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August Question of the Month - How highly is a work-life balance valued for careers or looking for new jobs?

Despite some of us being better at it than others, getting a work-life balance is important for a healthy lifestyle. Our career choice plays a role in our ability to have this balance though, with certain jobs having longer hours by nature than others. Yet, despite this, every year such jobs are still highly over-subscribed. This made us wonder – is it just people in senior positions who factor work-life balance highly due to other commitments such as a family?

We asked people across all career levels how highly they valued work-life balance when looking for new jobs, and the results showed that it wasn’t just those in more senior positions who took this a high consideration. In fact, 43% early career individuals also rated having a balance 'very highly'. Of our overall responses, 79% valued work-life balance 'very highly' or 'highly' with only 2% not valuing it at all. This stark contrast shows that this issue should really be at the core of company values with policies in place to ensure that employee wellbeing is a high priority.

So why is a work life balance rated so highly by all seniority levels? 

Maintaining life equilibrium

Whilst our respondents understood that sometimes work required them to be flexible or put in extra hours from time to time to finish projects, attend conferences etc, it was clear that they did not want the equilibrium to shift too much in one direction. Spending every evening and lunch break at a desk leads to unhappiness and burn out.

Optimum performance

We all work best when we are well rested and we also relax better if we are not stressed by over working. You will be a better employee and your social life will no doubt improve too. Getting that balance right is key to performance at home and work.

Eagerness and creativity

Many believed that attitudes to work exponentially improved into a positive, creative and eager approach when employees were allowed to enjoy freedom in the weekends and evenings. Suffering from exhaustion never leads to a good mind-set.

Retaining talent

If the work-life balance is not good, don't expect your employees to stay - especially if a rival company offers different perks. One respondent even said that they left one job within a year due to work-life balance being non-existent, highlighting the importance for companies who want their talent to last. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 89% of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention simply by launching the implementation of flexible work arrangements.  Additionally the Centre for American Progress found that the average cost of employee turnover was 21% of an employee's annual salary. As the report states, "it is costly to replace workers because of the productivity losses when someone leaves a job, the costs of hiring and training a new employee, and the slower productivity until the new employee gets up to speed in their new job."

Improves brand perception

If a company is known for having a great work-life balance then it also helps to attract top talent in the future, as well as ensuring current employees are happy working for a great business. If the expectation for hours worked is substantially different than what is contracted, it makes you questions an employer's values. 

 

Are there reasons why some people might not mind not having a work-life balance? Our respondents had three reasons:

Price for progression

Some people seemed to think that progression in the workplace required a potentially unhealthy lifestyle. In a competitive office where colleagues are pulling long hours it makes some feel like they need to do the same to get ahead. We think that this should never be the case and that employers will do better and retain more talent if they put as many things in place as possible to ensure their employees are not overworked, overtired and unnecessarily competitive.

Future dividends

Several recognised that although they may not mind having a difficult lifestyle, it is probably not sustainable. Young professionals without families to look after may not mind pulling long hours, but later in life may not be able to keep it up. Therefore early career professionals were willing to work hard now in order to get a better balance later. However, senior positions do not usually mean less work....!

Pay check compensation

Some argued that a strong financial offer or a big salary can compensate for the lack of work-life balance. Although, on the flip-side, if employees don't have time at weekends or evenings for a personal life, they don't really have much time to enjoy that big bonus!

 

Overall, companies mustn't forget that work-life balance is not just a catchphrase, but an important consideration to, for the most part, create happy and enaged employees.  Whilst some roles require more working hours than others, employers can offer a balance in other areas, such as more holidays or a level of flexibile working hours. Work-life balance isn't just important for the higher levels of seniority, and with the competitive market and a company brand so publicly on display in today's digital world, it's something that businesses need to be increasingly aware of for attracting and retaining top talent.