Work-Life Balance Strategies for Employees and Managers

Human Resource Management

Work-life balance, or how one's time is divided between work and other activities, is a critical factor in career and life satisfaction. However, a good work-life balance can be difficult to achieve. Fifty-two per cent of Australians rate their work-life balance as average or poor, according to the Employment Hero's Wellness Report 2022. This means that they often feel burnt out and frustrated with the amount of time they spend working as opposed to doing other activities.

Beyond burnout and frustration, a lack of work-life balance has been associated with concerning outcomes such as poor mental health and low productivity. As such, employees, managers and human resource management professionals need to understand best practice work-life balance strategies.

It's clear that as companies strive to attract and retain talent, there will be an increased demand for professionals who can foster positive workplaces and empower employees. Take a person-centred approach to mental wellness, culture and inclusion in the workplace, and understand how positive spaces create positive business results with ECU's 100% online Master of Human Resource Management.

What is work-life balance?

To achieve a desirable work-life balance, it's important to understand what work-life balance is. In simple terms, work-life balance is how one's time is divided between work and other activities outside of work, such as exercising, pursuing hobbies and spending time with family and friends.

Achieving a good work-life balance may sound easy, especially in developed countries, where working hours are often mandated by the government and limited to between 37.5 and 40 hours per week. Yet in reality, ensuring a good work-life balance isn't that simple. Research by the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work showed that Australians now work 6.13 hours of unpaid overtime per week (up from 5.25 before the pandemic), meaning that many have an increasingly poor work-life balance.

In addition to this, insecure work is on the rise, including casual and freelance work, where employees aren't paid leave or superannuation. Australians are also being forced to work greater and more unsociable hours to be able to afford housing, especially given the current steep rises in interest rates.

Why is work-life balance important?

Understanding why work-life balance is important is critical for managers, employees and HRM professionals everywhere, given that work is such a large part of everyone's lives.

A good work-life balance is associated with many different benefits.

Benefits of a good work-life balance

Benefits of a good work-life balance include:

Better mental health

According to Forbes, setting boundaries at work and protecting one's time (and hobbies, relationships and exercise) outside of work is associated with better mental health overall, including a reduction in depression, anxiety and hypertension.

A better work-life balance may also decrease instances of chronic pain, diseases and digestive issues.

Improved family life

When it comes to family, especially spending time with immediate family members such as partners and children, time is the most critical asset.

For this reason, a good work-life balance helps foster better relationships with family and friends.

Better productivity

Research has consistently shown that more hours do not equal more productivity. In fact, a recent study by Expert Market showed that workers in several European countries, such as Luxembourg, Ireland and Norway, were much more productive on a per-hour basis compared to workers in other countries while also working significantly fewer hours.

Specifically, workers in Luxembourg had an hourly productivity rate that was more than double that of workers in the United States, with Luxembourg's equating to $84.77, and the United States' equating to $36.94, while they worked several hundred hours less per year.

Consequences of a poor work-life balance

While a good work-life balance strategy can bring many benefits, a poor work-life balance is associated with several disadvantages.


Poor work-life balance can have a negative effect on employees over time, which in turn leads to negative perceptions of their workplace. Work Institute's “2020 Retention Report” noted that 12.4 per cent of employees who quit their jobs in 2019 cited poor work-life balance as their reason for leaving — a 23 per cent increase since 2013 — which was second only to career development.

Stress, exhaustion and burnout

Poor work-life balance is associated with stress, exhaustion and burnout.

Burnout can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Detachment from work and feelings of cynicism
  • Reduced efficiency and a lack of a feeling of achievement

These symptoms can also greatly reduce productivity at work.

How to achieve work-life balance

With the pressures of the modern workplace, achieving work-life balance isn't always as easy as it seems. Here are five different strategies that can help:

Practice optimal time management

Time management is a critical element of work-life balance, as it ensures that the time employees spend at work and on other activities is spent productively. In the digital era, there are considerable distractions, including social media and general phone use. For example, the average Australian spends a whopping 5.5 hours per day on their phone.

To achieve optimal time management at work, employees can do the following:

  • Use productivity-oriented technology, including calendar apps, meeting schedulers and project management software.
  • Be protective of their time and only attend essential meetings.
  • Schedule breaks, ideally every few hours.

Take care of health

Taking care of one's health is an essential part of maintaining a good work-life balance. Often, work creates stress, which can reduce one's energy, motivation, efficiency and productivity, leading to errors at work, frustration, irritability and even a higher instance of sick days.

Those who care about their health are more likely to be able to be focused and resilient in the face of stress and pressure.

To take better care of their health, employees can do the following:

  • Eat healthy meals, including at least one at work (ideally away from their desk if they work in an office).
  • Maintain a regular exercise schedule. Experts recommend at least half an hour of exercise per day.
  • Keep to a regular sleep schedule, including aiming to sleep between seven and eight hours every night.
  • Avoid screens before bedtime.

Set boundaries

It can seem like there is always more work to be done. Many job descriptions are not particularly prescriptive, meaning that it's almost impossible to ever be “finished” at work. This creates a situation where employees may feel they need to work longer hours, or that they always need to be available and respond to emails.

For this reason, setting boundaries at work is an essential aspect of any work-life balance strategy. Employees can do the following:

  • Identify their priorities. Employees can use common tools such as the Eisenhower matrix to prioritise tasks.
  • Learn to say no. Employees need to acknowledge that they can't do everything.
  • Silence notifications. The average person receives 46 notifications per day, which can be extremely distracting. Silencing notifications can help set boundaries outside of work.

