How to improve the quality of work life?
Last updated on: December 6, 2022
“If yourself is a pie, how big of a bite does your work take out of it?” — Lieke ten Brummelhuis and Nancy P. Rothbard in HBR Guide to work-life balance
If you visualize your life as a pie and imagine pieces of it as diverse parts of your life, you should have an equal (or almost equal) slice of pie dedicated to work, family time, leisure time, and other personal activities. As you know, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, you end up taking a large bite of work due to an expected issue at your job.
Now, whether you’re satisfied with your work life will impact your overall quality of life.
In this blog post, you’ll learn about:
- The quality of work life,
- The importance of work life, and
- How to enhance the quality of your life.
What is the quality of work life?
According to J. Lloyd Suttle, the Vice Provost at Yale University, this is what the quality of work life represents:
“Quality of work life is the degree to which members of a particular organization are able to satisfy important personal needs through their experiences in the organization”.
This implies that employees should be able to engage in problem-solving and decision-making. When workers have more freedom at work, they have more opportunities for self-development, which can lead to better work-life quality.
In general, the quality of work life encompasses one’s feelings about their job and work dimensions such as:
- Working conditions,
- Organizational and interpersonal relationships, and
- Rewards and benefits.
Some authors claim that the major element of work-life quality is work-life balance. And these two terms surely have one thing in common — they both benefit your quality of life.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
Check out our in-depth article on work-life quality and balance around the world, including key statistics and facts, as well as future predictions:
Why is the quality of work life important?
Enhanced work-life quality has positive effects on an employee’s quality of life. Apart from that, the advanced quality of work life also benefits the company.
Quality of work life is beneficial due to the following reasons:
Reason #1: Better quality of work life increases productivity
Keeping a proper balance between work and private life ensures that employees are able to focus on their tasks during the workday — not outside their working hours. Thus, they’ll avoid overworking. Moreover, disconnecting from work during off-hours increases employee productivity. Thanks to a proper work-life balance, workers show more commitment and loyalty to their companies.
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Reason #2: Better quality of work life attracts and retains employees
Many companies offer suitable work-life perks (the ones that ensure proper work-life balance), such as flexible working hours. For some employees, having flexible working hours is invaluable because flexibility provides them with better work-life quality.
What’s more, some companies offer flexible work schedules such as:
Such perks boost employee morale and reduce turnover, since employees are more likely to stay with a company where they feel their needs are met.
Reason #3: Better quality of work life decreases absenteeism
Companies that offer family-friendly work practices tend to have reduced absenteeism. Flexible work arrangements and promoting a healthy work-life balance help workers deal with work issues more effectively, so that they don’t have to take frequent leaves of absence.
Reason #4: Better quality of work life improves quality of life
An unhealthy work-life balance can lead to exhaustion, poor performance, damaged relationships with people, and even work addiction.
One of the possible solutions to this problem is setting clear boundaries between professional and personal life. Although this might seem easier said than done, once workers learn how to separate work from personal life, they’ll be able to manage both aspects of their lives with ease and have an increased quality of life in general.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
Setting boundaries between work and personal life is much more challenging to remote workers, so read the article below to find out practical tips on working remotely:
Reason #5: Increases employees’ job involvement and satisfaction
When companies focus on employees and employee work-life quality — their workers will be more motivated to work and more likely to show flawless performance as a result. Plus, when employees feel appreciated and protected, they’ll be more content with their job.
7 Dimensions influencing the quality of your wellbeing
Sometimes, we tend to preoccupy ourselves with too many activities for one day.
For instance, I used to go to extremes by having an after-work schedule that consisted of working out, having a drink with friends, paying the bills, reading, and doing some household chores — all in one afternoon. As a result, by the time the weekend arrived, I was already extremely exhausted. Now, I try to be more realistic and even admit to myself that I can’t do everything I want to in a day/a week.
In order to achieve a more balanced lifestyle, you should first identify your most important dimensions of life.
In the HBR Guide to Work-Life Balance, Eric C. Sinoway and Howard Stevenson defined 7 dimensions of one’s life:
- Family — Parents, children, siblings, in-laws,
- Social and community — Friends and general community involvement,
- Spiritual — Religion, philosophy, emotions,
- Physical — Health and well-being,
- Material — Possessions,
- Avocational — Hobbies and other non-work activities, and
- Career — Short and long-term plans.
