15 Feb Work-Life Balance : The Evolution
In our grandparents’ day, they didn’t need to worry about the concept of a work-life balance. They went to work, spent their eight or 10 or 12 hours doing their job, then came home to spend time with their families.
As technology has made it possible for people to be reachable at all hours, the line between the two halves of our lives blurred, to the point where people felt the need to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even while on vacation.
But that’s changing, and it’s for the best for everyone. Younger workers, especially those considered millennials, are starting their careers with the mindset that work is for work, home is for home and family and the two halves need to be clearly separated by well-defined boundaries.
Sometimes there will be an emergency, a real red-light-flashing situation in which you might have to allow a little bit of work to creep into your time at home; you might also have something come up during work hours pertaining to your family that demands your attention while on the clock.
Flexibility is important — one-time events are understandable, but boundaries must be held.
The pandemic also brought into clear focus for workers of all ages the need to spend time with the people who matter most and that work isn’t the only important thing in people’s lives.
Here’s why work-life balance is important and why honoring it can improve your employee’s productivity.
- Boundaries help prevent burnout. Leaving work at work means people have a chance to go home, relax, think about other things and stop focusing so hard on the responsibilities of the workplace. The need to be “on” all the time is mentally and physically exhausting and can increase a person’s stress level; breaks are vitally important to clear a person’s mind, help them relax and think things through without the stress and pressure of a deadline looming over their shoulder when they should be thinking about other things.
- It’s better for everyone’s health. Working long hours of overtime, taking work home over a weekend or while on vacation, all can add to extra stress. We now know how bad stress is to our overall health, increasing blood pressure, causing people to lose sleep, eat less healthy foods and adopt other bad habits that can make people feel sluggish and unhealthy. The ability to rest, to relax, to take part in hobbies and activities that make people happy are beneficial to a person’s overall health and that means fewer sick days and lost productivity.
- It’s not a crime, or a weakness, to use PTO. If your workers earn paid time off as part of their compensation package, encourage them to use it. Make it clear that time off is respected and will be upheld, with no expectation of responding to messages, emails, phone calls or other work-related matters during vacation unless it’s an actual legitimate emergency. And that goes for everyone, from the manager to the entry-level staffer and all levels of employees in between. PTO is another form of payment that your employees have earned and should be allowed to use whenever they like, so long as they abide by the systems put in place by your company.
- Be flexible when possible. Not every company will be able to embrace this across the board, but the ability to work with employees to be flexible about their working hours is worth considering. People who need to drop kids off at school might want to start a little later in the day; people who have to pick kids up might want to start a little earlier. If there are family care situations, the need to have a little more flexibility in order to deal with medical appointments deserve some consideration. As long as it’s handled in a way that’s fair to those employees without extra demands, flexible schedules can benefit everyone.
- Focus on employee engagement. Gone are the days where people come to work with the mindset that it’s worth putting up with a toxic environment because it’s a paycheck. Employees will leave an environment in which they feel overworked, unappreciated, over-tasked or just plain unliked. If they don’t feel the environment is good for their mental health or their careers, they’ll leave. It’s important to take care of your employees as whole people: show gratitude and appreciation, provide information on opportunities for health and wellness activities and education, acknowledge that your company’s success is because of their work. Employees who aren’t engaged will not hesitate to leave because they feel replaceable and unimportant.
As a manager, it’s important to live and lead by example when it comes to taking time off, not responding to work matters when you’re off the clock and by being compassionate and appreciative to those who report to you. If you’re showing that you value your own work-life balance and encourage your team to do the same, it will go a long way toward reducing stress and improving everyone’s mental health.
If you’re looking to add to your team or for additional advice on how to be a great leader in 2023, call LeadingEdge Personnel. We have great candidates eager to get to work and help lend their talents and abilities to your team and they’re ready to start. Call LeadingEdge Personnel today!