Achieving an ideal work-life balance isn’t just a popular topic in the office, even the White House weighed in on the debate. A recent report by the Council of Economic Advisers states that better work-life balance for employees increases their happiness and healthiness, while also increasing company productivity, retention and overall profits.

In general, employees working in the United States are particularly bad at achieving a proper work-life balance, coming in at 8th to last on the OECD Better Life Index. While this is due to many factors, including manager apprehension and lack of understanding effective policies, there is something employees and managers can do to make a positive change in their work-life balance.

Do you have a good work-life balance?

Street Sign, Pointing to Work and Life

First you should establish if you have a good work-life balance. This does not mean spending more time at home, or simply cutting back on hours spent at work, it’s about achieving happiness in both of these aspects of your life. An employee with very poor work-life balance usually feels the following on a regular basis:

  • Not in control over their work schedule.
  • Guilty asking for time off from work when needed. 
  • Needs to check their phone and email when they leave work.
  • Frequently has to deal with work emergencies when at home.  
  • Feels pressure from work, family and friends to be more available.

What can you do to improve your Work-Life Balance?

Woman with post-it notes on face

1. Learn what your ideal work-life balance looks like

A proper work-life balance means you can be happy and healthy even when busy at work. This will help you be more engaged and productive when in the office. A big mistake many people make is trying to model their work-life balance off someone else’s. Remember, no two people have the same priorities, and you need to learn what your own personal balance looks like before you can achieve it.

2. Ask yourself, what is most important to you outside of work 

To make sure you have time for yourself, you should schedule time for things that make you happy outside of work. Good amounts of sleep and exercise shouldn’t get pushed aside, but neither should things like hobbies, time with family and friends or vacations. Ask yourself what is important, is it vacation days, flexible hours, commute time, or a family friendly office, and then seek it out. Be reasonable about what can be accomplished in a given period of time and focus on the most important priorities first.

3. Don’t bring work home when you don’t need to

When you arrive home from work, leave work behind. Of course, sometimes you will need to work longer hours than unusual, but most of the time you should use home as a place to clear your head and de-stress. Use this time to do something relaxing, like walking or biking, and unwind from the day. If you value time away from the office, it will make your time in the office much more productive.

4. Take control of your balance 

Sometimes work emergencies will take precedent in your life, but it is important to control what you can and work through the rest. Learn to predict these busy periods at work in advance and mitigate the damage done to your home life. Take time off after these busy periods, and reward yourself for a job well done.

What can your office do to improve your Work-Life Balance?

Happy Employees Standing Together

Office culture is key to making employees happy, and therefore key to increasing performance. A good example of good office culture translating to more profit comes from JetBlue Airways. Since JetBlue was founded in 2000, the company has embodied a flexible, work-from-home model for nearly all of its customer service representatives. JetBlue has said that improving workplace flexibility leads to happier and more productive Crewmembers, and overall higher profits.

To establish a company culture conducive to good work-life balance, reward employees for a job well done rather than time in the office. This focus on results rather than hours will encourage employees to be more productive and complete tasks rather than time sheets.

If you are worried about including telecommuting or flexible hours into your office culture, you can read our blog post, Top 3 Ways to Keep Your Remote Employees Engaged.

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About the Author

Linnea Goldstein

Linnea Goldstein

Linnea Goldstein is a Marketing Co-op and Northeastern University senior, working in communications, marketing and public relations. When Linnea isn’t at work she enjoys reading, sailing and being outside.