It’s pretty obvious that having a healthy work-life balance is good for mental health and stimulation, but new research shows that it’s also important for injury prevention in the workplace. In fact, studies have found that work-life balance has a significant impact on safety at work.
But in order to answer the how, first we need to look at the why… why does work-life balance matter at all when it comes to injury prevention? It’s not like leaving work on time to pick up the kids is going to stop us from slipping on a wet floor, is it?
First, let’s take a look at the cost of productivity, absenteeism and return to work outcomes, and gain a greater understanding of where Australian workers sit.
- 21% of employees report that they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months
- $1.2 billion = the cost to employers of worker’s short absences due to injury in 2018
- $6.5 billion = the cost to employers of worker’s long absences due to injury in 2018
- Employees who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy take four times as many sick days than those who consider their workplace mentally healthy
- On average 6.5 working days of productivity are lost annually per employee as a result of presenteeism
- The longer someone is off work, the less likely they are to return to work = for 20 days off, the worker has 70% chance of returning to work. For 45 days off, the worker has 50% chance of returning to work
Now back to that question; why does work life balance matter? The answer is common sense really… when we’re juggling the pressures of work and the demands of home life (notice I said juggling, not balancing), our mind is constantly elsewhere, we’re not focused, our defences are down and we get sick. And all of this can lead to accidents or injury. For example, high job demands increase the risk of safety shortcuts; long working hours can result in lack of sleep, fatigue and reduced focused; and being time poor often means you put yourself last, which also means that you’re at risk of developing illness and chronic diseases.
All of this considered, it’s pretty obviously that supporting and maintaining work-life balance is not only good for individuals, but can save the business a whole lot of money in the long run. Which is why embedding work health and wellbeing programs into organisational policies and culture is not only best practice, its good business.
Here are a few simple steps to take creating and supporting work-life balance:
- Encourage and educate managers and supervisors to be supportive of work and family – write it into policies and procedures
- Give workers more control over their hours – don’t be counting the clock while they’re in the office, let them stay longer when it works and rush off early when they need to
- Provide flexible working options – working from home shows trust while being supportive of other’s schedules
- Practice work-life balance from the top down – be a role model by showing that work-life balance is accepted, not just tolerated
- Pay attention to burnout – getting emails from employees at 2am? Make sure you recognise when workers are taking on too much and act
For years Australian’s have thought of work and home as two completely separate entities. In fact, often times it isn’t until we become parents ourselves that the line between work and home can start to cross and blur.
So don’t wait until other commitments create enough stress to start a positive balance with work and home.
Studies have shown that when an organisation adopts a positive work-life balance culture, the benefits and results are worth it. Within a few months workers are more engaged, with higher energy and focus; overall worker health is improved and stress is reduced; and in the long-run workplace injuries, absenteeism and the cost of workers’ compensation claims are all significantly less. Not to mention, workers are happier within their work and personal lives, which is the most important of all.