Now, Sinoway and Stevenson also suggest carefully reviewing each dimension by asking yourself these 3 questions:
- Who do I want to be in this part of my life?
- How much do I want to experience this dimension?
- How important is this dimension relative to the others?
These questions will help you decide how you want to spend each of these seven elements of life. Besides, whenever you need to, you can tweak some of your areas in order to better manage your professional and private life.
The real-life experience of the 7-dimension concept
We’ll take Howard Stevenson’s (one of the authors) experience as an example here.
Even though Stevenson’s career was an invaluable dimension of his life, he thought that his family dimension was equally important. As he further explained, “the emotional value from the interaction would be far higher than the value of any other task.”
The word value is crucial here. For instance, you can spend an hour playing with your children, or an hour playing basketball with your friends. The value would be different in each case.
Whenever you’re unsure what dimensions to deal with first, here’s one method the authors explained.
Sinoway and Stevenson point out a difference between needs and wants. Needs include food, shelter, and health — while wants are what we crave but can live without. You may dream of having a gorgeous lake house, but you’ll do just fine not buying it. In most cases, options will be somewhere between our needs and wants.
Now that we’ve learned about the key dimensions of one’s life, we’ll further explore the most practical tips that can help you achieve a balanced life.
How can you improve your quality of life?
In order to lead a more fulfilling life, you’ll need to rethink both your work habits and how you spend your after-work hours.
That’s why the following tips focus on both areas.
Tip #1: Be smart with small habits
Denise R. Green is a transformational executive coach and an author of Work-Life Brilliance. She believes that most people are already compromising their work, family, and free time because they make decisions based on fear and past conditioning. But, here’s what Green suggests doing instead:
“If you want to improve the quality of your life, you have to take a conscious inventory of how you spend your time now. How does it align with what matters most to you? And then take inventory of the quality of your presence during that time. For example, if you spend time with family, but you’re on tech or wishing you were somewhere else, your time is wasted.”
Green recommends using math to analyze how you spend your average day. She adds that we have 24 hours a day, out of which 10 hours of rest per day — including 6–9 hours of sleep and your preferred mode of rest, such as exercising, reading, cooking, and similar.
This is what Green suggests in order to manage your habits better:
“Pick one area and one SMALL habit to move you in the right direction. Like turning off the TV one show sooner, or choosing the phone over Zoom for a meeting so you can walk and talk at the same time, or blocking time during your optimal thinking hour and doing your most important work during that window.”
Tip #2: Remember that a little goes a long way
Some very practical and insightful tips on improving your work-life balance come from Nigel Marsh — a management consultant, communications specialist, author, and entrepreneur.
In his opinion, everyone’s hopes, dreams, fears, and circumstances are different regarding work-life balance and wellbeing. According to Marsh, here’s what you should try doing (or stop doing) if you strive for a better work-life balance:
- Be efficient with your time,
- Don’t adopt someone else’s daily routines (such as of a celebrity), and
- Don’t focus on being busy, but try to find meaning in life.
Tip #3: Don’t think about work outside your working hours
Let’s say you finished all your tasks for the day and headed home. But, ever since you’ve left your office, you can’t stop thinking about those three pending tasks that require your attention. Sometimes, we find it hard to unplug after work and focus on the non-work areas.
To avoid having work-related thoughts after your shift is over, here are a few tips that Art Markman proposes in the HBR Guide to Work-Life Balance:
- Focus on what you’ll do instead — Instead of worrying about work problems, create a plan for the following afternoon, or come up with some fun activities you can do with your friends the next weekend.
- Change your environment — Set an area at home that you’ll use only for your leisure time (or a dedicated workspace if you are a remote worker) such as a small corner of the room, where you can read, meditate, or do any other relaxing activity.
- Step away from work — Markman says that one of the best ways to lower anxiety is to reveal yourself to a scary situation. Try not checking your email for one night. Then, in the morning, you’ll realize that nothing terrible has happened. The next step is going through the entire weekend without checking your email.
