Web Analytics

5 steps to improve work-life balance in the Industrial sector

  • Wellness in the workplace
  • By Marc Page
  • Published on March 4

5 steps to Improve Work-life Balance in the Industrial Sector

Before implementing any work-life initiative, shops must understand what it is and what it means for workers.

Seventy per cent. That’s the number of Canadian employees who are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, according to research done by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. What’s worse is that, according to the same research, 14 percent of workers don’t believe their workplace is healthy or safe at all.

It’s numbers like these that reiterate the importance of health and safety in the workplace.

Enter work-life balance initiatives. These are just one option that employers can explore as they aim to decrease the costs associated with mental health—like absenteeism, job dissatisfaction, and burnout—while increasing the health and well-being of workers, and their morale and productivity.

Before implementing any initiative, it’s important to first understand what work-life balance is, what it means for workers, and the role that workplaces play in contributing to it.

Defining Work-Life Balance

First, this balance is not necessarily about splitting time equally, but rather that the individual feels fulfilled and content with both aspects of their life.

A work-life imbalance typically results from two issues. The first is lack of time, which can lead to scheduling conflicts. Are there enough hours in a workday to complete every task? Are meetings an interruption to workflow? Do workers feel like they have enough time to take their scheduled breaks?

The second aspect is feeling overwhelmed, overloaded, and stressed by the pressures of multiple roles. These roles can take place both on the job and in the personal lives of workers. For example, duties outside of paid work—like caregiving for an elderly family member—can contribute to feelings of stress, especially when combined with responsibilities at work.

In settings like shops, warehouses, and factories, where employees can work various shifts, take on overtime, and multitask, work-life balance becomes a concern, especially if it’s not addressed.

For example, in situations where work-life balance isn’t prioritized by a workplace, stress can manifest and not only negatively impact the individual worker, but trickle down to their family, friends, colleagues, the employer, and the overall workplace. In Canada each year, it’s reported that 500,000 workers miss work because of mental illness. In addition, 30 percent of short- and long-term disability claims are linked to mental health problems and illnesses, costing the Canadian economy billions of dollars each year, $51 billion to be exact.

Manager Support Is Key

Putting it into perspective, think of a shop worker who feels overwhelmed by their workload, yet doesn’t feel supported by their manager to discuss the problems they’re facing. In this type of situation, their workload may be affecting their physical and mental health and they may not even be able to take their scheduled breaks. This lack of work-life balance causes the worker to feel demotivated, stressed, and fatigued, and may even cause near-misses or accidents on the shop floor.

In addition to improving the way work is done, such as workload management and proper allocation of resources, work-life balance initiatives should consist of benefits, policies, and programs that allow workers to disconnect from work. They can include parental and family leave policies, fitness membership reimbursement, employee assistance programs, and training.

With the guidance and necessary support from the employer, these types of programs can be implemented and maintained by any number of workers, including members of a health and safety committee, human resources, or a worker who’s been appointed as a healthy workplace champion.

But remember, because every organization is unique and has its own set of requirements and needs, starting a work-life balance program requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach.

When starting a program, work from the ground up. This involves asking questions, getting support, planning, and monitoring along the way. These five steps are a good place to start:

1. Assess. Survey and observe workers, supervisors, and managers to assess their needs and current situations. Ask them about any needs and concerns they may have about their roles. In this way, you get to the root of their problems and can provide tailored programs to reduce workplace stress. Depending on what you find, your workplace might explore initiatives like educational workshops on stress relief and nutrition, external training opportunities, and formal disconnect policies.

2. Get Support. There’s no “I” in team, and it’s no different for health and safety. When implementing work-life balance initiatives, make sure you have support from all levels of the organization. To do this, you’ll want to educate team members on the benefits, challenges, and objectives.

3. Be Clear. Explain how hours, productivity, and deadlines will be checked, and address fears and apprehension expressed by workers and managerial teams. Be sure that workload problems are resolved and set realistic targets.

4. Be Comprehensive. Create very detailed policies and guidelines. You’ll want to clearly state the who, what, where, why, and how of your plan, and its effects on workers. For example, how does a new policy affect vacation time, shift work, and overtime?

5. Test and Monitor. Don’t worry about going all in right away. Consider initiating a trial period to see what’s working. To do that, ask questions, launch surveys, and act on recommendations with the necessary adjustments.

When health promotion supports and programs are in place, everyone benefits. Shops will see improved morale, fewer injuries, less absenteeism, and better working relationships between colleagues. It’s benefits like these that remind us that work-life balance shouldn’t be seen just as a workplace perk, it should be treated as a priority.