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Forbes Article: Work-Life Balance Is No Longer Just A Company Issue

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Work-life balance is a systemic issue for organizations, managers and employees. The responsibility for achieving and promoting a culture that fosters an environment where work-life balance is valued has become a real thing for HR professionals, and they are often faced with managing two common health issues in the workplace: stress and burnout. It is well-known that the effects of stress and burnout directly impact the bottom line of every organization's productivity, but who's responsible for creating work-life balance for employees?


Creating an environment where work-life balance is valued is now a joint responsibility. Organizations have the responsibility of fostering a culture where employees are encouraged to utilize their sick days, family leave or vacation benefits without the fear of it costing them professionally. Employees have an obligation as well when it comes to solving the work-life balance issue that many face in the United States. It starts with recognizing the mentality that we all have about what it means to achieve "success." Each one of your employees is striving to achieve some level of success, and many of them feel that there is only one way of accomplishing that goal, which is by working tirelessly until they are no longer effective. This mentality is wrapped up in a host of subconscious beliefs about what it takes to become and what it means to be successful. These beliefs could have been learned early on in childhood or at a previous company, or they could have been built as a result of your company's culture. 


Many employees are driven by internal influences, external influences and societal pressures to do more despite the culture that many HR professionals are diligently working to improve. Employees, in a lot of cases, are adding undue burdens and hardships because of their own internal motivating factors. While the motivating factors for each person are different, the psychological effects are the same. Employees end up feeling like they have something to lose if they are not dialed in 24/7 and begin either beating up on themselves or pointing blame outward instead of taking ownership over their lives. It is important that HR professionals place the ball back in the hands of the employees while highlighting that each person is the co-creator of their lives. HR professionals are in a position to do more than just respond to fires. They can proactively serve as an empowering body of the organization that makes everyone's work meaningful and productive.


Here are some actions that HR professionals can take:


• Encourage employees to define their own values and explore their belief systems around what it means to be successful.


• Hire external coaches for yourself and other employees within the organization.


• Make work-life balance a collaborative effort where input is valued throughout the organization.


• Make it mandatory that employees take vacations and go off the grid by working directly with your IT department.


• Emphasize the importance of mental health awareness throughout the year.


• Get additional training so that you can serve as an internal coach for employees.

If organizations are going to be a part of the solution when it comes to this work-life balance problem, an internal shift must occur. The first shift starts with recognizing that everyone is a key stakeholder in addressing what many of us are plagued by. The second shift involves acknowledging that a lack of balance is also a very personal choice and is driven by a belief that success is based on this constant productivity, which isn't sustainable.