With summer just around the corner, have you thought about carving out personal time from your office life? “Work-life balance” is a hot buzzword amongst corporations these days, but acknowledging its importance and actually putting it into practice are two different things. Try these 10 tips for promoting a healthy work-life balance for your employees:
You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it exists. Sure, you know that a good work-life balance is important to your employees, but that doesn’t help you figure out how to accomplish this. So, who better to tell you how to to improve their balance than your employees themselves? Have your workers fill out a survey about various balance-related factors of your company – hours worked, flexible scheduling, support for working parents, etc. This will help you identify the specific areas in which your company needs to improve, allowing you to focus on implementing achievable solutions for problems that actually affect your employees.
One of the best ways to promote healthy work-life balance is to actually teach your employees about it. Offer seminars on what work-life balance is, why it’s important, and different things they can do to achieve it. You can host the seminar yourself, have them take a webinar, or even hire a professional to come give the presentation for you. Motorola, for instance, allows employees to participate in their LIVESMART program, which includes seminars on health and wellness, advice on commute management, and even free will preparation. Educating your employees will give them the tools they need to help themselves.
As an employer, part of your responsibility is to look after your employees’ well-being, in addition to just their job performance. A key part of this is learning to spot burnout. Chances are, your employees aren’t going to admit to you directly that they’re feeling overworked or stressed (they don’t want you thinking they can’t handle their job, after all). This means that most of the time, it will probably be up to you to recognize when your employees need more balance. Signs can include excessive absenteeism, increased error rates, and clear physical exhaustion. If you spot an employee who might be burning out, suggest they leave early one day, or try not to give them any extra projects for a bit.
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Allowing your employees to have flexible work hours or days, often referred to as “flextime,” is a great way to encourage a healthy work-life balance at your office. There are several different options for flextime: you can give a weekly hour requirement, but allow them to space the time out however they choose (10 hours on Tuesday but 6 on Wednesday, etc.) as long as they reach the required total, you can offer an hour range (35-40 hours per week, for example), or even have no requirement so long as the necessary work gets done. Flextime like this will allow your employees to have a life outside of work as well – they can get their work done and still attend their child’s soccer game or go to that housewarming party. This shows your employees that you value them as people, not just as workers.
In addition to letting employees set their own schedules, consider allowing them to work from home at least a day or two. While there might be concern that employees won’t be as productive from home, which is completely understandable, the truth is actually quite the opposite. Companies as large as Apple and as small as UrbanBound (a Chicago-based, 52-employee company that provides web-based relocation software) are allowing their employees to telecommute, and are reaping the rewards. In fact, studies show that workers are up to 13% more productive working from home than working at the office. Plus, this gives employees the chance to get things done that might have required them to take a full day off of work. For example, working parents might need to stay home with a sick child, or someone could have a doctor appointment that was only available in the middle of the week. Supporting telecommuting will allow them to take care of their personal needs, while still getting work done.
Working more and being productive are not necessarily one in the same. For example, Britain has longer working hours than their European neighbors, yet still has lower productivity. In addition to performance concerns, working long hours has proven to be damaging to employee morale – The Mental Health Foundation reports that when working long hours, 27% of employees feel depressed, 34% feel anxious and 58% feel irritable. So instead of encouraging your employees to work longer hours, instead encourage them to work more efficiently. This will not only solicit better work quality from your employees, but will keep morale high as well.
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Trying to maintain a balance between home life and work life is no simple task. So why not make it easier on your employees and bring their home to work? Sponsor office events, like LinkedIn’s Bring In Your Parents Day, where employees are encouraged to invite their families (or a friend – working parents aren’t the only ones who need balance!). Events like these will give employees the chance to spend time with their loved ones, but also give you a chance to get to know your workers a little better. Plus, involving their families will make your employees feel you value them as human beings (rather than just workers), which creates a better working atmosphere for everyone.
An integral part of work-life balance is prioritizing health. Long work hours (and frequently, long commutes) often force employees to sacrifice health and fitness. However, as an employer, there are a few things you can do to help your workers maintain healthy lifestyles. For example, you can offer discount gym memberships for a fitness center near the office (this way, it will be more affordable and convenient for employees). You could also hold optional classes at work (think office-wide yoga at 3 pm on Tuesdays), or sponsor company club sports teams – this promotes work-life balance and your company’s image at the same time!
In addition to physical fitness, encouraging your employees’ to maintain healthy mental fitness is just as important. Allowing them time and space to pursue creative projects (or even think more creatively about current projects) will not only give them a better sense of balance, but foster the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will benefit your business in the long run. Google, for example, offers a 20% program, which allows developers to spend 20% of their time on creative side projects.Your workers will appreciate a break from the norm and a chance to show you what else they have to offer beyond their day-to-day duties.
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Even if you let employees know that you support their healthy work-life balance, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will take responsibility for it themselves. We’ve all seen it – the boss says employees don’t have set hours, but the workers stay until 8 pm anyways; employees are given unlimited PTO, but they never actually take a vacation… balance is a lot easier said than done. So, lead by example. Head out of the office by 5 on certain days. Say you won’t be answering emails after work hours. If your employees see that you value personal time, they won’t feel guilty for prioritizing theirs.
Most conversations surrounding work-life balance are focused on the employees: what can they do to set their boundaries and priorities. However, as an employer, encouraging a healthy balance shows your employees that you don’t just value their job performance, but that you respect and value them as people.
This post was originally published on November 5, 2015, and has since been updated.