What Does Work/Life Balance Really Mean?

Today's workplace is full of women who are striving to do it all and men who are committed to being the ultimate dads. Employees don't want to miss making dinners, coaching soccer teams and attending dance recitals yet still want to excel at work. It's no wonder that the term work/life balance is being used around companies more often than ever before. But there are a lot of myths about work/life balance and your employees (and the rest of your company for that matter) may think it means something different than it actually does.

What your employees may think work/life balance means: "An equal split between my work and home life."

Unlike the name implies, work/life balance does not mean equal time given to home and to work. That really is an unreal expectation as balance doesn't exist and work and personal lives will always overlap. There's no way you can spend an equal number of hours on work and your personal life daily, one will always win out over the other.

What your HR department might think it means: "No weekend work required."

Strict boundaries also don't exist in reality. There are times when work will have to be taken care of at times outside of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If the website goes down or a deadline is forgotten, that needs to be taken care of immediately. Entrepreneurs don't get the luxury of working a straight eight-hour day and some people enjoy work and can't run it completely off.

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What work/life balance should really mean: "Flexibility so employees can be both productive at work and happy at home."

According to WorkLifeBalance.com, achievement and enjoyment are at the core of work/life balance so offering flexibility that allows employees to find both is key. For most companies, work/life balance measures include encouraging employees to take PTO, reducing the amount of after-hours communication and communicating about schedule changes, i.e., letting the team know you need to pick up the kids early or take the cat to the vet. But other companies are taking this a step further.

Top CEOs, like Jeff Bezos and Garnysh founder Meeta Vegapally, are actually preferring the term work/life integration over balance to help employees achieve that enjoyment. Work-life integration focuses more on convenience than balance. Technology has changed the way we work. Cloud networks make it easy to log in at home and smartphones allow us to check email and messages from anywhere. To make integration work whenever and wherever. Some employees are more productive in the morning and evening so allowing them to work before they drop the kids off, then catch up on tasks in the evening makes everyone happy. This type of arrangement works great for employees who must be available after hours and love their job. It also is ideal for professionals who can shape their own workday and those juggling kids or elderly parents.

For those employees who do hands-on work, like construction or retail, work/life integrations are a little trickier but not unattainable. For example, offer tech breaks so employees can check messages or make appointments. Got a crew working together to finish a project? Let them set their own schedule. Offer an attractive PTO package so employees actually have enough vacation days to balance their lives. And finally, trust your employees. You should be able to trust them to take their job seriously and put in the work while maintaining life beyond the job.

A strong company culture built on employee needs and happiness provides incentives for your employees to do their best work and remain loyal to your company.