Include downtime

In the race to be productive and add value, many employees forget downtime. Adequate rest after work and on the weekends, as well as scheduled holidays, is essential when it comes to achieving a good work-life balance.

Employees can do the following:

  • Set a finish time and stick to it. If employees set the expectation that they will leave work at the same time every day, it makes it much easier to create balance.
  • Effectively manage their time at work, so working on the weekend and outside of work hours isn't necessary.
  • Take scheduled holidays every year. While on holidays, employees should also ensure that they set boundaries with their colleagues, including letting them know that they won't be contactable.

Nurture positive relationships

Positive relationships can be essential when setting and maintaining boundaries with colleagues and managers. They also lead to less conflict in the workplace, which can in turn save time and lead to better work-life balance.

To nurture positive relationships to achieve better work-life balance, employees can do the following:

  • Get to know their colleagues more personally, while still maintaining professional boundaries.
  • Work to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect with their colleagues and managers.
  • Always try to see things from others' perspectives.

Work-Life Balance Strategies for Employees and Managers

Work-life balance strategies for employees

Given the competing demands of modern working life for many employees, as well as the proliferation of technology that makes switching off difficult, becoming familiar with multiple work-life balance strategies can be helpful.

Here are five effective work-life balance strategies for employees:

Work flexibly

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 20-30 per cent of all employees worked most of their hours from home in September 2021, and 78 per cent of all Australian companies now offer some kind of flexible work arrangements. Flexible schedules enable employees to work in the hours that suit them best.

Working flexibly may mean any of the following structures:

  • Part-time work
  • Compressed working weeks (five days' pay for four days' work)
  • Early starts or early finishes
  • Working from home
  • Job sharing

Use the right technology

The right technology can make all the difference when it comes to setting boundaries and managing time, making it the ultimate work-life balance strategy for employees.

Technology that employees might use to best manage their work-life balance includes:

  • Calendar and diary management apps
  • Online conferencing apps
  • Email auto-responders and filters
  • Push notification blockers and forced downtime apps

Take annual leave

An essential work-life balance strategy for employees is to take annual leave, yet far too many Australians fail to do so.

A recent survey by Travel Online found that a huge 66.5 per cent of Australians fail to use all of their annual leave every year, with 20 per cent of people failing to use two weeks and 6 per cent failing to take even a week off.

The reasons cited for this were that people felt too guilty taking leave, they were concerned that their workplace would crumble without them and they believed that they just couldn't switch off.

Take parental leave

Parental leave can take many forms, but at minimum, employees who are the primary caregiver of their child are entitled to 18 weeks' paid leave funded by the government at minimum wage.

They are also entitled to take up to one year of unpaid leave, and their employers must hold their job.

Pitch work-life balance strategies to leadership

While work-life balance strategies might always be top-of-mind for employees, it isn't always that way for senior leadership.

However, if work-life balance isn't a priority for leadership, employees can band together and pitch ideas to create a better balance. They can do the following:

  • Detail which strategies they'd like to try, and why.
  • Clearly outline why these strategies will be beneficial to the business.
  • Explain the costs of poor work-life balance.

Work-Life Balance Strategies for Employees and Managers

Further resources

To find out more about work-life balance strategies for employees, please see:

Work-life balance strategies for managers

Work-life balance can be complicated for managers. While they may strive to improve their employees' work-life balance, competing priorities and pressure from executives may make it hard to achieve.

There are, however, work-life balance strategies that managers can use to promote better balance for their employees. These include:

Focus on productivity, as opposed to hours

In the workplace, everyone achieves at different rates and everyone can put in their best work at different times of the day, and on different schedules. That being the case, one great work-life balance strategy that managers can employ is to focus on outcomes and productivity.

Regularly review workloads

Workloads for different employees change cyclically, and can also depend on the job and individual capacity. For this reason, an essential work-life balance strategy for managers is to regularly review how much work each of their employees is doing, and share the load if needed.

This may include checking in weekly, fortnightly or monthly to discuss expectations, and reassigning work if some employees are working too many hours.

Lead by example

Employees in the workplace mimic what they see. For this reason, leading by example when it comes to a good work-life balance is critical for managers.

This may be as simple as always leaving on time, and ensuring that managers take time out for personal reasons regularly.

Provide support for parents

It's one thing for employees to want to take parental leave, but another for them to feel supported and capable of doing so. One survey found that despite many fathers wanting to take paternity leave, 34 per cent feared they would be seen as less committed to their jobs if they did.

Managers should encourage fathers and mothers to take parental leave, reassure them that their jobs will be waiting when they return and campaign for better leave policies if they do not already exist.

Offer benefits such as gym memberships

By encouraging employees to take up activities outside of work, managers can ensure that employees have a better work-life balance.

One way that managers can do this is to facilitate organisational benefits, such as paid gym memberships or other health and wellness initiatives aimed at helping employees make time for (and pay for) these activities.

Further resources

To understand more about work-life balance strategies for managers, consider:

Better work-life balance equals better work and a better life

People are often asked whether they live to work, or work to live. The reality for most people is somewhere in the middle, as many people genuinely enjoy their jobs. Regardless, employees in any job need to achieve a good work-life balance to maintain their mental and physical health, as well as their relationships.

Want to become a champion of positive workplace cultures? Postgraduate study can help you achieve your goals, whether you are already working in human resource management or are thinking of a new career path. With ECU Online's Master of Human Resource Management, you'll develop a holistic, person-centred approach to workplace success. Reach out to our Student Enrolment Advisors via phone on 1300 707 760 or email