onboard, to help recruit and to build teams that will grow and thrive, defining and understanding work-life balance for them, and helping them find that on their terms, is not just than a see-saw. It’s more of a fairground ride; enjoyable, but one that also requires maintenance and an element of control, as well as being mindful of all the others on the ride.
Recent research from Small Business Britain found that more than a third (39%) of women start businesses for better work-life balance, and 86% are happier since starting-up - with 74% enjoying more flexibility. Should we be quitting to find work-life balance - or should leaders and our HR managers be looking more inwardly for ways to help us find it while in our current roles?
Michelle Ovens CBE, Founder, Small Business Britain says: "Our research shows that the flexibility that comes with being your own boss is a big driver for starting a business, particularly amongst women, who are often juggling childcare or other responsibilities. While the desire for work-life balance is attracting women to start businesses, as any entrepreneur will tell you, their lives are rarely 9-5 and the newfound sense of freedom can be curtailed by the sheer volume of things to do in the business and running out of time in the day and gas in the tank for the individual. Despite this, our research shows that female founders rarely look back after they take the plunge to start-up."
"While business owners face a new juggle, they are in the driving seat of their direction, decisions and their time, and often have a stronger sense of fulfilment and mission behind what they do. Much is said about trying to achieve the coveted mantle of ‘work-life-balance’. But I have found it to be a constant work in progress. Finding balance is not always a perfect thing, and sometimes we need to lean in different directions depending on our needs - it might mean work sometimes; sometimes it might mean sport, or family, or community, or rest. The key thing I think is to give yourself a break - we are all a work in progress here."
Unhealthy boundaries, where you let work dictate more of your time and headspace than is mentally and physically good for you, can lead to stress, anxiety and eventually burnout.
Step 1: Definining work-life balance
Key components of work-life balance in the UK include everything from working hours to paid leave, wellbeing, time off, and tech boundaries (that's by no means an exhaustive list!). For example, employers in the UK are increasingly focusing on employee wellbeing programs, which can include mental health support, stress management, and fitness initiatives. These programs aim to promote physical and emotional health among employees and could be seen as providing work-life balance. (The other side to that, of course, is the programmes take place in work).
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