Leaving by example: How to promote work-life balance

by Cameron Edmond20 Feb 2014
With some estimates placing Australia at the top of the leader board when it comes to hours worked, the issue of work – life balance has also come to the fore. According to the Australia Institute, Australians work an average of 1855 hours per year, higher even than Japan. So what do HR pros need to understand about the business benefits of helping staffers juggle the balance between their jobs and the rest of their lives?

According to Dr Natalie Skinner, senior research fellow at the Centre for Work + Life, the first thing HR pros need to understand is work-life balance isn’t just about mums and kids anymore. It’s also about older and younger workers, elders and those with disabilities as well as those with a range of other life commitments.

“Work-life balance is about seeing the win-win for employers and workers in supporting a respecting a healthy and positive relationship between work and other life domains,” she said. The benefit for employers is a more committed and enthusiastic workforce, she added.

In order to achieve this and overcome stigmas that persist in the workplace over time-off and other work-life initiatives, Skinner advised that employers lead by example. While this can manifest in employers themselves taking holidays, it is most important that the message is delivered to the staff that they can do the same. HR pros should look at initiating the following:
  • Demonstrate that those who have alternative work schedules, such as part-time working fathers, still have the same opportunities and security.
  • Accept the reality that some work schedules are high pressure, such as start-ups. Work with employees in these situations to help support health and wellbeing – do they have good ideas to help establish balance?
  • Make the little things count. Short breaks every few days, rostered weekends off or evening work off, email lockouts or even just an hour early mark so they can take their dog for a walk or kids to the park. These small things will not only help achieve balance, but demonstrate to staff that finding the balance and taking advantage of the company’s options and policies is acceptable.
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