It’s always been necessary for people to work to provide food and shelter for themselves. As you know, things haven’t changed much regarding this. We still have to work to survive. While the struggles are likely vastly different from those of past centuries, we still struggle. Too little sleep, stressful deadlines, tedious commutes, interpersonal conflicts with co-workers and managers, and lack of attention to relationships and goals in our personal lives can all make working difficult.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
In a LinkedIn study, 38% of 1,000 working adults said they struggle finding a good work-life balance. But when we talk about work-life balance, what are we really talking about? Work-life balance looks different for everyone. People have different ideas of how much these two spheres should overlap. Some people think that a good work-life balance includes no work at all. Others feel like it’s bringing their pet to work. Some people grapple with dedicating enough time to families while others want to spend time on hobbies. When you look more closely at what may have seemed to be a simple problem, it becomes apparent that this issue is fraught with complexities.
Work-life balance is perhaps more about being able to do the things you need and want to do. It means spending more time with those who matter in your life. It looks like achieving your goals. All this while balancing the fact that work is a necessary part of life—and a large part at that.
What Does Balance Look Like?
So as an employer, what can you do to provide as much balance for your employees while still getting in return the fair balance of work and commitment your company needs?
Being understaffed is a major cause of employees saying their work-life balance is askew. After all, you can’t have much balance in your life if you’re short staffed and picking up everyone’s shifts.
One of the best ways to deal with being short staffed is to explain to the staff what you are doing to help remedy the situation. If you have an employee referral program, share it with your staff. While it’s unlikely a staffing problem will be resolved quickly, addressing the issue and showing your staff that it is a main priority can help your employees feel heard and encouraged.
A Better Feedback Loop
Regularly survey your staff and get actionable feedback. Explain to your staff why you are requesting feedback. Learn from the feedback what the most important issues are. Show that you value the feedback by honestly and transparently resolving concerns.
Flexible Schedules & DTO
Where permitted, flexible work schedules are incredibly effective for creating work life balance. Having core business hours where everyone is expected to be present and flex hours so people can manage their schedule helps people feel more in control of their lives. Many businesses have gone to a Discretionary Time Off (DTO) system rather than a Paid Time Off (PTO) system.
Teach managers to learn about their employees' personal lives. Understand what challenges they face when trying to balance their workload and personal lives. Just having someone who understands goes a long way.
A leader's example can make a big difference in how your employees feel about success at work. If upper management or a manager works long or non-standard hours, it's likely the employees will feel they must work longer hours, take work home with them, or be available to answer calls and emails at all hours in order to succeed. While this may sound like a way to increase dedication, you may find it can lead to burn out.
Encourage Learning & Training
Part of work-life balance comes from feeling you are making progress toward your goals. Oftentimes, one of those goals is getting an education or continuing to learn new things each day in your job. Promote on-site training and workshops to teach your employees new skills. Provide cross training to help seasoned employees learn more about other positions and to give them a more well-rounded skill set. Encourage educational opportunities at a local college or through online courses.
The amount of stress you deal with at work affects your work-life balance. Encourage employees to stop keeping To Do lists in their head and instead write down the things they need to remember. Freeing up your brain from the stress of forgetting is a good place to start. Teach your employees how to work smarter by looking for ways to be more efficient. Provide an area where employees can de-stress during lunch, for instance, a walking path around your building, workout room, or a meditation space.
Balancing Work with The Rest of Life
Remind employees that creating a better work-life balance doesn’t just come down to what happens at work. There are things they can do outside of work to improve their work-life balance as well.
We all have the same 24 hours each day. However, some people are able to accomplish much more in that time than others. The way you manage your free time can greatly affect how you feel about the balance in your life.
How You Measure Balance
Author and speaker, Nigel Marsh, said in his 2010 Ted Talk that we need to be careful about the time frame we use to judge our balance. “We need to be realistic,” Marsh said. “You can’t do it all in one day. We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life…A day is too short, ‘after I retire’ is too long. There’s got to be a middle way.”
Marsh said we need to approach balance in a balanced way. “The small things matter. Being balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life.” Marsh ended by saying that we need to change our idea of success from making the most money to that of a life well-lived.