Work-life balance may sound like just another buzzword. But it’s grounded in solid research. Employees are not robots. They can’t perform at their peak if they’re exhausted, burned out, or worried about what’s happening in their personal lives. And increasingly, potential new hires are refusing to apply at companies that don’t offer a strong work-life balance. Yet when you have business goals to meet, it can be tough to figure out how to provide better balance. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve work-life balance throughout your organization.
What Is Work-Life Balance and Why Does It Matter?
To understand work-life balance, think of a juggler. When there are multiple balls in the air, the juggler must give equal attention to all of them. If he focuses too strongly on a single ball, the others will begin to fall. It’s often possible for a talented juggler to recover from a single slip-up, but over time, if one ball is pulling too much attention, all the balls will eventually come crashing down.
Your employees are constantly juggling multiple obligations. In addition to work, they are dealing with family, friends, health concerns, and so much more. Work-life balance allows people to focus on one thing at a time. Like the juggler, people can more easily and successfully keep all the balls in the air when no single item (such as work) pulls too much of their focus.
Offering work-life balance is a win-win for everyone. Your employees will be healthier, happier, better rested, and more loyal to the company. Your organization will see such benefits as increased productivity, stronger employee retention, and improved morale.
Honor Natural Biorhythms
One of the easiest ways to start developing a better work-life balance for your employees is to honor their natural biorhythms. Some people are natural early birds. They wake up rested and ready to go. But their energy levels may start to dip after lunch, and they may be spent by late afternoon. Others take a long time to get going in the morning. Their brains don’t fully kick in until lunchtime, but they are then happy to work on challenging tasks throughout the afternoon and evening.
Whether your team is onsite, remote, or hybrid, you can start to honor these natural biorhythms by limiting meetings and other time-sensitive tasks. Set deadlines and allow your employees to decide how best to meet them. Allow people to respond to messages from their coworkers or supervisors within 12 or 24 hours rather than immediately. Provide tools for asynchronous collaboration so that each person can do their most difficult tasks when they are the most awake and focused.
Provide Paid Time Off (PTO)
An important part of work-life balance is the freedom to attend to non-work related needs. Paid time off lets your team members care for loved ones, stay home when they don’t feel well, or simply take a much-needed vacation. They’ll return to work more rested, less stressed, and better able to fully focus on their responsibilities.
Of course, paid time off does no good if people don’t use it. Limit carryover and set a “use it or lose it” policy for the majority of earned hours each year. Make your PTO approval process as simple and liberal as you can, and remind your team members throughout the year to take time off.
Remote or hybrid work offers more opportunities for work-life balance. For example, employees can stay home with a sick child or take care of personal errands without taking a full day off work. Other flexible options include compressed work weeks, job sharing, or additional shift options.
Improve Workflow Management
Many businesses experience seasonal peaks and dips. If this is the case for your office, consider offering extra time off during the slow season to make up for the inevitable overtime during your busier months. Perhaps you could shut down on a slow Friday afternoon or even offer a fully paid week off right in the middle of your seasonal decline.
Incentivize Healthy Behaviors
A big part of a healthy work-life balance is self-care, but sometimes employees need a little extra push. Consider partnering with a local gym to provide employee discounts, offering gas station discounts to those who finish an onsite yoga class, or providing an extra afternoon off for those who represent your business in a local 5K run.
Team bonding is an excellent way to encourage work-life balance. Get out of the office and treat your team members to an escape room, basketball game, or picnic in the park. Consider allowing them to invite their family members as well.
Normalize Saying No
In many cases, a decline in work-life balance is slow and insidious. People sign up for extra projects or agree to help coworkers with their tasks, and suddenly they’re spending way too much time at the office. Teach your employees that it’s okay to say no to extra work, and how to say no in a way that won’t burn bridges.
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