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What is work–life balance?

Last updated

3 September 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Lara Leganger

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Simply put, work–life balance is when someone attaches the same or equal value to their personal life as they do their work life, or when they get the same level of happiness from these two aspects of their life.

Inequality in work–life balance can arise from longer and more stressful work hours, increased responsibilities at home, such as children, and other factors. These lead to one side of the work–life relationship taking more time and effort while producing less happiness and well-being.

Creating a stable work–life balance can not only increase happiness, it can also improve our mental health and contribute to better physical health.

Why is work–life balance important for employers?

It is easy to see the benefits to the employee of a good work–life balance, but there are also benefits to their employer. These include:

  • Lower absenteeism

  • Higher productivity

  • Increased motivation

  • Better commitment

  • Boosted self-esteem

Having happier workers is a big plus, but studies show that having a good work–life balance is also a good way to be healthier. Increased stress from a poor work–life balance can increase the risk of health issues.

What are the factors affecting work–life balance?

Factors that affect work–life balance include:

  • Mental and physical health

  • Emotional well-being

  • The length of the work commute time

  • Management issues

  • Lack of defined personal time or always being on call for your job

These factors and more increase the negativity in one area without increasing any positivity. Any elements of our work or home life can negatively impact our lives and tip the scales toward a work–life imbalance.

How to improve work–life balance

Achieving a work–life balance can lower the risk of burnout. It can give you a wonderful sense of well-being that calms you, boosts your mood, and gives you better sleep habits and a greater appreciation of your job and your life.

Accept there is no perfect work–life balance

When you think about a perfect work–life balance, you’re probably thinking of an easy-going, productive work day without stress or worries, then leaving early to be at home with the people you love, doing everything you'd like to do.

However, perfect days are rare; it’s more realistic to strive for an achievable goal. Presenting options for a more fluid balance, where some days you’re work-focused and other days are family/home-focused, can be a more realistic approach.

Boss in Heels’ founder, Heather Monahan, says you should "remain fluid and constantly assess" so that you "allow yourself to remain open to redirecting and assessing your needs on any day."

Love your job

Dreading showing up for your job isn’t the path to a better work–life balance. Finding a job you’re excited about can go a long way in lowering your stress levels and increasing your productivity.

Any job that is draining you to the point where you aren't able to enjoy anything outside work is a toxic situation. 

Prioritize your health

This one is so easy to see, yet so simply put aside. Your health, physical and mental, should be your main concern If you’re not in good health, you can't work to provide for yourself and your loved ones, nor can you enjoy your home and family life.

By prioritizing your health, you're placing value on yourself and your future. If you’re mentally and physically strong, you’ll be more productive and take fewer sick days. This is a win–win for you and your employers.

Unplug and relax

There’s so much noise and chatter in our lives these days, that cutting ties to the tech world and the internet can help you wind down. This will also reduce blue-light absorption which can help you to sleep better, and reduce eye strain and fatigue.

Simply reading or finding ways to keep yourself occupied outside screen time can boost your morale and lower your stress levels. Don't think you're addicted? For one day, add up how many times you pick up your phone after work. It's more than you think.

Take a vacation

Along with the unplugging, step back from all work for a few days. According to the US Travel Association's State of American Vacation 2018 study, 52% of people have unused vacation time because they prioritize their job too highly.

Taking a vacation will distance you from work and its stresses. Keep your phone on silent and prioritize you, your family, and your mental well-being. Just remember to plan your vacation well and organize your time off so that when you return to work, you won’t have to play "catch up" and undo all the benefits from your vacation.

Make time for yourself and your loved ones

In addition to taking time off and prioritizing your health and well-being, you also need to make time for your friends and family.

Scheduling dates or nights out, while not a romantic or spontaneous approach, can ensure you prioritize this area of your life. This will help you avoid double-booking and allow you to spend time with your loved ones.

