Evidence-based actions for balance

These actions and responses can be implemented with a minimal investment of resources or cost to the organization.

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Description: In a work environment with positive balance, employees are supported to manage the demands of work, family and personal life.

You can access our free workshop materials to engage your team in a discussion about work and life balance. 

Ensure leaders model positive work and life balance behaviour.  

  • Ensure managers and supervisors are supported and encouraged to demonstrate positive work and life balance. 
  • Provide training for managers and supervisors so they can support and encourage their employees to effectively manage work and life demands.
  • Ensure managers take their entitled breaks and vacation time, and actively encourage their direct reports to take theirs. 
  • Ensure messaging from leaders and management about work and life balance is relevant, consistent with their demonstrated behaviour or expectations, and includes reasonable actions for employees. 

Support employees who are struggling with personal or health issues.  

  • Ensure that managers and supervisors have the necessary communication skills to foster trust in their ability to help employees with challenges to their work and life balance. Building trust for leaders provides strategies and resources to help with this.
  • There are many tools and resources available to help: 
    • Performance management includes resources for supporting performance in a psychologically safe way, even when mental health is an issue. These strategies allow the employee to have better balance while at work.
    • Referring employees to resources includes tactful wording you can modify to help employees find resources like their EAP, support groups or online resources.  
    • A tool to support employee success is a free tool to support employers in helping an employee create and follow a workplace plan that addresses performance and workplace stressors. 

Support employees who are caregivers.  

  • Offer Caregiver resources to employees struggling with balancing caregiving with work. Caring for a family member, partner or friend can be distressing. You may feel stressed when you can’t personally provide all they need to be comfortable and when you aren’t sure where to turn to for help.  
  • Use Leader support for employees who are caregivers for strategies to support employees who are caregivers for family members or loved ones with mental health or other health issues. 

Take steps to prevent burnout.  

  • Ensure that managers and supervisors have the necessary communication skills to foster trust in their ability to help employees with challenges to their work and life balance. Building trust for leaders provides strategies and resources to help with this. To help prevent and address burnout, leaders should also: 
    • Understand the issue 
    • Recognize workplace factors that impact burnout
    • Be aware of signs and symptoms 
    • Take proactive steps to help reduce the impact of burnout on employees and workplaces 
    • Consider facilitating an organization-wide workshop where each employee completes the Plan for resilience. This self-reflection resource can help them identify effective strategies and resources to build resilience. 
    • Consider sharing Burnout in the workplace: a focus on prevention. This free webinar explores workplace factors that cause the mental harm leading to burnout. It also discusses how to eliminate or control hazards that may lead to burnout. 

Consider organizational amenities and events that support balance.  

  • Provide healthy opportunities and environments, such as on-site fitness space or gym memberships for off-site employees, on-site kitchens or care packages for off-site employees with meal options, quiet places on-site or access to apps for off-site employees to help them relax.  
  • Encourage the use of allocated time off and breaks by sharing Healthy break activities. 
  • Support employees who wish to share non-work-related accomplishments, such as major anniversaries, the birth of children or reaching significant goals. 

Review policies that impact balance.  

  • Allow “personal time” off, like options for unpaid leaves. 
  • Offer opportunities to earn time off during peak work periods, to use during periods with a lower workload demand. 
    • Offer personal and family supports for both child care and elder care, like: 
    • Comprehensive benefits 
    • Daycare or after-school programs
    • Fitness facility access 
    • Health education 
    • Family responsibility leaves 
  • See Work-life balance from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety for initiative ideas to boost work and life balance, and guides on how to implement these changes. 
  • Remind and demonstrate to your team regularly that your organization’s committed to balance as an important part of being healthy and productive.   

Provide flexible work arrangements when possible.   

  • Consider: 
    • Compressed work schedules 
    • Working from home 
    • Virtual conferencing 
    • Part-time work 
    • Contract opportunities 
    • Job sharing 
    • Longer shifts with fewer days at work for those who find more balance with this schedule instead of the traditional 5-day workweek  
  • Provide appropriate support for shift-based employees. For example: 
    • Limit split and rotating shifts 
    • Provide advance notice of shift changes 
    • Permit shift trading 
  • Offer supports for employees who work from home or off-site, such as appropriate technology and resources. 
  • Ask employees what solutions will work best for them. Refer to Accommodation strategies to help employees who have disabilities to remain productive. 

Provide educational opportunities to support work and life balance.  

  • Make available information on creating and sustaining balanced work and life demands. These may include enhanced resiliency, coping, and problem-solving skills, and how to ask for support. 
  • Offer a range of educational internal and external opportunities on non-job-related topics. Consider ideas like “lunch-and-learn” sessions on childcare, financial planning, eldercare issues, or preparing for retirement.  
  • Ensure your team’s aware of existing company and community resources or programs that support work and life balance. 

Additional actions and resources  

  • Ask for employee input when making decisions about benefit programs. For example, provide flexible or “opt-out” options. 
  • Develop clear expectations around employee availability, communication and technology use during off-work periods. 
  • Review Psychological health and safety policy recommendations to see where you can improve psychological health and safety. 
  • Review Evidence for psychological health and safety for a literature review of studies demonstrating how factors that impact psychological health and safety also have a positive impact on business goals and objectives. 

Putting balance on the agenda provides you with materials to support a team discussion on approaches to balance as well as materials to support policy review and development.

Adapted from Guarding Minds at Work™

© Samra, J., Gilbert, M., Shain, M., Bilsker, D. 2009-2020, with amendments by Stuart, H. 2022.  All rights reserved. Website development and data storage by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Guarding Minds at Work was commissioned by Canada Life and additional resources are supported by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

Contributors include.articlesDan BilskerDavid K. MacDonaldDr. Heather StuartDr. Joti SamraDr. Martin ShainMary Ann BayntonMerv GilbertPhilip PerczakSarah JennerSusan JakobsonWorkplace Safety and Prevention ServicesWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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