Having the ambition to succeed professionally in a highly competitive corporate ecosystem has its perks in that it pushes you to work harder and be the better version of yourself every day. But this pressure that you put on yourself, often comes at the cost of your overall wellbeing. Sonica Aron, Founder and Managing Partner, Marching Sheep, says, “A work-life balance is becoming a prominent concern across workplaces, with employees working long hours, even on weekends sometimes, not taking time away from work, even attending meetings or calls on vacation. What is seen as a sign of commitment and productivity, becomes a vicious cycle where people get sucked into a toxic relationship with work.”

Workplace And Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a critical component for a heathy and productive work environment. Long working hours, lack of rest, no breaks can lead to prolonged stress, which in turn leads to burnout, dip in performance and organisational productivity. Sonica adds, “Creating a culture that promotes work-life balance or work-life integration is critical to improve not only the individual’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, but also important for organisational productivity and profitability.”
As per a recent report published by Mckinsey and company, 51% of the workforce surveyed desired a better work-life balance. The option to choose and flexibility in various factors is especially significant for India, which has one of the world’s largest working populations.

So what can companies do to make the best of the situation? Sonica lists some pointers.

• Research
All individuals are different—one size does not fit all. It is important to understand the demographic landscape of an organisation, not superficially but in depth. This requires authentic conversations to understand the life stages of employees and their genuine needs—hobbies, interests, challenges.
Employee needs can best be discovered by asking them. Employees may be hesitant to publicly express their real needs, but genuine and authentic efforts to garner actionable data and information can help HR and the organisation arrive at what really needs to be done. From carefully curated surveys to focused group discussions, to interviews, these are all good practices that can help understand the employee demographic, intersectionality by gender, generation, life-stage, and therefore what kind of policies the organisation could benefit from.

• Learn From Industry Best Practices
Innovative solutions need to be offered as a bouquet for employees, such as paid time off, the option of buying paid time off from others, reimbursement for pursuing hobbies, incentives for weight loss, support for returning mothers, sensitisation around menopause and endometriosis, parental leaves, caregiving leaves, support on domestic violence and abuse, support on mental health issues, enabling managers on psychological safety and so on.
• Modules On Wellbeing
People need to be made comfortable about topics like emotional resilience, stress, anxiety and how to manage them. Bite sized sessions on what is stress, stress triggers, how stress manifests differently, what can be the different coping mechanisms, etc. can help employees build life skills. Often, organisations cover medical expenses or counselling sessions. While these are much needed, creating an environment which normalises emotional and mental health issues and takes the stigma or taboo away from the topic, and helps build an emotionally resilient workforce through simple techniques will go a long way.

• Work Flexibility
The COVID-19 pandemic has marked a paradigm shift toward employees looking for flexibility, in terms of time and place of work, hybrid working models or complete remote working. Several organisations have embraced hybrid working models and are giving employees the option to choose their way of working. Some organisations have opted to start mandatory office which has received pushback from employees.
• Plan Social Events
Getting out of the office for a fun event now and then may help boost employee morale, team interaction, social connection and promote a better work-life balance. People get to know their co-workers outside of the workplace setting during events like these, which improves communication and collaboration.

• Build Managerial Capability
Last but not the least, managers play a critical role in the how the employees experience an organisation and the kind of work-life balance they enjoy. Managers who build psychological safety in their teams, drive accountability through trust, enablement and empowerment will build teams that are both productive and emotionally resilient. The important of building this managerial capability in organisations cannot be emphasised enough.
Summing up, Sonica says, “In today’s fast paced ambiguous and competitive world where all businesses are not just battling competition but are also in an environment which is constantly evolving, it is natural for employees to have exceptional demands. A conscious effort to maintain a healthy work-life balance will prove to be beneficial for all parties.”