A healthy work-life balance looks different for everyone. Some may have lots of commitments outside of work and struggle to fit everything in. Others may not have as many plates to spin, meaning they’re more able to pour more water into their work ‘bucket’.
Finding a balance between personal and professional is what most workers continually strive for, but HR professionals often find reaching this holy grail a challenge. It feels ironic that this group of people who coach and support employees in this area may be unable to put what they preach into practice. HR can be a demanding and fast-paced area with little predictability meaning teams need to demonstrate flexibility. Unfortunately, a healthy work-life balance is commonly the first thing to be sacrificed. This article will outline how we can change that.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What do we mean by a Work-Life Balance?
A work-life balance means something different to each person. In every workplace, you’ll find that one eager beaver who is in the office before the caretaker has even turned the lights on. You’ll also likely find the person who snaps their laptop shut milliseconds after 5 pm strikes and leaves their office chair spinning as they run to the door.
Both are perfectly fine – as long as they work for you.
A work-life balance doesn’t have to equal an even split between home and work. Ask yourself: do I have a healthy work-life balance? When answering, use your own self-awareness and consider what is important to you and what you truly value. The ‘Wheel of Life’ is a useful tool to help guide your answer. At the risk of sounding a bit ‘mystic-meg’, it can help to understand and reflect on your priorities in life.
This tool asks us to reflect on the hats we wear in our life (for example wife, husband, mother, father, friend, colleague) and also the things that are important to us (for instance, family, career progression, personal development, charity). You can mark each segment of the wheel with a label of your choosing.
The next step is grading from 0 – 10 how much time you are dedicating to that area then connecting the dots accordingly. Does the line look balanced? Is there one area you are giving more focus on than others? Lastly, think about where you want to be focusing your time and take appropriate action.
Work-Life Balance and HR Professionals
Research shows that 4 out of 10 people feel they don’t have a good work-life balance. This is a significant chunk of the workforce. What’s going wrong?
Well, we know that individuals who struggle to maintain a good work-life balance ultimately have more work to do than they can fit into their official, contracted hours. This can be indicative of several different issues, including a culture of competitiveness in the workplace, poor leadership, unfair pressure from management or job descriptions inaccurately describing roles. Sometimes it can be due to factors driven by individuals themselves such as perfectionism or being unable to say ‘no’ to requests.
HR professionals specifically seem to struggle with this imbalance. According to Culture Amp’s HR for HR survey, only 34% of HR professionals feel able to switch off from work. On top of that, only 43% felt their stress was at a manageable level. This could be down to a few reasons:
- The pandemic. HR teams worked tirelessly to keep up with new guidance and changes to legislation whilst cheerleading and counselling staff.
- Unpredictability. HR is about people and emotions, both of which are notoriously hard to predict! This can make time management and work schedules more difficult to manage and plan for.
- HR professionals are ‘people people’. That’s likely why they got into the field in the first place. Often, this means they may put the needs of employees before their own.
Importance of a Healthy Work-Life Balance for HR
HR supports the entire workforce meaning their well-being is the precursor to everyone else’s. Maintaining their work-life balance is key to:
There are lots of health risks associated with having a poor work-life balance. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and substance abuse. Research by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that those who worked excessively long hours are even 12% more likely to drink large volumes of alcohol.
HR professionals are just as likely as anyone else to experience feelings of burnout. The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’. Burnout can present itself by feeling tired, having self-doubt and feeling helpless or defeated. By having a healthy work-life balance, HR teams will avoid these symptoms and be able to sustain their roles much more effectively.
Our productivity levels reduce when we work too much. Research tells us that we work best in small 40-minute chunks of time. When we elongate these windows and work for hours on end, we’re more likely to procrastinate.
The work HR professionals do require considerable focus. Reviewing changes in legislation and updating policies can be mentally draining, so it’s important HR professionals limit the hours they spend at a screen each day to increase concentration levels.
Tips for a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Those working in HR are often adept at appearing like they have everything under control when they’re struggling beneath the surface. How can HR professionals focus on their own well-being and support their work-life balance?
Don’t be afraid to close the door.
HR often have an ‘open door policy’ where employees can pop in for a counselling session at the drop of a hat. However, that isn’t conducive to concentrated periods of focus work. Try popping a note on your door saying “available between X and Y hours today, pop in for a chat if you need me between those hours”.
Use the employee facilities.
HR sometimes forget that the healthy food initiative they’ve put on in the canteen is for them as well! Or that the break room is somewhere they can also put their feet up for 30 minutes. These initiatives aren’t just reserved for other employees. Remember that you are valued employees too and should make use of the benefits on offer.
Take your rest breaks.
HR are prone to viewing lunch hours as an opportunity to ‘get some work done’ when they know they’ll have a bit of peace and quiet. Remember to practise what you preach. It’s essential that rest breaks are used to rest and recuperate to ensure you don’t burn out.
Block your calendar.
To resist the temptation of staying on after you’ve finished and also prevent others from popping a ‘quick’ meeting in your diary after hours, simply block out your calendar from your finish time. You don’t need to do this every day but you should try to do this at least 2-3 times each week to ensure you leave on time and enjoy things that are important to you outside work.
Decline meetings you don’t have to attend.
In HR, there are often employment law update meetings or other updates to best practices. If your colleagues are going, perhaps ask them if they could update you following the meeting. It’s of course important to attend meetings aimed to further your development, but sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day. Assess whether you can receive the information in another format so you can catch up when your schedule allows.
Turn off your email notifications
Out of sight out of mind, so try locking away your laptop and your phone. The temptation to log on and review any new messages is higher when your devices are within reach. You might open a grievance request from an employee or a poor conduct allegation from a line manager. Your mind will then start to race to think about how you’re going to approach it and an hour later, you’ve spent time worrying about work without achieving anything tangible. By removing the temptation, you can ensure you have real separation from your role.
Avoid responding to emails outside of hours.
Replying to emails outside of your usual working hours can set a precedent. Managers and employees will then expect you to be available to them at all times which is unsustainable in the long run. Unless there is something particularly urgent, do not email or respond to messages that can wait until the morning.
Build exercise into your daily routine.
Exercise is a great stress reliever and can focus the mind. HR professionals spend a lot of their time promoting proactive approaches to well-being and championing individuals taking accountability for their health. They should lead by example and walk the walk (…literally).