Set boundaries and define working hours

We cannot stress enough how important it is to put firm boundaries in place with regard to work. By having definite working hours and knowing you’re not available for work calls and emails 24/7, you’re respecting your work–life balance while creating a boundary to keep work creep from spreading into your home life.

We like the thought of having a work phone and work computer you can power down when you come home and start up again when you go back to work. This way, you can still be online and active while not alerting your company that you're online and not giving you the temptation to work off the clock.

Set goals and priorities and stick to them

By setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), you’ll have better time management. You’ll be able to see which tasks are not as valuable as others and will therefore be able to prioritize them more effectively.

Try testing your daily workload to discover your most productive parts of the day and plan more difficult tasks for that time slot. Checking your phone and emails too frequently can waste time and lower your attention to detail as well as your productivity. It’s better to set aside hourly check-ins (or even less frequent ones) to give you time to focus solely on your work. Setting small, regular goals can be far more productive than slogging toward larger, future goals.

If you are a reward-based thinker, you may want to give yourself a little treat each time you achieve a goal or milestone. This can make you more motivated to stick to your plan.

The flexible workspace for work–life balance

According to a Workest study, 73% of employees believed their job satisfaction improved with flexible work schedules, and 78% said this approach made them more productive at work. 77% considered it a major aspect when looking for a job.

Workplace flexibility is a key factor in stabilizing the work–life balance.

How to be a supportive manager

Helping your employees have a better work–life balance means happier, healthier workers. Here are a few ways to be more supportive of your team.

Understand your employees' goals

Not every worker has the same work–life balance goals. By talking with them about their needs, you can understand each personalized goal. By being flexible, you can cater to each person and hopefully reach a good middle ground that meets their needs and those of the company.

Be the example

Make sure your employees see you as an example of a good work–life balance. Don't send business emails or texts after hours and let your workers see that you respect their time off the clock. By showing they aren't obligated to be "on call" without pay, you're not only demonstrating a respectful work–life balance example, but you're also showing them respect.

Give them options

Let your employees know they have options regarding flexible working. By frequently meeting 1:1 with workers and staff, you can go over available benefit options in advance and discuss anything on the horizon.

By coordinating, say, an upcoming birth or other time-off request, you can show them everything available to them to maximize that time off. Employees can tell you about what they’re looking for or what has changed regarding their current goals, and discuss their options to keep a positive work–life balance.

Stay ahead of the curve

Be the go-to manager for work–life balance trends. What’s important today may not be as important next year. Keep learning about the in-demand benefits and innovations to keep employee programs fresh.


Why is work–life balance so important to employees?

Employees with good work–life balance have a greater sense of self and higher job productivity. The reduction of stress benefits their health, which lowers call-outs and sick days and contributes to their benefit as well as that of the office/company.

What is the 80/20 rule for work–life balance?

James Clear’s 80/20 Principle is a rule that applies to your work–life balance. It involves making a list of the top 10 things that take up most of your time and picking the two that most drive results (in life and work; these can be separate lists). You'll want to do more of those two things that do the most for you while the other eight are more back-burner items.

What is the best work schedule?

According to Fellow, the best work schedule is a healthy one. Attend to your well-being needs and have a stress-free workplace. Some things that can be done to achieve a thriving work–life balance include a consistent schedule of 40 hours or less, paid time off, and systems in place designed for employee success.

What are the three components of work–life balance?

The three components of work–life balance are time, involvement, and satisfaction. Time balance is where your time is divided equally between work and your personal life. Involvement balance refers to how equally involved you are in your work and home life from a psychological standpoint. Satisfaction balance is about achieving the same level of happiness from work and home life. Finding balance in all three aspects can help you to achieve a good work–life balance.

What is a work–life balance questionnaire?

The work–life balance questionnaire, or work–life balance survey, asks employees questions about their job and how it contributes to their overall well-being. It helps managers assess job satisfaction and gives insight into the work and home life of the employee. This data can help the company’s view of employee workload and the employees' view of their coworkers, and help managers gain insight into what areas need improvement for better satisfaction and productivity.

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