January 23, 2023
The Workplace Has Changed, Has Work-Life Balance Changed Too?
By: Lauren O'Brien Mbae, MBA, NBC-HWC
Perfecting the work-life balance has long been a challenge for both employees and employers. What makes a good work-life balance? How can you maintain boundaries when there are smartphones enabling 24/7 reachability? Enter the pandemic, which turned the workplace on its head and completely transformed how, where, and when employees work, only further blurring the line between professional and personal life. How do you leave work at work when it follows you into your kitchen, your living room, and, well, maybe even your bathroom (no judgment!)?
With the world opening back up, the workplace has completely transformed. Some companies are keeping work-from-home as an option for employees, some companies have gone entirely remote, some have gone back to the traditional 9 to 5 in-office culture, and some have created a hybrid work model including both options. One thing is for sure though – Americans have a new way of working now and establishing a work-life balance is more critical than ever.
The landscape of the workplace wasn’t the only thing to transform during the pandemic. People were forced into new and different working conditions such as online virtual meetings. Zoom had us staring at ourselves and our colleagues all day, it was like living in a house of mirrors but no one brought the funhouse music. This sudden change in the workplace also allowed people to stop and evaluate what they wanted out of their work situation. This resulted in The Great Resignation of 2021!
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021 . This was an unprecedented mass exit. The reason? Well it wasn’t because of low wages or lack of benefits. Most left in pursuit of “eudaimonia” , which according to Britannica is the condition of human flourishing or of living well - aka happiness.
While the Great Resignation was indeed a record-breaking mass exodus of workers from the labor market, it actually was a continuation of a long-term trend . This is demonstrated below in Figure 1.
The above chart demonstrates that this might have happened regardless of a worldwide pandemic. Workers have consistently been leaving their jobs in the pursuit of happiness. Studies show that workers are probably more likely to stay in a job if they are happy with their work-life balance. Therefore, supporting a positive work-life balance is crucial to employee happiness. 
Money Isn't Everything
According to a survey by Indeed, the top three factors that contribute to employee happiness are:
- Feeling energized and motivated by their tasks
- Feeling like they belong in their workplace and company
- Feeling like they have a clear purpose of being at work
Salary, benefits, or compensation of any kind didn’t make the top three. Guess where being paid ranked on the survey in terms of bringing happiness? Last place. Only 5% of people marked that as their biggest motivator to happiness. 
How to Promote a Work-Life Balance (Advice for Employers)
As an employer, what can you do to promote happiness and a positive work-life balance among your employees? Robert Brace, a celebrity wellness expert and Forbes contributor suggests these three things for employers to consider:
Keep it Remote (if they want it)
According to Brace, with the pandemic resulting in the majority of employees working from home, employees were given a glimpse of a work-life balance that they didn’t know was possible before. Returning to work and the pre-pandemic routine, became much more difficult. He says, if your company is able to, consider keeping your employees fully remote or allowing them to work from home part of the time.
Praise, Praise, Praise
Make a point to acknowledge employee accomplishments and things they’ve done well. One-on-one is great, but if you want to make them feel extra special, acknowledge their performance among their peers. You don’t have to give them an award or have a ceremony. A simple email praising their performance makes a huge impact.
Lead by Example
A study by GoodHire found that 82% of employees would consider leaving a job just because of a dislike of management. It turns out what employees value most in a manager is one who is communicative, transparent, and cares about their advancement. Be approachable and be the manager you would want to have! 
To sum it all up: an enjoyable work-life balance leads to happier workers!
Implementing YOUR Work-Life Balance (Advice for Employees)
Creating the perfect work-life balance is like trying to herd cats, it’s almost impossible but worth a try. One way to achieve this elusive balance is to set some ground rules, like not allowing work emails to invade your personal time, unless they’re super urgent or come with a cat video attachment. Regardless of your role or workplace (home, office, combo), maintaining a work-life balance is critical to your mental health.
Take a Break!
Taking breaks throughout the workday is key in relieving stress. Studies have shown that breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help to maintain performance throughout the day and reduce the need for a long post-work recovery  Also, taking breaks where you consciously detach from your work, like a lunch break, were found to increase levels of energy at work and decrease exhaustion and stress. 
Breaking Down "The Break"
Obviously, taking a lunch break at work isn’t going to provide the same level of relaxation as, let’s say, laying on a beach with your favorite book. But it does make a difference and it’s important to distinguish between the different types of breaks.
The Mini Relaxing Break: Mini relaxing breaks can help return your mental and psychical functional systems to their baseline, thereby facilitating recovery . Relaxing breaks can also help reset your mood, which helps in reducing stress and promoting a positive well-being .
The Social Break: Talking with co-workers has also been found to have a positive impact in relieving stress. Building connections, sharing your experiences, and feeling relatedness has shown a positive association with feeling recovered after taking a break .
Get Some "You Time"
Taking a break can sound easy in theory. But when you’re in the middle of a project or something urgent suddenly comes across your desk, it’s pretty easy for those well-intentioned breaks to get neglected. Remember though, taking breaks is key in helping rebuild that energy. So, it may feel like you can’t step away, but you can! It will actually help you be more productive!
The Well-being Thesis put together a useful list of tips for making sure you get some “you time” in during your workday:
1) Agree on break times with your peers and help each other in sticking to the break time you’ve agreed.
2) Use a wellness app such as minder to prompt you to take a break.
3) Plan to do something in your break that you enjoy – the anticipation of pleasure will motivate you to keep to the break. Go for a short walk, listen to a podcast you like, meditate in a quiet room.
4) Pay attention to any benefits you experience when you take a break – this will stick in your mind and motivate you to take breaks in future.
5) Use post-it notes or drawings in your workspace to remind yourself that burning yourself out won’t help in completing that project: so, take a break. 
Remember, life is always changing so be flexible and ready to adjust your balance as needed. May 2023 be the year you achieve that work-life balance, or at least make it look like you have!
 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, January 4). Job openings and Labor turnover summary - 2022 M11 results. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm
 Brace, R. (2022) Council post: Work-life balance in a post-pandemic world, Forbes. Forbes Magazine. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/08/02/work-life-balance-in-a-post-pandemic-world/?sh=36604cdf5d12 (Accessed: January 16, 2023).
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