With the current demands of the modern workplace, many employees are faced with the challenge of practicing a healthy work-life balance. Maintaining relationships and fulfilling family responsibilities can oftentimes feel like another added weight to that balance.

On average, full-time working Americans are spending more than a third of their day five days a week in the workplace. In recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is no surprise that stress is the number one work-related workforce health issue. Employees typically bring the stress of work home, disrupting the rhythms of home life, causing them to miss out on quality time spent with family. This includes partaking in what seems to be a long lost tradition: family meals. While tired, stressed, and overwhelmed employees contribute to an unproductive workplace, those traditional family meals can play a great role in improving the productivity in your business.

The Evolvement of Family Meals

Having a meal with the whole family was a part of the normality and the dynamics of an average American family during the early- to mid-20th century. Dinner with the family furnished a meaningful opportunity for the worker to decompress from a long productive day at his job, catch up with the children, and hear about the daily life of his spouse. It fostered communication and intentionality.

So why have family meals in modern America phased out? Our goals of today are not the goals of yesterday. Goals influence our everyday behavior, both at home and in the workplace. Roles in the average American family have now shifted, if not, completely changed. Now we see both men and women are more career driven. Families are becoming dual-income earners. They are either stressed searching for their next promotion to provide for their family or stressed meeting the expectations of their employers. Unfortunately, many employees are bringing the stress of work home, and their full attention is elsewhere. Whether it is answering emails or trying to reach deadlines during allotted meal times, intentional family time at the table has become less significant, or even a priority, for the working employee.

Health Implications of the Family Meal

Family meals symbolize a shared family life. They bring family members together creating a sense of rhythm and predictable daily structure. They serve as a protective factor on the health of the employee. In other words, family meals have a positive impact on physical, social and even financial well-being. Planning home-cooked meals is a gateway to healthy eating and saving money. Intentional, undivided conversation with family members around the dinner table improves quality communication, resulting in a healthier social life.

Return on Investment

You may be asking, “How does this relate to my business? Work-life balance should be a deliberate choice by the employee, right?” Correct. However, employers should be promoting a work-life balance initiative in the workplace and implementing its policies into the business plan. Encouraging your employees to engage in the healthy practice of work-life balance, such as sit-down meals with families, is a return on investment for your business.

Current studies have demonstrated that businesses that invest in work-life balance initiatives increase productivity and profitability, reduce absenteeism, improve working relationships, attract new employees, and retain current employees. These initiatives look different in every business. Small or big.
For-profit or nonprofit. The important part is that your business values the concept of work-life balance.

Through consultation and evaluation, find what works for your business. Educate the staff, management, and other significant members. This concept is important for all employees. Ultimately, employees are drawn to organizations that encourage balance and personal satisfaction. Start with something. It can be as simple as being time flexible with employees to enjoy a meal with their families. The long-term benefits for both parties are a win-win.