More than ever we’re looking for that balance between our personal and professional lives. But doesn’t it sometimes feel that success in one means sacrifice in another?
It’s virtually a cliché now to say that employees with a good work-life balance are happier, healthier and more productive. As the tide of modern working practice rolls on, it’s almost a given that business leaders understand the importance of their employees living balanced lives, even if it’s not a working reality.
While free fruit, flexitime and a visiting masseuse would certainly take the edge off a tough week for most of us, if employee perks aren’t accompanied by smart systems and processes that break down everyday barriers, are these benefits really helping to strike that balance? Or do they just serve to pacify the pressures that employees are facing on a longer-term basis?
What does a balanced life mean in today’s world?
The phrase ‘achieving work-life balance’ is well-worn, yet difficult to materialise. With increased workloads, many employees feel they’re frantically teetering on the career ladder.
Some don’t have the tools to do their job effectively, remember the last time they had lunch somewhere other than their desk or when they last got home in time to put the kids to bed. For some, stability can feel like a distant dream.
Interactions in all aspects of life – friends, family, hobbies and work – help us grow personally and professionally, and stress in one can permeate them all.
Physical, spiritual and emotional development plays an incredibly important role in making us feel more rounded and productive as people. But exercise, meditation and socialising should be embraced for the benefits they bring individually, not solely how they help us escape from workplace stresses that could and should be put right.
While an employer can’t directly influence these areas outside of work, they can help by allowing staff opportunities to manage all aspects of their life inside of work effectively.
What can employers do to increase productivity and welfare?
Simplified, the happier and healthier an employee is, the more productive, engaged and loyal they are. Their mental and physical health is better too.
And though work and home can’t always be emotionally separated, there are some simple solutions that can be explored to keep employees as untroubled as possible.
Automation = less burnout
When stress overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, burnout occurs. If the issues causing this can be identified and discussed, there may be opportunities to find a relatively easy solution.
There’s often a double benefit in looking at areas of a role that could be automated. The employee’s day-to-day becomes much more manageable and time starts to free up. The employer benefits from a happier employee who’s more focused on the strategic elements of their role.
Encourage agile working
Another natural outcome of the increased use of technology is flexibility. Web-based tech can allow employees to work from home or on the go. As more companies are adopting the remote-working approach to reduce overheads, those who still have the comfort of central offices could look to introduce a working-from-home policy.
Email is pretty much instant, and video conferencing means teams can be put in touch wherever an office is based. Teams can work better over distances and share projects more easily – and employees love it. Overall it squeezes the most out of the working day without draining the juice from your team.
The perks are important, too!
If your employees are doing a fantastic job, why not show them your appreciation? We spoke briefly about non-financial benefits companies tend to bring in to attract candidates, but they’re also great for retaining existing employees.
Once your internal systems and processes are as complementary to the working day as possible, a perks package can really sweeten the deal. The right balance between the everyday and over-and-above gestures can help employees feel appreciated and even be the catalyst for that all-important work-life balance. It cannot be stressed enough, that without ways for employees to carry out their day-to-day roles effectively, these perks, while attractive, are unlikely to be enough to keep anyone truly satisfied professionally.
Balance? A win-win…
Balance creates happy and engaged employees, promotes good health and maintains physical and mental wellbeing for individuals. Staff stay longer at companies where they feel happier. Churn is reduced, and fewer sick days are taken from burnout.
And it’s not just about front line employees – business leaders also need time to recharge and get their life in balance to remain effective leaders, and of course, lead by example.
You have one life and a group of valuable employees that help strengthen the work you do each day. It’s important to listen and notice the warning signs when the tipping point goes out of balance. There will always be new challenges to face, but as long as there are people willing to find solutions, your workplace – and your workforce – can become unstoppable.