These work-life balance tips can help boost morale and productivity in workplaces where folks are feeling overwhelmed.
A lot of people are feeling overwhelming stress levels as they try to achieve a balance between professional life and personal life. Empowering your employees with more quality time and a more manageable to-do list helps everybody feel better and do better. The work-life balance tips in this article can help.
Record numbers of people are grappling with the question: Is there such a thing as the perfect work-life balance? And if so, how does one get it? One reason that it’s so tricky to find the perfect balance between personal life and professional life is that the scope of those different areas changes over time. Young, single employees fresh out of college are often intent on advancing their career goals and having a vibrant social life after work.
Marriage and children change that outlook significantly; everyday life changes, and continues to do so as children get older. And that realization leads to more questions about work-life balance goals. Women in particular find these quality of life questions challenging as they take on the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities, housework and career demands, even if they’re in a fairly egalitarian partnership. So, how do employers help their employees maintain mental health and achieve work-life balance?
Try these 12 tips for promoting a healthy work-life balance for your employees:
1. Ask workers about their work-life balance needs
Start with a work-life balance survey to learn more about what your employees really need. You might have a general theory about what a proper work-life balance looks like. But you need to know how your employees are actually doing and what they need to achieve work-life balance. You can include things in the survey like work hours, what they need as working parents, and flexible scheduling. The answers can help define specific places where your company can improve.
2. Watch employee stress levels and mental health
Burnout is real, and it can damage both employee health and company productivity. If you are a business owner, you know this from personal experience. Skipping the lunch break, working excess hours, and spending free time on work takes its toll in higher stress levels. The science backs this up too. Excess stress leads to:
- Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Exacerbated anxiety and depression
- Disturbed sleep that can lead to drops in alertness and even IQ
Longer hours don’t always lead to more productivity. When your employees are overstressed, burned out, and suffering from stress-related health issues, this impacts your business. Productivity declines. Your employees are more prone to accidents and injuries on the job. People have to take more sick days for health problems that might have passed by quickly had they been less stressed. In the long run, a company will receive more work from employees who stick to more reasonable work hours and take scheduled vacation time to unwind and recharge.
On the flip side, studies show that when companies work to promote a good work-life balance, the whole organization enjoys the benefits. Employees who feel better are more productive. They feel invested in their work. Retention improves. Absenteeism goes down. Health costs go down and on-the-job injuries and accidents become less common. In other words, a healthy work-life balance is a win-win for everyone.
3. Educate employees about work-life balance
Host a seminar with a work-life balance coach where you can help employees understand that their needs as people matter to the company. Give them tools and permission to understand when they might be reaching burnout. Encourage them to go home at a reasonable hour, take their lunch break, and set boundaries on work hours if they are working remotely.
4. Embrace flextime for work-life balance goals
Flexible work schedules are one way to help employees find the balance they need between personal life and professional life. Flexible scheduling encourages employees to partner with you in finding that balance for themselves in determining how they work most productively. There are many options for flextime schedules. For example, provide a per-week hour requirement, but enable employees to choose when those hours are used (10 hours on Monday, but 6 on Thursday, etc.) Some companies base it on the amount of work accomplished, rather than hours worked. This can be especially helpful for parents who juggle family life with work life. Flextime shows your employees that you value them as human beings, not just as workers.
5. Support telecommuting employees
Even before the pandemic, there were studies showing that telecommuting employees were just as productive, and even more so (by 13% on average), than those working in the office. So, in addition to flexible scheduling, telecommuting is a great option. It can decrease office overhead, and it can help working parents who might have to take off to care for a sick child. Telecommuting gives them the option of staying home while still getting the necessary work done.
6. Spend time working smarter, not harder
Efficiency is about getting more done in a shorter amount of time: working smarter, not harder. Consider that British workers work longer hours than their continental European counterparts, yet have lower productivity, according to a study. Longer hours can lead to exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and irritability. The Guardian reports that shorter, more productive hours spell improved employee mental health and a happier workforce.
7. Set the example of a healthy work-life balance
As a manager or business owner, set a reasonable schedule for yourself too. Show your employees by example that free time and personal time matter and can actually help propel creativity and productivity forward.
8. Encourage the short break, lunch break, and vacation time
As part of your example and education process for employees, show them and remind them to get up and stretch, walk around outside, take a reasonable lunch break, and not forget about their vacation time. It’s unhealthy to sit at a desk for 8 hours without taking regular breaks. Also, have a flexible policy for employees to take time off for major life events without guilt.
9.Let employees bring the home to work
Have a day for employees to bring their kids, parents, nieces, and/or nephews (or a friend) to work for fun activities. In fact, if you have the option, consider providing childcare onsite. This reduces commute time and stress for your employees and can provide peace of mind. Showing that you appreciate your employees for who they are outside of work improves company culture.
10. Promote employee health initiatives
Consider sponsoring employee fitness activities and groups (like office yoga or power walking at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays). Some companies have great success with sports teams that bring family, fun, and exercise together. You could also arrange for discount gym or fitness center memberships near the office. Try company health goals like taking so many steps each day. Of course, any group activity or challenge must be planned to be inclusive of all employees. This means offering options for anyone with disabilities to participate.
11. Promote fun and creativity
Giving employees a chance to flex their creativity muscles is another way to boost their mental health and make work fun. It’s also a great way to foster teamwork, better communication, and solve real problems facing the company. Consider having regular teamwork activities that get your employees laughing, having fun, and thinking outside the box.
12. Foster healthy communication for good work-life balance
Work can be very demanding, and many employees can be tempted to take work home with them, which can put stress on their partners. Encourage employees to be honest with you about whether or not they feel they can take on another project, and make it clear their honesty will not risk their job or advancement opportunities. If they are maxed out, work and home life will suffer. Reward them for being honest and assertive and communicating healthy boundaries.
The fact is, many of our traditional expectations about work and perfection are unhealthy and not productive. Nobody can really “have it all.” Overwork leads to burn out and decreases productivity. The best that companies and employees can do is find a healthy work-life balance.
This post was originally published on November 5, 2015 and has since been updated.