Work-life balance and productivity

19 April 2022

Given the variety of demands in the modern workplace it is no surprise that employees are struggling to find work-life balance. During the Covid-19 pandemic an almost universal move to remote working for office based employees did not make this any easier. Research conducted in 2020 showed employees were working more than ever with 70% of US workers clocking hours at the weekend and almost half saying their working hours increased during the pandemic. 


As we transition out of the crisis phase and towards a new normal of hybrid working employees across the world are experiencing post -pandemic burnout. In the US 76% of employees are feeling burnt out. 


Although not as stark, burnout is also an issue in the UK affecting over one quarter of employees. But that is not the end of the story, more than half of British employees are disguising their inability to cope with job and pandemic stress. 


The situation in the southern hemisphere is similar with research conducted in Australia showing half of respondents said they had suffered from burnout in the last year. The stats for the expat hub of Singapore are most concerning with 92% of employees experiencing extreme fatigue.


What does this mean for employers? In a lot of cases employees are looking to switch roles and for many, finding better work-life balance is high on their list of priorities. Research by The Adecco Group showed two in five employees had switched or were in the process of switching roles and almost half (41%) are looking for more flexible working options

Having a good work-life balance has been proven to have a positive impact on mood which in turn broadens mindset, improves interest and energizes employees at every level, enabling better work performance. 


Research by the Corporate Executive Board who represent 80% of Fortune 500 companies found people who believe they have good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t. That extra effort comes from increased feelings of engagement with their role and the organisation they work for. Interestingly employees planning to stay with their organisation valued focus on wellbeing as a key factor in their decision to stay. 

Improved work-life balance is not just good for employees in an organisation it impacts the bottom line too. A positive atmosphere and well rested employees are much more likely to be creative, engaged and less likely to leave than their exhausted counterparts. Research conducted across 44 industries in Spain solidified the link between work-life balance and profitability through additional effort resulting in greater organisational efficiency. 

As an international HR manager there is a lot you can directly impact when it comes to the employee experience. You are key to so many areas from onboarding to ensuring the business is following employment and OHS regulations. An area like work-life balance can appear more abstract or feel like it falls into the remit of individual teams. However, there is a lot HR can do to encourage employees to find the work-life balance that works for them including:


1.   Flexible working

Flexible working is often mentioned as one of the better ways to encourage work-life balance but this is for good reason. Almost 90% of HR professionals found an increase in employee retention just by implementing more flexible working arrangements. Even if your business feels it already offers flexible working, it may be an area worth revisiting when considering those kind of statistics during a global skills shortage. If your business is offering hybrid working and flexible start and finish times has it considered:

  • Job sharing
  • Compressed hours
  • Part time hours
  • Staggered hours 

All ways to show employees work-life balance is important to you. 


2.   Health Insurance

If you offer employees health insurance ensure there are mental health supports so employees can get help if they are struggling with work-life balance. If you have employees on expat assignment, all our international health insurance policies offer an expat assistance programme with multi-lingual professionals who can help expats with any issues or concerns they may have 24/7 every day of the year. 


3.   Annual Leave

Ensure employees are using their annual leave. In the US more than half of employees don’t use their vacation days, even though most have significantly fewer than other parts of the world. If your employees are not taking their annual leave entitlement, investigate why. Taking a break has been shown to make employees more productive. Employees who take their annual leave entitlement were found to be 40% more productive than those that didn’t.


4.   Breaks

Regular breaks are important when it comes to work-life balance. Although work is primarily about reaching business goals, taking breaks to have fun and build relationships with colleagues not only makes the working day more enjoyable but also makes us more productive. HR can support colleagues in taking breaks by banning food at desks while in the office and providing dedicated break out rooms. 


5.   Offer volunteer days

The millennials that now make up the working majority around the world are motivated by social action. Not all time away from the office has to be personal. Enabling employees to make a difference through volunteering improves their opinion of themselves and your organisation


6.   Create right to disconnect code of practice

Flexible working hours may mean some employees are contacting others outside of their chosen working hours. Ensure no one feels obligated to work when they had not planned to with a ‘right to disconnect code of practice’ so employees do not routinely have to work outside of their standard hours. 


7.   Lead by example

Finally ensure senior management are setting a good example by leaving the office/logging off on time and using their annual leave. In many organisation’s management behaviour sets the tone for employees at every level so this is really key to supporting employees to find work-life balance.