The chicken or the egg – can you have employee engagement without work life balance?

April, 10 – BY KATE PIRRIE – Why organisations should care about work life balance.

Two weeks ago, at around 7pm on a Friday evening, some of my colleagues and I were left sitting at our desks, hurriedly trying to wrap up our work and get on with our weekends, when we found ourselves in the midst of a rather robust debate about work life balance. I have to be honest and admit that the irony of the situation was indeed lost on us all at the time. But it was not only the irony of the situation that was left unspoken, but the impact of the topic we were debating on our area of expertise, employee engagement.

We were debating whether organisations should care about employee’s work life balance. If an employee enjoys their job, is highly engaged and fairly rewarded, you can pretty safely assume they’ll go the extra 10% for you and be highly productive. So why should you care if they don’t have a work life balance?

Without going into how to achieve a work life balance (stay tuned for next entry), here’s some reasons why you should care about the work life balance of your employees:

  • There is more pressure on the average employee today than ever before
  • Most of us respond to increased pressure to perform by putting in longer hours, which eventually takes a toll on physical and mental wellbeing
  • This then leads to a decrease in engagement and productivity, and organisations pay the price of having overworked employees through an increase in operating and productivity costs, the costs of absenteeism, lack of commitment, recruitment and retention costs and possibly even medical costs
  • By having increased energy levels, it is possible to get more done in less time, consistently and sustainably as well as improving relationships with clients and customers
  • Rather than trying to squeeze more out of employees, if organisations invest in providing their employees with measures to help them achieve work life balance, they will not only get the most out of employees both physically and mentally, but they will also be more motivated and loyal
  • A study by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy as reported in Harvard Business Review in 2007 found that employees participating in an energy renewal program outperformed a control group of employees by 13% in the first quarter of 2006 and continued to significantly outperform the control group for a full year after completing the program
  • Last but not least, an article by Peter Martin published in the Sydney Morning Herald reported that statistics show that those who play sport the most work between 40 and 50 hours per week, and that 88% of Australians working 41 to 48 hours play sport in their spare time, compared to 79% of those working 16 to 24 hours, indicating those with a work life balance work harder

So, it seems the more organisations can invest in their employees and provide the infrastructure and encouragement for employees to find their balance, the more likely they are to sustain high levels of engagement and productivity.