HR is the human resources department dedicated to advocating for employees and their needs. But too often, the "human" aspects of the department get overlooked in favor of productivity and profit. While these are essential parts of any business, none of them work if employees are unhappy or unsatisfied with their working conditions, or if they don't have a good work-life balance.

That's HR's responsibility: to ensure employees have an environment that looks out for their well-being, which directly benefits the business as a whole. Here's how you can start looking at your HR less like a business department and more like the human resources branch it's meant to be.

Foster open communication

Employees who feel like they can't rely on their HR department to listen to them aren't going to speak up about their frustrations. They're more likely to take these problems home with them, letting issues fester when they could otherwise be aired out and addressed by someone who can listen and empathize with them.

An HR department that focuses on having an open-door policy where employees can come and discuss their concerns is guaranteed to provide a better overall work-life balance. Open communication alleviates confusion, encourages collaboration, and makes people feel heard and understood, improving morale.

Invest in Employee Wellness Programs

Employee Wellness Programs take many different forms: yoga classes, free financial counselling, childcare facilities, and even a games room are all good examples of programs many businesses use to help their employees achieve a healthy balance in their work days.

It's wise to have the programs you choose mirror what your employees desire most or what would benefit them, to have in your specific work environment. A good example would be if your business requires employees to work at odd hours, establishing childcare facilities could promote a better work-life balance.

Understand the person, not just the employee

Every employee is a person with a life outside of business hours. Their employer must understand this and treat them as such. It's in everyone's best interest to facilitate a happier, healthier work environment where everyone treats each other like people, and establishing systems that improve work-life balance is the first step in making that happen.

For example, HR departments should be accepting of employee feedback to improve the company's culture. But they'll also need to go a step further and actually implement feasible feedback, understanding that the changes employees are suggesting are coming from real people who want a healthier work environment.

Stay flexible

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed the workforce permanently. Employees are now, more than ever, looking for employers that can provide them with some level of flexibility, even if working from home isn't an option. It's arguably more important for HR teams that don't have work-from-home employees to advocate for flexibility at work because this is a significant aspect of employee retention.

Consider going for a hybrid model to ease the stress of commuting off your employees. If that's not feasible, you can also opt for more flexible work hours and let the employees structure their workdays around their personal lives, not the other way around. It's a give and take, but HR departments that want to provide a good work-life balance are going to have to give a lot more than they used to.

Prioritize mental health

Mental health has been getting a lot of attention within the past few years, and for good reason. Good mental health is essential for good physical health. It's also a necessity if employees are going to have the capacity to complete work on time and maintain focus. 

But more than that, it's another part of the "human" aspect of human resources; things can get tough, and if employees see that their employers acknowledge that by providing even the most rudimentary mental health programs like a mental health awareness program, it encourages them to get the care and attention they need.

You can take it even further by providing more specific mental health programs like paid time off specifically for mental health days that are separate from PTO or even sick days, on-site mindfulness training or a meditation space, benefits packages that include counselling services, as well as mental health treatments in their healthcare options. Achieving work/life balance is virtually impossible without prioritizing mental health, so HR departments should take note and do what they can to provide this specific kind of support for their employees.

Collect Data

HR departments shouldn't just be introducing new employee programs; they should be tracking how effective they are and making adjustments accordingly. What might seem like it's providing a good work-life balance on paper might not be operating as well as you'd hope in practice.

Take the childcare program as an example. It's a phenomenal asset — provided enough of your employees have children or plan to use it. And what programs will you offer the employees who don't have children? HR departments should stay curious about any changes they make and see how they're impacting the workplace, both positively and negatively.

Sometimes, the most obvious solution is the correct one. Businesses that offer their employees PTO are bound to have happier workers who don't suffer from burnout. If you're already offering PTO but curious enough to read this article to bolster your employee's overall well-being, consider expanding the program.

Providing your employees with ample time to rest and rejuvenate helps them come back to their jobs with a renewed sense of purpose while also giving them time to de-stress, enjoy their lives, and handle their outside commitments without worrying about their bottom line.

The balancing act

It's HR's responsibility to work with employees to ensure the business model and workplace culture are working within their best interests. It's also vital that the scale doesn't tip too far in the other direction. Fortunately, focusing on ways to get the most out of your HR department by promoting a healthy work-life balance is mutually beneficial for employees and business.

By utilizing HR in more thoughtful ways that show employees you care about and respect their humanity, you'll see better employee retention, more productivity, and an overall happier workforce. And if that's not the definition of a win-win, what is?

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