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4 minute read

3 Ways to Help Workers Establish a Healthy Work-life Balance During Change

Workplace changes can impact work-life balance. Employers can play their part to help workers accommodate better, enhance their mental health and improve their personal lives. Here’s how you can enable a healthy balance.

Change can be exciting, but at times, it gives us unexpected challenges. At the workplace, abrupt changes to job schedules and functions can cause confusion and anxiety. This eventually impacts family life as usual routines shift to accommodate a new reality at work.

What employees need are robust and healthy work-life balance structures to prevent changes from impacting their personal commitments.

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance describes how working individuals divide time and resources between work and other aspects of their lives. The latter include family, social and leisure activities.

Typically, if a job requires one to work longer hours, they naturally have less time for other aspects of their life, such as adequate vacation time or family bonding.

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The scale tips towards job demands, which is unhealthy for mental and physical health, let alone their familial and other personal relationships.

Work-life balance is, therefore, a term that defines an ideal living standard in our modern economy. It also serves as a reminder to keep the scale levelled.

Why is work-life balance important?

Ensuring work-life balance is important because it separates work from home life. This gives employees greater control over their focus – when they are with their families, their attention should be directed towards their loved ones and not work.

This prevents chronic stress and burnout caused by overworking when employees let their jobs encroach into their family and social life.

What causes poor work-life balance?

Poor work-life balance can be caused by a variety of factors. These include demanding work schedules, job insecurity, lack of control over work tasks and a workplace culture that prioritises long hours and results over employee well-being.

Technology has also made it easier to work outside of traditional working hours, blurring the boundaries between personal and professional lives.

Without a proper balance, individuals may experience physical and mental health problems, and relationship issues due to a lack of personal time. This can also result in reduced levels of job satisfaction.

Additionally, personal factors such as informal caregiving responsibilities, health issues and other life stressors can also contribute to poor work-life balance.

How does work-life balance affect health?

One of the biggest impacts of a poor work-life balance is on personal health.

Long work hours and chronic stress can lead to an increased risk of heart-related problems as well as depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

Poor work-life balance can also lead to sleep disturbances, fatigue and reduced immune function, making individuals more susceptible to illness.

Additionally, a lack of time for healthy activities such as exercise, hobbies and socialising in their personal lives can also contribute to poor health outcomes.

According to workspace innovation company, The Instant Group, Singapore is the most overworked country in the Asia Pacific region. It also has the longest working hours per week, at 45.

In a combined survey by EngageRocket and National Trades Union Congress U Women and Family, 78% of Singaporeans complain of being burnt out from their jobs.

These statistics are alarming. Imagine what happens when employees face unexpected shifts in the workplace.

Employees can set individual strategies in place to establish a better work-life balance for themselves in times of change. However, employers must take active steps to provide employees with the means to make this possible.

We discuss three possible ways this could work.

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How to achieve work-life balance

1. End the work week earlier

Long work hours do not equate to productivity. In fact, it leads to burnout which affects employee performance.

Having an earlier end to the week lets employees take a longer break from work and spend more quality time with their families.

They can also fulfil life commitments with greater assurance, such as planning vacation time, marriage and bearing children.

Starting the weekend early can also give employees the motivation to focus on completing all important tasks for the week and then switching off for the long weekend.

The Ministry of Design, for instance, lets employees end work at 3.30 pm every Friday to give them additional time to rest before the weekend. The early release keeps them happy and productive.

2. Ensure flexible work hours for working parents and caregivers

Workplace changes can shake up family schedules, especially when workers have to perform different or more hourly shifts, follow split team arrangements or work from home.

This becomes a challenge for working parents and other caregivers who must now reorganise their time to fulfil both work and care responsibilities.

For instance, a working father who used to send his child to school every morning before heading to work in the afternoon will need to make new arrangements to match his morning shifts.

Similarly, caregivers of seniors and dependent children may have to reschedule doctor appointments to fit changed work schedules.

Employees working from home for the first time have to manage work and care needs, leading them to spread tasks across the day or work even longer.

Employers must be empathetic towards such employees if they want them to continue working productively. To address these concerns, employers can set in place flexible work schedules suitable to the nature of the job to accommodate employee needs during change.

Some examples include staggered working hours or the fulfilment of specific hours of work per week.

The Ministry of Manpower also provides Work-Life Grants to encourage employers to establish these arrangements and achieve a better work-life balance in Singapore.

3. Offer paid time off and urgent leave when requested

Unexpected changes can lead to unforeseen events outside of work, which employees need to attend to immediately.

These include last-minute runs from work to pick up a child from school because a previously planned arrangement due to a new shift failed to work out.

In other cases, a senior at home may require urgent medical care and the employee needs to rush down to help. In these instances, employers can take paid time off or urgent leave more accessible to workers who may have to deal with such situations due to workplace changes.

These are also beneficial for employees who become exhausted trying to keep a balance with new arrangements and need a break to prevent burnout.

In both cases, having paid time off and urgent leave allows employers to protect employee well-being.

Employees are given time to attend to familial responsibilities with peace of mind and have additional rest when required.

Whether they are flexible schedules or shortened work weeks, the strategies for a healthy work environment go a long way in enabling better work-life integration.

Personal and family satisfaction is important for any employee. This extends to the health domain too. The happier and healthier they are, the more willing they are to work with you and stay productive.

Corporate life can be challenging. Additional work responsibilities are not uncommon, neither are manpower shortages at workplaces. But protecting employees’ mental and physical health stays a priority regardless, which is your role as an employer.

Identifying work-related stress early on in employees is important. You can begin with stay interviews by asking the relevant questions.

Assure your employees that you’re there for them!

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