Improving work-life balance: help your staff hit the sweet spot
There was a time a short while ago when improving work-life balance was unheard of. When working crazy hours was celebrated. And those celebrating those crazy hours were venerated.
LinkedIn would be full of high-flying powerhouse execs would talk of burning the midnight oil. Whilst simultaneously being on fire and raring to go for a breakfast meeting at 6am.
Sound a little unsustainable? Well, pack a year’s worth of that kind of behaviour into your schedule. Add in working lunches and being forever contactable via email and mobile. And then there’s simply being good at your job—and all this becomes not just unsustainable. It’s not healthy. And that’s why it’s no longer celebrated in the way it once was. Improving work-life balance is what it’s all about, now.
Companies are now not just focussing on being more human, empathetic and understanding, they’re also seeing the longer-term picture. And that picture is one of nurturing good employees and retaining those employees to create a stable, better company than the one that currently exists.
And there are things, as an employer you can do, or encourage–as well as making sure people aren’t burning the work candle at both ends–to help people re-balance.
It’s true that, as human beings, many of us thrive on a certain level of hard work and the adrenalin rush of momentary stress. But the key here is that’s it’s just that: temporary. Long-term, studies state that stress can cause damage to the brain, with particular emphasis on a negative impact to memory. On the other hand, exercise actually improves cognitive function–and that’s not all …
Encouraging staff to exercise regularly has many benefits. According to the NHS, exercise is not only good for improving brain function, but it can also cut the risk of major illness by up to 50%. And that includes heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and strokes. Staying fit and healthy is not only good for the individual, but also reduces the number of sick days. Which, in turn, reduces the pressure on the rest of your workforce. Win, win.
Getting staff members away from their desks on team-bonding days or nights, seems a little counter-intuitive to an article about techniques about improving work-life balance. But it’s amazing how much more connected people can feel after spending time together, doing something other than what their job descriptions call for. And when they feel more connected, they feel much better about their work. But there are also small quick gains that people can make to improve their work-life balance …
Ditch the email
Implement a policy of not checking emails out of working hours and weekends – or go even further and don’t allow work email to be installed on staff mobiles at all. This, to some company heads, may sound radical, but you could trial it over a period and get feedback from your workforce.
It’s all about expectations
If you want to change the culture to improve everyone’s work-life balance, it’s up to you to lead the way. So agree, as a board, that you won’t expect people to answer emails out of hours. Agree that you don’t expect them to work longer than is absolutely necessary or even be seen to be staying later or arriving before everyone else.
Improving work-life balance is also about thanking your staff for their efforts. Let them know you value all that they do. Be aware of the spectrum of ways you can thank people, too. Sometimes a simple email will do. Other times, you may be grateful your company has invested in an employee rewards programme. And then there’s those times in between when you’d like to be a bit more reactive. That’s where a gift card, with which you dictate the amount and how many you want, comes in really handy: freedom, convenience, flexibility––and no ties.
So with the Asda for Business gift card, for example, as well as being reloadable, you can specify different amounts and various values placed on them. And then use them accordingly. What a great—and responsive way to say thanks to your team.
And because recipients can choose what they want with their card to suit their individual taste, it makes hitting that sweet spot that little bit sweeter.
To conclude, improving work-life balance in the office doesn’t require one, magic bullet, but more of a holistic approach. And that involves not just changing company culture, but creating an environment in which staff feel respected, motivated and rewarded.