Do you think your employees can balance their personal and professional lives working for your company? If you do, you're not alone — according to a new survey by HR research and advisory service WorkplaceTrends.com and global recruitment firm CareerArc, 67 percent of employers say their workers have a good work-life balance.
If you were to ask your staff to confirm this, however, the answer might surprise you. The survey found that nearly half of employees (45 percent) say they don't have enough time in the week for personal activities, and one-fifth spend more than 20 hours a week working outside the office during their personal time.
Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, said that technology is the top culprit to blame for poor work-life balance. Mobile devices and constant connectivity have stretched the traditional 9-to-5 workday into a 24-7 workday, with employees finding it difficult to truly leave the office behind, he said. [20 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance]
Managers aren't helping the situation, either: 64 percent of HR professionals surveyed said they expect employees to be reachable outside of office hours by email or phone. Approximately the same percentage of employees said their managers expect them to respond to work communications during their personal time.
As many companies have discovered, formal telecommuting or workplace flexibility programs seem to be some of the biggest aids to achieving work-life balance. Nearly 90 percent of HR leaders said flexibility leads to employee satisfaction, and they're right: Three-quarters of employees view flex-work programs as their top company perk. Employees also value paid and unpaid time off as important benefits (79 percent).
While it may no longer be possible for workers to be completely "off the clock" when they leave the office for the day, employers and employees can take actions to ensure that work time doesn't completely consume personal time. Schawbel and Robin Richards, CEO of CareerArc, offered a few tips to help both parties improve work-life balance among employees.
Tips for employees
- Set boundaries so that your manager knows how often, or when, they can contact you outside of work hours. If there's a day you know you won't or don't want to be reachable after hours, inform your boss or colleague ahead of time so they know not to expect a response.
- If you're going to work outside of the office, set a specific amount of hours per day or week that you intend to do it, and commit to not going above that allotted time.
- If you don't have a formal telecommuting policy, ask your manager if you're able to work remotely for one or more days a week (once you've proven yourself in your position).
Tips for employers
- If you are catching up on emails late in the afternoon or evening, specify whether a response is urgent or if it can wait until the employee is back in the office. This will reduce the pressure that employees may feel to reply after hours or on weekends.
- Ask employees what workplace flexibility means to them. For some it may be the option to work from home periodically. For others, it may be the option to adjust their hours on a particular day of the week to accommodate activities and obligations outside of work.
- Encourage personal activities outside of the office by providing information about local classes, community events or volunteer opportunities.
"Companies need to remember that organizations, ultimately, are made up of people," Richards said in a statement. "HR leaders do a great job of putting the 'human' in human capital, but it is clear that more can be done to create a dialogue with employees to understand their needs and wants from a flexibility and work-life balance perspective."