What is work-life balance?

Jan 30, 2024

Work-life balance helps individuals live happier, more meaningful lives. Discover its benefits, get ideas to help individuals achieve work-life balance, and learn strategies to help companies deliver work-life balance programs and services to its workforce.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance has become an essential component of our well-being. But what exactly is work-life balance, and why has it become so important to people and the organizations they work for? In this blog we’ll explore the importance of work-life balance, its benefits, strategies to help individuals achieve work-life balance, and ideas to help companies deliver work-life balance programs and services so everyone can live happier, more meaningful lives.

Defining Work-Life Balance

But before work-life balance can be achieved, we first need to define what it means. The Cambridge dictionary defines work-life balance as ‘the amount of time spent doing your job compared with the amount of time spent with your family and doing things you enjoy.’ Another similar definition according to Forbes: “equal time or priority to personal and professional activities.” But with busy schedules and life pulling us in many different directions — family life, love life, free time, crunch time, distractions, passions, small events, big changes, progression, performing well, well-being, where to work, how to work, when to work — trying to balance everything has made us realize that work-life balance does not necessarily translate into equal balance of work and life. It’s now a fluid concept that varies over time. And while at least a 50/50 balance of career and personal life obligations is desired, realistically it’s not possible all of the time.

Being Flexible with Work-life Balance Expectations

Work-life balance is not a static target that can be achieved and maintained at a fixed ratio. Rather, it is an ongoing process of prioritizing and integrating the different aspects of our lives and is shaped by our current circumstances. Here are a few reasons why work-life balance needs to be flexible:

  • Varying Priorities: Priorities in our work and personal lives often fluctuate depending on the phase of life we are in or the demands of our current roles. There are times when work might require more attention, such as during a project deadline, while at other times, personal obligations take precedence, like during family emergencies or personal milestones.
  • External Factors: Work-life balance is influenced by external factors that are often beyond our control. Changes in company policies, family dynamics, societal expectations, and personal aspirations can all impact the balance we strive to maintain. Adapting to these circumstances requires flexibility and a willingness to adjust our approach — remain fluid —  to achieve harmony.
  • Individual Needs and Values: Each individual has unique needs, values, and goals. What constitutes a balanced life for one person may differ significantly from another. Some individuals thrive on a challenging work environment and prioritize career advancement, while others place greater emphasis on family, personal growth, or leisure activities. Recognizing and honoring these individual differences is vital in embracing the individuality and fluidity of work-life balance.

By adapting to your current situation, you can create harmony between career and personal aspirations, and not feel guilty when the balance is not exactly 50/50.

Importance of Work-Life Balance

When employees balance their work life and home life, they are personally happier and professionally more productive. When employers prioritize work-life balance, they send a signal that they offer a flexible work environment, which attracts the best and the brightest (and keeps them, too). In our eBook Elevating Employee Engagement and Productivity through Work-life Balance, we found 59% of employees say they would consider taking a job with a company that offers better well-being benefits than their current employer.

Work-life balance benefits employees and employers alike:

  • Boosts Well-being: Achieving a healthy work-life balance allows you to nurture your total self, including your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It helps reduce stress levels and prevents burnout. Debbie Sorensen, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist suggests beating burnout by being self-aware of the early warning signs, and implementing a “Pause, Notice, Choose” approach.
    >>> EMPLOYERS: Look at employee wellness holistically. Considering employees’ complete physical, mental and emotional well-being shows them that you value them as the incredible human beings they are, and creates a thriving culture.

  • Increases Productivity: Striking a balance between work and personal life enables you to recharge and rejuvenate. When you prioritize self-care and take time for yourself, you return to your work refreshed, focused, and more productive.
    >>> EMPLOYERS: 79% of workers believe that a flexible schedule allows for a better work-life balance. Consider offering flexible work arrangements, which contribute to work-life balance and have been associated with increased employee productivity.
  • Improves Relationships: Work-life balance promotes stronger relationships. By allocating time for loved ones and participating in activities both inside and outside of work, you foster more meaningful connections, which makes you happier and more fulfilled.
    >>> EMPLOYERS: Make time and create opportunities for employee socialization. With one-third of our lives spent working, social connections at work are vital for morale. Read more about this in our 2024 Trends Report.
  • Enhances Physical Health: Prioritizing exercise, proper nutrition, and rest promotes physical well-being. A balanced lifestyle supports better sleep patterns, reduces the risk of chronic illnesses, and boosts your immune system.
    >>> EMPLOYERS: Implement a good variety of wellness initiatives that promote the physical and mental well-being of employees. Offer yoga classes, meditation sessions, health challenges that encourage employees to support each other’s well-being, and time-saving perks.

Employers listen up: by prioritizing employee work-life balance, you’re demonstrating a deep understanding that you understand your employees' lives extend beyond the workplace.

Strategies for Achieving Work-Life Balance

Now that we understand the importance of work-life balance, let's explore some effective strategies to help you achieve it:

  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life by defining your working hours. Communicate these boundaries with colleagues and supervisors to ensure mutual respect and understanding.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. Schedule time for exercise, relaxation, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it is essential to nurture your well-being.
  • Learn to Delegate: Recognize the finite hours in a day and embrace the power of delegation. Learn to distribute daily tasks and responsibilities, both at work and home. Collaboration and teamwork are key principles in achieving a healthy work-life balance.
  • Use Technology: Leverage technology tools to streamline and optimize your work processes. Automating repetitive tasks, using time-management apps, and practicing digital minimalism can help you achieve more in less time.
  • Communicate Openly: Maintain open and honest communication with your colleagues, supervisors, and loved ones about your work-life balance needs. Discuss potential solutions and seek support when necessary.
  • Create Connections: A support system is just as vital in the workplace as it is at home. Establishing connections and building rapport with your ‘work family’ means you can lean on them when your work-life balance is suffering, and trust that they have your back.  

Work-life balance is not a luxury; it is a necessity in today's demanding world. Prioritizing your personal well-being and finding harmony between work and personal life balance will lead to enhanced productivity, improved relationships, and an overall sense of fulfillment. By applying strategies such as setting boundaries, prioritizing self-care, delegating tasks, utilizing technology, and maintaining open communication, you can cultivate a healthy work-life balance.


See all ➞