How to Encourage a Better Work-Life Balance in Your Employees

Team Effectiveness

5 Initiatives For a Happier Workplace in 2023 and Beyond.

How to Encourage a Better Work-Life Balance in Your Employees

5 Initiatives For a Happier Workplace in 2023 and Beyond.

The expression “work-life balance” is self-explanatory. Or, at least it should be. We hear about it all the time.

Generally, it refers to how employees feel able even out their personal and professional lives. What is the ideal work-life balance? Is there one? That may be open to interpretation. If you love your job all the time, if you perform at peak levels and gain immense satisfaction from it, you may find this blog somewhat baffling. For many, work means so much more than a means to an end or the path towards financial security

Ideally, everything is rosy every day. But at FiveRivers Consulting we live in the real world, and we know our everyday lives are a mixture of shade and light.  

As HR Transformation specialists, we meet organisations with staff under pressure and facing burnout. Stress often runs through businesses like letters in a stick of Brighton rock. The causes vary, but in our view, often it boils down to a lack of effective data, leading to inefficiencies and below-par productivity.

Hence, why we do what we do.

Work-life balance is a topical issue, not least due to the increased amount of technology that removes the physical location of our workplaces. You can literally take your work home with you on your mobile phone, laptop or tablet. The risk here is that you, and your team are permanently “on”, with the expectation that more work needs to be done in less time. And at all times of the day.

Also, this issue concerns leadership and setting an example. We noted Jacinda Ardern’s recent resignation. Why? Because her decision to step away from her role as New Zealand’s Prime Minister is, we feel, a true “walking the walk” exercise, and one about which we await further developments with interest.

Work looms large in our lives, its roots spreading out beneath and beyond us.

The recent pandemic may even have made things worse; the pressure to extend the WFH working day is still with us, we think.

The World Economic Forum agrees with us:

The Problem

Employers expect results, and rightly so.

But, when there’s all-hours pressure, there’s less time spent at home. Also on being “present” when with our loved ones, constantly checking phones and so on.

Work hard, and now work harder. The result? A reduction in smart working because they’re just exhausted.  

They’re disengaged, tired and unproductive. They make mistakes. Work is a tough slog, a chore. And it never ends. Look out for that resignation letter on your desk quite soon. Also, you may as well start anticipating an expensive recruitment and onboarding campaign to replace them.

What Should You Aim for?

In our opinion, your objective should be a healthy, sustainable working environment that minimises stress, fatigue and burnout.

In other words, on the weighing scales of life, work and personal time are, on the whole evened out; stable, steady and equal. Work plays an essential role, but doesn’t overwhelm, crush or harm anyone’s physical and mental health.

The Solution: You

As a leader, you carry the can.  

Do you want to keep your key people? Help them grow in your organisation. Here are 5 essentials to think about.

1. Offer Flexible, Hybrid and Remote Working

Yet, do it well.

Is your good faith built into your company culture?

Express confidence in your employees’ time management, because everyone wants to be trusted to do a good job and deliver on productivity. And may we advise you NOT to expect an extra hour or two’s work per day?

Knowing that they CAN arrange a dentist’s appointment, skip down to the shops or the gym at lunchtime, or get their boiler fixed is a highly motivating work-life balance enabler.

2. Focus on productivity NOT on hours

An extension to the above point, perhaps.

Nothing could be further from the truth than the myth that fewer hours equal reduced productivity. This isn’t Wall Street, or the sharper, harder side of the 1980s. Greed isn’t good, and neither is a “do more, get more done” approach.

Try to encourage managers to emphasise the completion of a certain task, rather than the length of time he or she expects it to take. Some days it may take longer, but at other times, not.

A wild, crazy stab in the dark but may we go as far as to suggest that employees may not always need to work until their allotted home time, for example?

And, would YOUR organisation consider a four-day working week?

3. Lead by Example

Where you lead, others will follow. Are you a shining example of a healthy work-life balance in your office hours?

Do you leave the office on time, or are you still toiling away at 6.30pm with no sign of leaving? Do you send emails over the weekend? Apologies, but this isn’t useful. Why? Because nobody will feel they can leave until you do.

4. Review workloads regularly – with data

Are you entirely up to speed with the processes in your business?

If you’re not sure, what seems like a small task could in actually take a full day, and require the input of several others. Some members of staff may have more capacity and space than others. Too much work equals stress. Too little work is also stressful, as they may feel bored, or exposed.

In our experience, overworked or underworked staff may not raise this as an issue. They’ll soldier on regardless, or try to.  

Timely, accurate and current data could be the key to unlocking a better sense of balance.

You may lack useful absence data, your reports may not be adding value, or perhaps your team are firefighting. With robust HR technology, those gaps in your technology infrastructure could be filled in, with people, processes and resources working at peak efficiency, and freeing up your team’s working day to focus on supporting the needs of the business.

You can read all about absence data in one of our previous blogs.

Ask your staff regularly to let you or their line managers know whether they’re overworked. Or, even if they’d like to take on more challenging work. Good data will help you to do this.

5. Examine your benefits package

We could discuss this important topic over an entire blog, and here we’re not talking about what you pay your staff. Regarding health and wellbeing, have you considered the following:

• Gym membership. Yes, the most obvious candidate, but well worth considering.

• Free on-site yoga or Pilates classes. Namaste.

• Discounts for local services, eg dry cleaning

• A free neck and shoulder massage once a month

If you suspect that the happiness-welfare-comfort factors in your company could do some improvements, the above could be some positive food for thought.

In summary, it’s essential to realise that people’s emotional wellbeing – their thoughts, feelings and emotions – relates directly and explicitly to their mental health. Happiness isn’t just a feel-good concept. It’s what you need, and want in everyone who works with you, and for you.

Your staff are your most valuable asset, and the future of your company lies in their hands.

Thank you!
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