Markman firmly believes that this type of behavior will help you recharge your energy and be more motivated to get back to work.
Tip #4: Try to find the perfect work-life balance
The Harvard Business School study on work-life balance and quality gathered 4,000 executives from around the world. According to their results, there are 5 major areas that ensure a better work-life balance, thus better quality of life. Let’s see what these areas are.
1. Define success for yourself
Everyone has their own definition of success. Some might consider themselves successful only after becoming a CEO, while others dream of raising a family.
In the said survey, participants talked about success in terms of work and private life. Therefore, they identified their professional and personal success. When it comes to professional success, some answers were — “individual achievement” and “making a difference” — while they perceived personal wins as “rewarding relationships” and “happiness/enjoyment.”
Of course, your definition of professional and personal success doesn’t have to be in line with these answers. Once you figure out what success means to you, you’ll be able to set a unique, long-term goal. If your goal is to start your own business, you’ll have to accept working late hours now and then. In those moments, remember that working towards your professional goal usually requires hard work.
However, one of the participants gave a great example of how to combine work time and free time. No matter how much work he has for the day, he always sticks with the plan to have dinner with the family at 6 p.m. The family dinner is equally important to him as a meeting with the client.
2. Don’t be afraid to unplug
Another practical piece of advice from the survey is to decide when and how you will be available both to your colleagues and family. This is especially important for executives, who usually have to be accessible all the time.
An ideal solution would be not to check your phone, emails, or take calls during off-hours. Although, if you’re in an executive position, this might not always be possible. In that case, be reachable to your team, but set some ground rules, like advising your team to call you only in case of emergency. That way, you won’t miss out on family time, but you’ll still be available if anything unexpected comes up.
On the other hand, if you’re not an executive, you should be fully available via communication channels during your working hours and turn off your notifications after work.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
Read the following article to find out more ways on how to unplug from your workday:
3. Build support networks
In order to achieve a work-life balance and improve the quality of life, you’ll need emotional support from your family, friends, and trusted colleagues. When you’re dealing with a stressful situation at work, talking with your family members or friends can be helpful. It’s likely that they’ll give you a fresh perspective on an issue.
Now, if you or your family member are experiencing a health problem, you should confide in your colleagues. After all, having such serious issues can even impact your performance at work. Many participants from the survey said that, when they were dealing with these problems, their bosses and coworkers were compassionate.
4. Carefully consider your location
Apart from managing time, work-life balance implies managing your location as well. For instance, would you accept a job offer that requires working in a different city or even a country? Of course, if the location is not too far from your current one, you’ll be able to commute. But, if it’s not, you’ll have to move.
Making decisions about relocating for work can be extremely difficult, especially if you have a partner or you’re a parent. According to the HBR study, many surveyed executives said they had to reject an international job vacancy:
- 32% of them did that because they didn’t want to relocate their families, and
- 28% of them did that to protect their marriages.
So, what should you do in these situations? You need to discuss this matter with your partner and also think about your long-term professional goals. This way, you’ll have a better clue about the job offer and whether to accept it.
As for the executives, this survey suggests that they should make this decision at the beginning of their career. Thus, they’ll be able to choose an industry that doesn’t require relocations and find other ways to show their ambitions for career growth.
5. Collaborate with your partner
Improving your quality of life means considering not just your work habits, but other areas of your life. Aside from work-related decisions, you should discuss other significant matters with your partner, such as choices about travel and household management. As a result, you’ll be able to organize your time more effectively, both at work and outside of it.
Conclusion: Even small changes in your work-life routines make a big difference
Balancing work time and personal time can be challenging. However, that’s not the reason to give up on improving your quality of life.
Instead, start small by changing at least one of your habits, like turning off the TV earlier in the evening, in order to sleep longer and feel energetic for work the next morning. Also, no matter how much you love your job, try not to think about it after work. If needed, keep your work-related devices out of reach.
Furthermore, remember that your partner, family members, friends, and coworkers play an important role in enhancing your quality of life. Their emotional and practical support will be crucial for you, especially during tough times at work.
Finally, whenever you need to make life-changing choices about your job, you should always discuss these issues with your loved ones.
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