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Are Your Employees' Work-Life Balances Out of Whack? 

Americans have long been in pursuit of an acceptable work-life balance, but more workers are finding that difficult to achieve. In an uncertain economy, it seems few workers are willing to turn down tasks and risk upsetting company higher-ups. Those who are able to work remotely sometimes find the line between work and leisure begins to blur as tablets and smartphones are increasingly prevalent and necessary for business.

Employees with families - and even those without - are seeking positions with more flexibility, time off and opportunities to leave early if need be. Workers have a variety of responsibilities outside of work and leisure activities or hobbies they like to participate in, and when they're able to adjust their schedules to fit their unique needs, they're more likely to perform well and remain loyal to a firm that has treated them well. This could result in less employee turnover in the long run, allowing a company to spend fewer resources consistently hiring and training new workers.

Who's at fault when work-life balances are off?
Some employees may feel they're expected to work constantly, especially if they have bosses or clients who demand responses to emails or phone calls even over the weekends. This can force some to work around the clock and feel as though they don't have a moment to themselves. The rise of smartphones, tablets and ever-present internet connections allows many to work remotely, which can result in other employees being expected to sign on at home once they've left the office for the evening. Workers answering emails and finishing projects until late at night may get burned out quickly and be less satisfied with their careers than workers who feel their employers are understanding of their need to disconnect at home.

However, management teams aren't always to blame for employees' lack of work-life balance. Workers themselves are guilty of spending too much time on company tasks. Some take on too many challenges and are reluctant to give them up and others are hoping to impress bosses. By admitting they've bitten off more than they can chew or explaining how their duties are overwhelming, some employees may find they can get an acceptable work-life balance back.

"We've spent nearly the last two decades calling out the companies and management for the need for work-life flexibility," said Cali Williams, author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. "Many have responded, but now employees also need to step up and assert control by making small, subtle, practical choices that no one will notice but them."

Helping employees achieve balance
Having a workplace that encourages balance can be extremely beneficial for a firm, as it keeps employees satisfied, more productive and less likely to become overwhelmed with projects. How can your firm ensure it's doing all it can to be certain workers aren't trying to take on too much or working around the clock?

Make it easy for employees to work on their own schedules. If your workers need to leave early to take their kids to soccer practice or drive their parents to a doctor's appointment every now and then, it shouldn't be a problem for them to do so. Employees should feel comfortable taking off early or coming in late on certain days, or even working remotely several days a week. Not only can working remotely allow them to take care of the important aspects of their personal or family lives, it also has the potential to result in increased productivity. However, don't forget that employees leaving early or coming in late should always have a coverage plan for their work, and extra tasks can't always be handed to other workers without children.

Encourage conversation about workloads. Workers may feel embarrassed or be afraid of appearing incompetent by admitting they can't handle their current workloads. However, it's a major factor in worker burnout and job dissatisfaction, meaning it should be handled quickly. Host a seminar that asks employees to have a discussion with management teams if they're feeling as though they can't handle the current projects they've been tasked with. Some workers may be shy about such conversations; in these instances, it can be helpful to discuss workloads with employees during reviews and see how they're feeling.

Be aware of your own actions. Is your management team guilty of sending emails and returning phone calls after business hours or on the weekends? If so, it may be time to stop. Doing so can lead employees to think they should also be on-duty constantly, which can cause them to feel stressed and overworked. The same goes for handing employees projects as they're packing up to head home - giving out a new assignment late in the day may force workers to think they're expected to stay late and get started or complete the assignment.