Remote work is on the rise. So is burnout. Learn how to foster a supportive culture that encourages work-life balance to protect employees and your business.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of remote work seems to persist, even for professionals who have the option to go back to the office. In October 2021, Pew Research Center reported that 45% of full-time employees worked partly or fully remotely. What’s more, 90% of full-time workers want to maintain remote work to some degree going forward.
Maybe some of these workers are part of your workforce. You might have a fully remote staff or select team members who work from home part of the time and in the office the rest.
While remote work is desirable to so many, it also poses risks to productivity and engagement. CNBC reported that 69% of employees have experienced burnout symptoms, like stress and exhaustion, while working from home. They cite pressures like not taking enough time off to recharge and frequently overworking.
When you have remote workers, there are some things you can do to support their efforts and make them feel like an important part of the team. Learn what remote-work life balance looks like and how to foster it for your workers.
What is a healthy work-life balance?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, a healthy work-life balance means feeling content and fulfilled in both one’s work and leisure realms. Achieving a work-life balance is a constant journey. Some examples of what it might look like include:
- Having enough time to exercise, eat nutritiously, and get adequate sleep
- Feeling stimulated, but not overwhelmed, by your work
- Taking sick time when you need to, without feeling guilty
We created a list of work-life balance questions professionals can ask to check in on themselves. Things like clear boundaries and expectations, support for physical and mental health, and a workplace culture that prioritizes work-life balance can help team members achieve it.
Things like clear boundaries and expectations, support for physical and mental health, and a workplace culture that prioritizes work-life balance can help team members achieve it.
How do you create work/life balance for remote employees?
Remote employees today don’t necessarily clock in at 9 and out at 5. They might have varied schedules and be juggling at-home responsibilities in-between completing work tasks.
Remote workers also have less in-person face time with managers and team members. They rely on technology to communicate and complete their tasks on deadline.
Knowing what work-life balance looks like, here are ways to support it with remote employees.
1. Create clear schedule expectations
Managers should be crystal-clear regarding when employees need to be available and at their computers. If you enable asynchronous schedules, it’s important to define the time window within which employees are expected to:
- Respond to emails
- Be available via text
- Return phone calls
You can use a common scheduling calendar to create meetings and send invitations. If you have remote employees who are working around the globe, be mindful of time zone differences in order to set meeting times as conveniently for as many people as possible.
2. Provide reasonable workloads
Nitpicking on hours can increase employee stress; a more flexible, results-focused workload may be what your employees prefer.
Having the ability to work on any time schedule you want is a major benefit for many remote workers. But it’s important that managers don’t pile on unrealistic expectations that cause workers to work 24/7.
Most online project management tools, like Workfront or ClickUp, enable project leads to estimate project hours and enable workers to accurately track their time. As projects close, you can get a more accurate view of what a time estimate for similar projects should be.
You can also choose to focus on work results and productivity, rather than hours worked. Nitpicking on hours can increase employee stress; a more flexible, results-focused workload may be what your employees prefer.
3. Set an example
Empower managers to take care of their work-life balance to set an example for their teams. This could look like:
- Sharing plans for time off
- Taking sick days and delegating to backup when needed
- Blocking off “focus time” on calendars to work on projects and avoid meetings
- Encouraging employees to remember to use paid time off when needed
Speaking of paid time off, employees rely on paid sick and personal leave to tend to their health and have fulfilling lives. Make sure these are part of your benefits, including for remote workers.
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4. Check in with workers
Your employees’ managers are typically the most influential factor impacting their engagement at work. They account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement, according to Gallup research.
They can be on the frontlines to support work-life balance for their team members. You might encourage managers to have regular one-on-one meetings with their employees so they can talk about issues like work-life balance and how you as an employer can better support them.
As we reported in how managers can spot employee burnout, leaders frequently cause that burnout due to how they treat and manage others. Train managers to interact inclusively, create manageable workload expectations, and communicate effectively with their employees.
5. Implement employee feedback
Speaking of checking in with workers, each business environment is unique. What your employees need to achieve remote-work life balance may be totally different than what’s needed at another company.
Survey your employees at least annually to learn about their views or your workplace culture and policies. Directly ask them how you can better support their work-life balance, or offer helpful perks such as childcare stipends or paid gym memberships.
When you take employee feedback and implement it, you can help team members feel heard and supported. Be sure to track metrics like employee engagement, retention, and productivity when you implement changes so you can see how they affect your bottom line.
You play an important role in your employees’ work-life balance
Employees want and need a work-life balance for optimal health and to produce optimal results for your business. As their employer, you have the opportunity to implement useful benefits and policies that support remote-work life balance.
Train managers to spot burnout. Prevent it by proactively checking in with employees. Talk with your workforce to get their suggestions on what you can do to help.