To some employers, the work-life balance of their staff members is little more than a meaningless detail. After all, entrepreneurs and senior managers are usually more preoccupied with running a successful and cost-effective business, than poking their weary heads above the precipice to survey the human elements of their brand.
While this may make sense in the strained and volatile economic climate that has gripped the world, what happens when a disjointed work-life balance begins to impact the productivity of your staff members? It can be a debilitating problem for businesses to cope with, especially since overworked and disengaged employees apparently account for a staggering 87% of the global workforce.
Given the havoc that disengaged employees can wreak within your business venture, helping your staff members achieve a greater work-life balance suddenly seems like the right thing to do. After all, while they may be disengaged for a host of different reasons, a positive work-life balance is known to alleviate stress levels among employees and encourages them to view their job role in an entirely different (and more favourable) perspective.
Unfortunately, knowledge in this instance is not equal to power, as while you may have a new-found respect for your employees' work-life balance this is entirely different to helping them achieve this. You may need to consider the following steps.
1. Implement Flexible Working Hours
The first thing to note is that a healthy work-life-balance can take many forms, depending on the outlook and lifestyle of each individual employee. This can make it hard to introduce viable measures in your company, so it is important to focus on broad and universal changes that will benefit the vast majority of your staff members.
One of your first ports of call is to tackle the occasionally thorny issue of flexible working directives, which as recently as 2014 were restricted to parents with sole or joint custody arrangements. The law has now changed in the UK, however, meaning that flexible working rights are no available to anyone who has completed a meagre 26 weeks of service.
This is not a commonly known fact, primarily because some employers are not always quick to advertise this fact to their staff members (how remiss of them). You can reverse this thinking to empower your employees, not only by promoting the latest flexible working directives but also advising staff members on how to make a formal request.
You should start by reaffirming that not all applications are guaranteed to be accepted, although as an employer you must have specified and legally binding reasons for refusing a request.
Beyond this, advise your employees to afford you as much notice as possible before the change needs to be implemented. Ideally, they should aim to make a formal request three or four months before the need for change, as this enables you as an employer to carefully consider the application and create a contingency plan. This type of concise will aid both parties, helping to drive amicable solutions and build trust within the workplace.
Above all else, this empowers employees to pursue their ideal work-life balance, which in turn will make them more productive and better at their job. So while this may sound like a truly suicidal idea for business leaders, it can actually translate into a more engaged and motivated workforce over time.
2. Use Technology to Drive the Work-life Balance
Ah, technology, the single most polarising concept in the modern business world. While a minority believe that technological advancements (and particularly concepts such as automation) are continuing to eliminate the relevance of humans in the workplace, for example, others see such innovation as being central to making us better and more productive at our jobs.
If you want an example of how technology drives industries and enhances the typical work-life-balance, look no further than the financial marketplace. While brokers were once overworked and stressed middlemen whose working days blurred into one another, many now deliver more specialised services through real-time, online platforms that have created a more accessible and informed generation of investors.
The key takeaway from this is that technology can be used effectively to enhance your employees' work-life balance, as long as you leverage innovation in a way that actively makes individual job roles easier. This is an important consideration, as technology remains exceptionally malleable and can easily be manipulated to increase working hours through sustained connectivity.
A good starting point is to use inbuilt calendar systems (such as the one integrated with Microsoft Outlook) to minimise the amount of meetings hosted on a daily basis. Meetings often sound the death knell for productivity, making it impossible for employees to complete tasks during the working day and forcing them to extend their hours. Calendar systems automatically buffer time, however, creative invaluable pockets of space for work to be completed.
There are even steps that can ease fundamental issues such as responding to emails, which according to studies will increase in volume from 121 to 140 per day by the year 2018. You can actively reduce this by restricting the use of 'Reply All' by employees; establishing a limit for how many people can be included in a distribution list.
This will reduce the amount of emails we are forced to sift through each day, allowing us to spend more time on strategic tasks and make the most of our working hours.
3. Create an Active Workspace
As we can see, time management is a key element of maintaining a positive work-life balance. While empowering employees to devise their own working schedule (such as the Pomodoro Technique, which encourages users to schedule 25 minute periods of intense focus broken up by five-minute intervals) is one tactic, you can take this a stage further by enabling employees to indulge in recreational activities during their breaks.
This creates an outlet for employee stress while making the cultivation of a viable work-life-balance more achievable for busy individuals.
It also offers another advantage, as it allows you to create an active workplace. This can instantly alleviate stress levels within your office, promote healthy living and encourages people who enjoy working out to do so at work. Employee productivity levels will probably soar, and they will have more free time for other activities.
If you do invest in an active workplace, just remember to create an immersive culture around it. You can start by introducing healthy snack vending machines (alongside more traditional units), before introducing gym discounts and cycle to work incentives as part of your employee benefit packages. This will help to reinforce the impact of your measures and make an improved work-life balance accessible to all.
See Also: Striking the Work-life Balance
These practical steps make it possible for you to improve your employee's work-life balance, creating higher levels of engagement, productivity and focus in the process. This should be the Holy Grail for any business; especially any that are looking to grow and retain the talent that drives their venture forward.
Have you used any of the methods mentioned above? Let us know in the comments section below…