The future of work-life balance post-pandemic
Engagement 4 minute read

The future of work-life balance post-pandemic

Megan Orr | December 9, 2021

It’s no surprise that work-life balance post-pandemic won’t be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Many organizations are going to have to pivot in order to better meet their employees’ needs—or risk losing talent.

Work-life balance has become increasingly fairytale-esque, with the pandemic disintegrating many of the natural support systems that people have such as their extended family and daycare services. Burnout has increased too, with a LinkedIn report finding a 33% rise in signs of burnout from 2020 to 2021.  

In an attempt to better support employee work-life balance post-pandemic, the Ontario government recently passed the Working for Workers Act, “which requires Ontario businesses with 25 people or more to have a written policy about employees' rights when it comes to disconnecting from their job at the end of the day”. Ontario employers will have until March 1, 2022 to introduce this written policy. The hope is that the Working for Workers Act “not only protects workers' rights, but also will help to attract top talent and investments to the province”. 

There’s the temptation to move into post-pandemic life with an attitude of “getting back to normal/the good old days”. However, for many people and organizations, there’s no going back. The way people work has fundamentally changed—and employees’ attitudes and views of their work and work-life balance are still changing. Employers need to be willing to adapt or risk losing current and potential employees.

The notion of work-life balance post-pandemic is complicated: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. 

The reality is that there probably has never been a one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance. According to the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the answer to work-life balance post-pandemic is different for every organization, but is based on a number of factors such as “what talent is needed, which roles are most important, how much collaboration is necessary for excellence, and where offices are located today”. 

Even within one organization, work-life balance will be different from location to location and person to person. Here are some ways that organizations are managing work-life balance post-pandemic:

  • Offering employees increased flexibility and control over their schedule. 
  • Emphasizing the importance of quality of work and productivity over quantity of work done and hours spent working. 
  • Investing in technology and tools that allow employees to both do their jobs better and feel better connected. 
  • Encouraging employees to take time off and sign offline when they do so. 
  • Adopting a mindset of adaptability. What works now might not work in the future and what works for one person might not work for another. 
  • Even if outside Ontario, organizations should consider creating a work-life balance policy that outlines expectations from both employee and employer. 

Work-life balance post-pandemic is about redefining what the ideal employee looks like.

While the internet and smartphones have brought many benefits, constant connectivity has also led to a 24/7 work culture. While some may not mind being always plugged into work, for many it’s unmanageable. 

The Harvard Business Review writes that often, employees who need flexibility (whether it’s taking care of their kids or to manage other responsibilities) are often penalized. “Many who leave the workforce for a period or shift to part-time never recover their professional standing or compensation. When individuals push back—asking for less travel or requesting part-time or flexible hours—their performance reviews suffer and they are less likely to be promoted, studies find. Simply asking for workplace flexibility engenders professional stigma”. 

Mothers are often penalized for needing flexibility, facing what is called “the mommy tax” in their professional lives, where women with children make less than their male counterparts and less than younger women without children. Mothers are also less likely to get promotions or other opportunities. With the majority of parenting and household responsibilities still falling to women—even in homes where both parents work—work-life balance is not just a bonus, but a necessity. 

So, leaders should focus on employees who perform consistently, get their work done, and are engaged in their role. On the flip side, people who are consistently pushing themselves and on the verge of burnout should be offered more support and resources to help them thrive in the workplace. By reassessing and adapting, organizations can create better work-life balance post-pandemic.

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