Work-life balance is very off-balance

It’s not breaking news that work-life balance isn’t exactly where it should be. The problem is the way we refer to it. What if we switched around work-life to be “life-work” balance? Although we spend one-third (let’s be honest … usually more) of our day in the office, aren’t we working to take care of our lives? Repeat after me: Life comes first.

Most organizations want to help their employees achieve balance, so they set off with policies, manuals, parties — some even bring in board games and pool tables — in an effort to make their employees’ worklife feel more balanced. What has happened is, the other part of what they’re trying to balance has been neglected…their life. If we just try to create the balance at work, we’re only getting to a part of the solution.

Take a look at the concepts below and see how you can influence the life-work balance in your workplace.

Life is fluid. Every industry has their busy time of the year. Life has certain busy times too — back to school, summer vacations and holidays. Learn to ebb and flow with the seasons, and allow employees to feel supported with flexibility during busy “life” times.

There is no magic solution. Every organization’s balance can’t be fixed the same way. Similarly, an organization can’t fix every employee’s balance the same way. Multiple approaches, programs, and solutions need to be made available. Dig deep, ask questions, resolve to find what will work for your team.

Create support. Sure, you can’t fix the stress someone is experiencing outside of work, but you can create support networks. Perhaps within your organization you create a women’s network, or an LGBT employee network. Nike and Chevron, for example, take this very seriously. They focus on diverse areas of life by creating support systems for the employees that can help them navigate through life even while at work.

If you need to tackle one area, make it STRESS. The number of stress-related disability claims by American employees has doubled according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association in Arlington, Virginia. Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are related to stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, the cost to industry has been estimated at $200 billion-$300 billion a year. Along with focusing on reducing the stress on the individual focus on reducing it throughout your organization. This prevents individual burn-out by creating a more functional system.

Do more than just “check the box”. Many vendors, programs and solutions are out there are ready to help you and your organization navigate through all areas of life-work balance. Sure, you can enlist their help and say you have the programs, but if you’re not truly engaged in promoting the programs and integrating them in your workplace, they’re just wasting money.

Build networks within your vendor solutions: Ensure you have both an Employee Assistance Program and a Wellness program that focus on total employee well-being. Go one step further and make sure those programs talk to one another. Imagine if the wellness program knew what areas of mental health/support were most needed from employees utilizing the EAP. They can work together to ensure their solutions actually fit your organization. Bring them together to strategize, evaluate, prioritize and implement.

Once again, don’t forget — Life Comes First. You can (and you will) build a stronger, healthier, and dare I say a happier organization.

Originally published at www.smartceo.com on September 17, 2015.