As a leader, it’s important that you find ways to provide employees with a healthy work-life balance while also ensuring that the company is performing well and meeting goals.
In striving to help employees achieve work-life balance, you must look to strike your own sense of balance between the company’s bottom line and employee morale.
One of the first steps is to recognize that strong company performance and employee work-life balance are not in competition with each other. In fact, the two can be very closely tied with each other, as employees who are happy with their jobs tend to have higher levels of performance.
Likewise, the opposite is true. Unhappy employees tend to perform poorly in their jobs. Joel Goh aptly states, "The workplace is where we spend a lot of the time—a third of our day. It's an avenue for stress and an avenue for ameliorating stress, and by and large the costs are borne by employers.”
Not only that, but research conducted by Ellen Ernst Kossek and Leslie B. Hammer shows that, “Teaching managers to be more supportive of their direct reports’ work/life issues can be a simple and effective route to improving employee health and satisfaction.” The study found several negative issues to be tied to poor work-life balance in the workplace. These issues included things such as, “significantly worse job attitudes, blood pressure, heart rates, sleep quality, and general overall health, and [employees] were less likely to be with the company a year later.”
Therefore, employers would do well to seek out ways to enhance their employees’ sense of work-life balance. Taking appropriate measures would have numerous benefits to both employees and employers. As a company leader, you should keep this in mind as you begin to develop and implement strategies for creating a company culture that prioritizes work-life balance.
1. Ask Employees to Offer Suggestions
No one knows better than your employees what could be done to improve their own individual work-life balance situations. As you seek strategies for implementing practices that support a healthy work-life balance, you should consult with your employees about their own ideas and suggestions. Approaching them in the early stage of employment can help to devise strong strategies from the start. An added benefit of asking for employee opinions is you’ll be expressing to these individuals that their ideas and suggestions are important to you, which can be a good boost to morale.
2. Encourage Open Communication
In addition to seeking out employee opinions early on, you should encourage that employees continue to regularly communicate their thoughts on having a healthy work-life balance. An open line of communication will demonstrate to employees that their opinions are important. Everyone’s life fluctuates. This means that something an employee needs to have a healthy work-life balance in the immediate future might not be the same thing they need in the future. Encouraging regular and honest communication shows employees that they’re valued, and it also allows you, as a leader, to recognize when adjustments might need to be made for promoting work-life balance.
3. Model Work-Life Balance as a Company Leader
As a company leader, you have a valuable and unique opportunity to be a work-life balance role model to employees. Demonstrating the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries between one’s work and one’s personal life can be an important way to help employees recognize their own need to implement a sense of work-life balance. Not only that but maintaining your own work-life balance is just as important for you as it is for every other employee.
4. Provide Flexible Options for Employees
One difficulty employers typically encounter when it comes to work-life balance is that everyone has a different idea of their own ideal balance. Everyone has different personal lives, desires, preferences, and working styles. To accommodate as many employees as possible, employers should strive to create flexible options that allow each individual employee to select work-life balance options that work best for him or her.
Alan Kohll states that, “Creating a flexible work environment is one of the best ways to satisfy the work-life balance needs of most employees – no matter which generation they belong to. A flexible work environment has been shown to decrease stress, boost levels of job satisfaction and help employees maintain healthier habits.”
5. Allow Employees to Work Remotely
Depending on your company’s industry and the way in which the company operates, it might benefit the company to allow employees to work remotely. The ability to work remotely allows employees to participate in a variety of things that promote a healthy work-life balance.
For example, employees with young children or elderly parents can care for those family members themselves while simultaneously working. This can alleviate both financial and emotional stress for these employees, which would allow them to focus more fully on their work tasks. An added benefit to allowing remote work is that it allows employees to spend time away from the office without having to take time off. Depending on company flexibility, there may even be opportunity for employees to enjoy traveling while at the same time putting in the hours and producing the same amount of work.
6. Allow Employees to Have More Flexible Scheduling Options
Much like allowing for remote work, allowing for schedule flexibility is highly beneficial to both employees and employers. This is because it can cut down on the amount of vacation time or leave that employees might have to take by allowing them to make up their hours. Depending on your company’s industry, you could offer employees the option to make up work time outside of standard business hours, such as during the evening or on weekends.
The idea of promoting workplace flexibility is backed by research conducted by Lonnie Golden, Julia Henly, and Susan Lambert. According to the researchers, “Controlling for a worker’s income bracket and work hours duration, having work schedule flexibility in the form of an ability to take time off during the work day and, to a somewhat lesser extent, to vary starting and quitting times daily, are both associated with greater happiness...Policies and practices that promote more employee-centered flexible working time may not only help workers alleviate work-life time conflicts, but also promote worker well-being generally, especially among hourly-paid workers.”
7. Avoid Unnecessary Communication with Employees Outside of Work
If possible, your company should try to refrain from calling, texting, or emailing employees outside of working hours. Contacting employees outside of work too frequently can lead them to feel stressed or resentful of the company. It’s important that your company bear this in mind, as employee burnout can lead to poor productivity among workers.
You should seek to avoid employee burnout at all costs, as it has negative repercussions for both employees and employers. According to Alan Kohl, these repercussions can include things such as, “fatigue, mood swings, irritability and a decrease in work performance.” Symptoms of burnout often start with excessive work, full calendar schedules, and poor management, which can then lead to exhaustion, irritability, and poor work performance. Company culture feeds directly into this cycle, and low morale can spread like a virus throughout the workforce.
8. Cross-Train Employees
Cross-training employees can help to ensure that everyone is able to take breaks as needed. You should seek to train in such a way that multiple employees have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform each task within your organization. Not only will this help to prevent employee burnout, but it will also help to keep operations running smoothly if an employee must unexpectedly take time off. Cross-training employees is a highly beneficial move for both the employees themselves and the company.
9. Encourage Employees to Set Goals Related to Work-Life Balance
Your company culture should encourage employees to set goals for their work lives, their personal lives, and their pursuit of a healthy work-life balance. Setting goals for themselves will help to encourage employees to pursue good choices in all aspects of their lives. These pursuits will benefit your company as employees seek to be their very best selves both personally and professionally.
10. Remember the Benefits of Encouraging Work-Life Balance
A healthy work-life balance for your employees can have substantial benefits when it comes to overall employee productivity. Likewise, an unhealthy work-life balance can be detrimental to an organization. According to Eric Garton, poor work-life balance can lead to things such as, “low productivity across organizations, high turnover, and the loss of the most capable talent. Executives need to own up to their role in creating the workplace stress that leads to burnout—heavy workloads, job insecurity, and frustrating work routines that include too many meetings and far too little time for creative work.”
Because of this, employers should strive to create work environments that promote a healthy work-life balance. It’s key to remember that doing so benefits all parties, as it creates an environment in which employees want to work and in which they want to perform to the highest extent of their abilities. Studies found that when companies prioritize a positive and collaborative work culture over a high-pressure, heads-down environment, workers are not only happier but also more productive and engaged. Furthermore, companies like Zappos found that giving employees creative freedom increased productivity and led to new, innovative product ideas.
As Alan Kohll states, “By creating a work environment that prioritizes work-life balance, employers can save money and maintain a healthier, more productive workforce.”
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