Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is about adjusting working patterns to allow employees to combine work with their other responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly relatives.

Benefits of work-life balance

Introducing employment policies that encourage a healthier work-life balance for your employees can bring real benefits to your organisation.

Employers' advice

This section highlights the variety of options available to employers, as well as issues for them to consider. It also provides advice for employers on developing a policy.

Issues to consider

When it comes to work-life balance, there are generally a number of issues to be considered:

  • role overload - when the time and energy demands are too great to carry out all of the work roles
  • work to family interference - where long working hours interfere with family duties
  • family to work interference - where demands and responsibilities at home interfere with working life (for example sick children)
  • care giver strain - where burdens are caused by having to provide assistance to someone else who needs it (children / elderly / disabled members of their family, or commitments within the wider community)

Options available

From a workplace perspective, work-life balance includes any policies or initiatives which provide options for staff to cope with the aforementioned issues.

There are many options available for employers and these vary from flexible working patterns, through to employee assistance programmes. Options include:

  • on-site child care / emergency child care assistance / seasonal child care programmes  - for example on site créches or medical facilities 
  • flexible working arrangements / part-time working / reduced or compressed hours etc
  • referral system to local organisations or care systems for examplet Employee Assistance Programmes or similar systems
  • on site seminars and workshops (to reduce travelling times)
  • fitness facilities - either on site, or subsidised through a local leisure centre

Developing a policy

Work-life balance initiatives must be introduced with the approval and support of senior management for the necessary commitment to be retained (that is to develop clear guidelines and lead from the top).

Employees as well as management must have a say in the creation of the policies to ensure that it is 'best fit'. This participation will ensure the policy meets its own particular needs, or suits the organisation's corporate culture (adopt policies to meet operational needs) for example offer a flexible 'menu' of benefits, with practices offered which appeal to all employees.

Information must be communicated to employees effectively through a variety of mechanisms to ensure that they know and understand what has been implemented and what it means for them.

Evaluation and feedback 

Both employers and employees must take responsibility for the policy and its success, with regular evaluation and feedback mechanisms included (include measures for performance, monitor progress and draw lessons from experience).

  • assess the workplace's current situation and objectives
  • get buy-in from all levels
  • address fears and worries regarding monitoring of hours, productivity, deadlines (if appropriate)
  • create a policy or guideline
  • initiate a trial period or pilot
  • monitor, evaluate and implement any necessary adjustment

The policy may be written as a separate stand alone policy, or included as part of existing human resources, or health and safety policies.

From a legal perspective, recent legislative changes have increased employees' entitlements to flexible working / maternity / paternity leave parental / adoption / domestic emergencies leave and these may be included with the policy.

Key legislation

Although there is a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Order 1978 for employers to look after the Health, Safety and Welfare of their employees, there is nothing in this Order, or in any other pieces of Health and Safety legislation, specifically relating to work-life balance.

For more information please contact a mental well-being at work advisor.

More on this topic

About work-related stress

Find out more about:

HSE Management Standards

Find out more about:

HSENI and work-related stress

Find out more about:

Good Practice

Good practice guidance on:


HSENI run a number of different webinars on work-related stress. Details of these including dates and registration can be found on the events page:

Small businesses

The HSENI risk assessment tool, is designed for organisations with fifty or more staff. HSENI has provided additional advice for small businesses.