It’s no easy task achieving work-life balance in today’s unpredictable and fast-paced business world. As we’ve become more dependent on technology and social media, it’s also becoming difficult to separate work from our personal lives.
We recently conducted a global study to discover which countries ranked the best for overall work-life balance and cross-compared the findings with the latest World Happiness Report.
Our study found two-thirds of the world’s happiest nations also rate the highest for work-life balance.
While the UK appears in both reports, it is only 28th in the world for work-life balance and 19th for overall happiness.
Research suggests there is still room for improvement when it comes to businesses promoting better work-life balance for their employees.
So, how can employers help staff achieve this and boost overall workplace well-being?
1. Encourage time off
The American Sociological Association suggests a larger number of vacations lead to a decline in the psychological distress of people.
Holidays are not a luxury, they are a necessity. A break from work will provide your employees with the chance to switch off and enjoy themselves. They’re a great opportunity to recuperate and recharge and it’s essential you communicate this to your teams, to improve staff productivity and focus when they return to the office.
An effective way to encourage staff to take time off is to implement a mandatory system, where it is required staff to use up their entire annual leave each year.
2. Implement short breaks
The human body was not designed to stare at a bright screen for hours on end without any downtime. To combat this, it’s essential to encourage small breaks throughout the day for your staff.
Why not consider installing a social area in your office, where people can get away from their desks and take their minds off work?
Consider encouraging light exercise as well, to break up the day. Maybe you could introduce walking meetings outside the office or a lunchtime running club. Some leading companies invite meditation practitioners to run internal seminars, to enable staff to learn the best coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, during particularly busy periods.
3. Ask employees for guidance
If you are struggling to come up with innovative ways to improve your employees’ work-life balance, why not ask for their input?
If you notice people are struggling to find balance, then find out what changes they think would improve their situation. Collaborating with teams will provide more insights into the way they think and feel.
To help facilitate these discussions, consider having regularly scheduled meetings, or implement real-time feedback programmes. This way you can accurately gauge how your people are feeling and make adjustments to ensure they have the right balance.
4. Practice what you preach
If you tell your teams to leave on time and not work over the weekend, but you’re sending them emails during these periods it sends mixed messages and puts pressure on your staff to mirror your working hours.
It’s important to respect the balance and privacy of employees when they are not in the office. This means you should avoid contacting them outside work hours and allow them to fully switch off and recharge.
5. Offer flexible working
A flexible schedule does not mean employees can come and go at will, which is usually an employer’s main concern. But it doesn’t need to be complex either. In fact, it can mean something as simple as introducing employee choice when it comes to the start and end times of their working day.
More sophisticated flexible schedules such as a four-day work week or telecommuting require more planning, but flexible work schedules are a cornerstone of work balance, so they may still be worth considering.
6. Time off is exactly that
A Mental Health Foundation survey revealed over 40 percent of employees resented their current job role because the long hours meant they were neglecting other aspects of life outside of work.
With this in mind, it’s important to set up the expectation, when an employee is on holiday, they should give themselves a proper break and enjoy spending time on leisure activities.
As an employer, make sure you honor their annual leave and don’t contact them unless it’s truly an emergency. Give the staff a chance to relax so they return with their batteries fully charged.
7. Don’t expect overtime as the norm
Don’t confuse commitment, engagement, and dedication with 60-70 hour weeks.
It’s okay to expect employees to occasionally work long hours if an activity is particularly time-sensitive (i.e.: a new product launch, or a trade show for a few days). However, employees can’t sustain an extraordinary level of energy and long overtime hours as a constant work expectation.
Staff will check out, burn out, and even leave if long hours and extraordinary effort are considered normal.
8. Consider job share or part-time options
Not all jobs require a full-time employee. Consider the talent that may be available to your organization if you hired employees for part-time hours.
With the appropriate two people, job sharing can also work effectively for employees whom you want to retain while they have to prioritize other personal commitments like raising a family.
Creative businesses should consider a multitude of avenues to support employees in their quest for work-life balance.