Work-life balance—the struggle to manage competing roles and responsibilities at work, at home and in the community—may be affecting some of your employees or you may be dealing with it in your own life. The following looks at work-life balance and the impact it could have on your business.

Work-life balance is a growing concern among Canadians, and for good reason. Consider the following facts gathered from Canadian studies and surveys:

  • In the last decade, high job stress has doubled. High job satisfaction and employee loyalty have dropped.
  • Fifty-three per cent of Albertans report being “very stressed,” the highest percentage in Canada.
  • Forty-seven per cent of Canadians report moderate to high levels of stress resulting from work-life conflict.
  • These facts may convince you that work-life balance is a problem for employees who find it difficult to juggle work and personal time. But is it your problem?

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It’s not my problem: Common misperceptions

Misperceptions about the nature of work-life balance can sometimes make it easy for employers to overlook or downplay the seriousness of this issue.

Review the following list and check your own assumptions about work-life balance.

Misperception Fact
Work-life balance is a private issue. Absences due to work-life conflict have doubled in the last decade. Work-related absences cost Canadian business just under $3 billion a year in direct costs alone.
It’s a parenting issue. Work-life conflict is a growing concern for all Canadians, not just those with children.
It’s a women’s issue. It’s a growing concern among men, who are more likely than women to point to work pressures as a cause of work-life imbalance.
It’s a stage in life. It affects everyone, from young workers to those nearing retirement.
It’s not a problem if “work” and “life” remain separate. Work and life issues are closely linked and changes in one almost always affect the other.
It’s a challenge that technology will resolve. Seventy-two per cent of Canadians believe technology is increasing their workload.
It’s an issue that can’t be resolved. It’s a goal that can be achieved, and one that will benefit your company.

As an individual, you may agree that work-life balance is a worthwhile goal. But as a business owner or manager, you might need a more compelling reason to build it into your business plan. A tight labour market is one very compelling reason: in Alberta, where employers are reporting labour shortages, your company will have to compete for the best employees.

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Invest now or pay later?

Study after study shows that work-life conflict costs Canadian employers plenty, and a business’ ability to attract and retain employees will increasingly depend on issues of work-life balance. If your company is experiencing difficulty retaining valued employees, work-life stress may be a contributing factor.

Companies with high levels of employee satisfaction know that work-life balance options aren’t perks—they’re an investment that provides a solid return. In recent surveys, companies across Canada have reported that work-life balance programs have helped them to:

  • reinforce recruitment
  • increase retention of valuable employees
  • reduce absenteeism
  • limit latecomers
  • ncrease productivity
  • improve employee satisfaction, customer service and relationships among co-workersincrease employee participation in training and education programs.

Walk the talk

It’s easy to talk about a work-life balance program—the challenge is to turn talk into action. Your plan has to be up and running and your employees need to buy in before you’ll begin to see concrete business benefits. To set your plan in motion, develop a clear process for implementing the program and let your employees know about every aspect of the plan.

You’ll encourage support for the plan from all levels of your organization when you lead by example. Your actions speak volumes—cutting back your own excessive hours, for example, lets your employees know that when it comes to work-life balance, you mean business.

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Consider your options

As an employer, you can support positive work-life balance for your employees in a variety of ways. Some approaches involve up-front costs, while others rely more on the creative use of available resources. You may want to consider some of the following options:

  • alternative work schedules
  • compressed work weeks
  • voluntary, part-time or reduced hours
  • phased-in retirement
  • telecommuting
  • job redesign
  • job sharing
  • paid and unpaid leaves
  • dependant care
  • employee assistance programs
  • wellness programs.

Here are some quick and creative ways to introduce work-life balance to your organization:

  • offer taxi vouchers, bus fare or a takeout meal for unplanned overtime
  • establish a “bring your child or spouse to work day” to encourage families to understand and support employees’ work commitment
  • provide subsidies or passes to fitness or wellness centres
  • organize volunteering together as a team
  • set up learning or wellness accounts.

When you’re deciding which options to offer in your organization, be sure to:

  • consult with your employees. Ask employees which options they would value and suggestions for implementing them
  • evaluate the costs and the budget available to support each option
  • realize there may be initial up-front costs, but there will also be financial benefits in the long term
  • recognize that creative solutions can often make up for a small budget.

Work-life balance issues are a real and growing concern for employees, regardless of gender, family responsibilities or stage of life. Supporting work-life options in your organization may involve some up-front costs, but these will pay off in many measurable ways, from making it easier for you to retain valuable employees to building great word of mouth about your company.

Simply put, better balance means better business.