Why Companies Should Play More and Pay Less

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, right? It’s safe to say that employers tend to think so. With the modern day and all of its distractions has come the increasing importance of switching off from work and taking the time to relax. The phrase “work-life balance” has become a buzz word known to every person who has every entered the workplace and rightfully so. Work-life balance has become the most important aspect of a company people look at
when applying for jobs. Don’t believe me? A survey done in September of 2018 revealed that 63% of Irish job-hunters found work-life balance to be important when searching for a job. This placed it at the top of the list of priorities, ahead of “the ability to have nice things” which only 42% of job hunters found to be important.Why Work-Life Balance?Naturally we begin to wonder what has led us to the point where people value the ability to wind down over earning lots of money. From looking back at the previous generations of “Baby Boomers” and “Generation X” we notice how these generations didn’t have the luxury of demanding a work-life balance. Work was oftentimes scarce and so any work was good work as long as it provided an adequate income. As time has passed and economies and technologies have developed, endless opportunities have been bestowed upon “Millennials” in such a way that they know nothing else but being able to choose the best option possible. Now Millennials aren’t the only generation in the workforce, but they are in the overwhelming majority when it comes to the number of people who are seeking employment right now. As well as this it
is estimated that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials.So why is it that work-life balance has become the most sought after feature of a job given that there are many benefits that a company can offer potential employees other than the ability to balance their lives. As it turns out there are quite a few reasons actually:

  • Fewer health problems- being overworked, tired and stressedleads to higher risks of mental health problems, flus and heart-related problems.
  • Higher productivity- employees who are able to achieve a work- life balance successfully will have the ability to be more engaged at work, leading to higher levels of productivity.
  • Decreased likelihood of burning out- employees that “leave workat work” are much less likely to burnout.
  • A healthy lifestyle- employees can pursue goals outside of work. such as travel, hobbies or raising a family without work interfering
  • Increased levels of happiness- working for an employer that gives you the freedom to live and enjoy your life outside of work really benefits how we feel on a day-to-day basis

These reasons all work massively in favour of the employee when we take into account their life as a whole, which is what really matters at the end of the day. As the saying goes “Money can’t buy the decreased likelihood of burning out”, or something like that. When we consider the above factors it is no wonder that work-life has become increasingly important in recent years and why employees value this more than that big pay cheque or fancy company car. Of course this isn’t to say that these things aren’t important to people. Not only is a good work-life balance important to employees but its benefits for employers can also be seen.

As we know employees will be more productive if they are happy at work and this will generate more profit for companies. Not only this but a company that strives to achieve this balance for its employees will have much more favourable employee retention and so reduce its costs. It has been reported that replacing an employee costs on average around £30,000 and it takes up to 28 weeks to get them up to speed. Not exactly what a company wants to deal with.

How is it being promoted?

Unfortunately for some employers they have misconstrued what is meant by a work-life balance and have truly promoted “play” in their “Millennial-friendly” workplaces by adding such features like bean bags and tables tennis tables. Now these perks are all well and good and some of the best companies to work for such as Facebook and Google employ these within their offices (along with effective techniques which we will discuss later) but employees don’t really tend to care for such things.

Many of you may think that giving your employees a healthy work-life balance is as simple as letting them work 9-5 and not giving them too much work to do. However, in today’s demanding world such an ideal job is just not possible, especially not for companies who want to be the best at what they do. So what are companies doing that is actually effective?

  • Encourage time off- offering and enforcing the usage of holidays will allow employees to shut off and take a break from work.
  • Implement short breaks throughout the day- allowing employees to go for a walk, grab a coffee or socialise for a few minutes really helps employees keep their concentration when they are working.
  • Offer a flexible working environment- flexible work hours, working from home and personal time off give employees the freedom to work around their busy lives and live their desired lifestyle.
  • Promote a positive culture- employers can promote a healthy lifestyle within the workplace and offer services such as meditation, sports teams and even social events.

Salesforce is a prime example of a company that has really adopted the idea of promoting a great work-life balance for its employees. Currently ranked 2 and in the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2019”, it offers its employees a wellness reimbursement for engaging in healthy activities (getting paid to look after yourself!), the freedom to finish work at a reasonable hour every day and giving them huge flexibility in terms of when and where they can work. Companies should take a page out of Salesforces’ book as they have become such a strong firm in recent years and perhaps all down to their ability to keep their employees happy in this way.

Where to next?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated just last year that he doesn’t believe in the term “work-life balance” as it is “debilitating”. He says such a term implies a strict trade-off between the two and so employees should instead adopt a term he has pronounced “work-life harmony”. The wealthiest person in the world suggests that we should strive for a holistic relationship between work and life where it is not a balance between them but instead a circle where one feeds into the other. In reality there is little difference in the practical application between “work-life balance” and “work-life harmony” yet the mind-set of the multi-billionaire suggests a subtle difference in how we can structure our approach to applying the concept in our own lives and it has certainly seemed to work for him anyway.

Perhaps in the years to come employers will begin to use this term instead and look at truly allowing their employees to have full control of the healthy and happy lifestyles that they envision for themselves.

​Yet we have to consider the other side of the coin. Will it really be practical for companies to give employees as much autonomy and flexibility as they desire? At what point will it become too much and stop benefiting the profitability of a company? Although this will be very hard to predict, we can rest easy knowing that it is in the interest of both employees and companies to continue to work together to promote the right work-life balance within organisations so that they can both reach their respective goals of happiness and profit.

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