For some people, work and life are indistinguishable. For other (sane) people, work is work and, no matter how much you love your job, doing too much work will leave you feeling drained.
Now, “too much” will vary from person to person, but the results of over-work are the same across the board. While you can sometimes get a lot from your employees in the short term by pushing their limits, pushing these limits too far will only serve to decrease their long term productivity. Research is suggesting that over-working your employees doesn’t even increase their productivity. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, managers weren’t able to distinguish between employees who worked 80 hours a week and employees who were pretending to do so. Astoundingly, though several of the most blatant pretenders were penalized, the study was unable to find evidence that the employees who actually worked 80 hours accomplished anything more than the pretenders.
So, if over-working your employees doesn’t really work, what else isn’t it doing for you? Well, one of the best documented effects of over-work are: impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease. While these effects are bad enough on their own, many of these life threatening conditions will also serve to increase turnover at your company, both voluntary and involuntary. I mean, wouldn’t you want to work for a company that prioritized your health over your productivity?
In addition to the negative impacts that poor work/life balance can have on the general well-being of your employees, it will also have a negative impact on your ability to hire top talent. According to a survey from Monster, 70% of candidates are putting work/life balance on the top of their most sought after qualities in a job.
So you’re convinced: work life balance is not only good, but it’s rapidly becoming necessary to attract top talent. But what can you do to improve the work/life balance of your employees? Well, luckily for you, we’ve prepared 5 tips that you can use to improve the working lives of your employees.
1. Ensure Everyone has the Right Workload
While the “right” amount of work to give any employee will vary, discovering the limits and preferences of your employees is the first step toward a better work/life balance. Check in with your employees about how they feel about their work and their work life balance.
- Do they feel like they’re doing too much?
- Do they feel like they could be doing more?
- Do they feel like they have a work / life balance?
Now, when an employee says that they’re being over worked, the first thing you should do is listen. Once you’ve heard them out, ask them to show you the ways in which they’re being over worked and ask them what they believe to be a reasonable work load. While your ability to adjust their workload may hinge on a productivity policy in your company, it could be that recent complications to the work being done have made this standard unrealistic.
Just make sure that you’re promoting a company culture in which establishing work/life balance is a priority. If you don’t make it clear that you’re investigating an employee’s productivity for this reason, your employees may think that, by telling you they’re over-worked, they’re signing their own pink slip. After all, traditionally, it’s been sink or swim in the business world.
If your employees don’t feel comfortable telling you they’re over-worked, for whatever reason, then one of the only options that they believe to be open to them is finding another job. Though you may not be too bothered by an unproductive employee’s resignation, I bet you’d be pulling out your hair if your top performer handed their two weeks’ notice to you right now. In order to prevent this from happening, communicate that your goal is to prevent over-work and promote a good work/life balance.
You want your employees to push themselves at work, but an impossible mission is only good news if you’re Tom Cruise. Check in with your employees on an individual basis and tell them that your mission is to improve their work/life balance. Then, all that’s left to do is assess their workload, and adjust where necessary.
2. Provide Development Resources
One of the best ways to improve the work life balance of an employee, is to give them an opportunity to develop their skills. Through strengthening their skills on the job, this employee will be able to engage with their work in a deeper way, increasing their connection to this work and their enjoyment of it. By providing development resources for your employees, you’re improving their relationship with their work, thereby improving their work/ life balance.
One of the best development tools out there is called LearnBig. This program adapts to the user, honing in on their greatest weaknesses and using engaging, interactive video to develop these skills. This program allows your employees to develop the areas where they need help, but it also lets them explore other development courses that intrigue them while engaging with the program.
Offering your employees the chance to further their education or skill development looks great to candidates who are committed to learning continuously and remaining on the cutting edge. When your employees engage with a development program, attend conferences in your industry or further their education, they will value the investment you’ve made in them and put their sharpened skills to work. When they leave, one day, they will be a great referral source, their improved training putting them in contact with the best and brightest in your industry.
Providing development resources to your employees will help them to get more from their work, which will help to improve the work side of their work/life balance. These learning opportunities make work fun and will spark the curiosity of your best and brightest employees.
3. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements
Offering flexible work arrangements goes a long way toward improving the work/life balance of your employees. Some of these perks are basically free, like allowing employees to work from home. Now, the issue of telecommuting isn’t fully laid to rest, but, besides the time they save by not having to drive to work, getting your work done from home allows your employees to focus on the task at hand, outside the bustle of the office. This can be crucial for employees whose work/life balance equation requires a good deal of quiet time, or who would just like an extra day per-week in their pajamas.
Telecommuting can boost productivity, but there still need to be clear standards for productivity outside of the office. Offering flex-time can fill in the gaps for employees who have children or who have busy lives in and outside of the office.
Flex time, telecommuting and extended vacations are all becoming more popular at best in class companies. By being ahead of the curve, your company will look like a great place to work for top talent. Additionally, your current employees will love how you’re empowering their ability to balance their home life more easily with their working life.
4. Use Technology
Tools for communication, collaboration, delegation, preparation and pretty much every other “ation” out there, will help to streamline work and improve work life balance at your company. When properly integrated into the workflow of your company, technology tools can help out with everything from time and task management to the way information is shared at your company.
However, you shouldn’t trust that just any app is going to do the trick. There are a million solutions out there for about half as many problems, and not all of these solutions hold water. Additionally, the tools that you choose should always be aimed at improving specific aspects of the working lives of your employees. Through evaluating the way work is done at your company, you can adopt technology tools that are aimed at streamlining this work and improving the work/life balance of your employees.
Programs like Slack help employees to improve communication, both inside and between teams. The app organizes communications in a 2 tiered channel system: open channels to organize communication around a topic or team and private channels for discussing sensitive information. This program also allows for easy file sharing and can fully supports your other technology tools like Dropbox and your social media channels. The app is also mobile friendly, fully supporting both iOS and Android technology. By giving your employees better tools to communicate with, maintaining a work-life balance becomes much easier for them.
Another great technology tool that will help your company’s work life balance is Evernote. Evernote is a cloud-based document writing and editing program that is great for doing work on your own as well as collaborative projects. Evernote also allows you to display any of your notes in a presentation-friendly format with just the click of a button. With an unlimited memory and real-time document sharing and editing, you will be able to store, share and organize your work in a platform that is visible to everyone who needs eyes on the work being done.
Using technology to your advantage will help to improve work life balance at your company. As long as you’ve evaluated the way that work is being done and choose technology tools that are designed to address your procedural inefficiencies, there’s no reason tech can’t improve your company’s work/life balance.
5.Provide Some “Fun” Work Opportunities
Providing fun work opportunities to your most talented employees will make their jobs more interesting and will make their relationship with work all the more enjoyable. If you believe that one of your best employees is becoming restless at your company, allowing them to tackle some work that is out of the ordinary or even “fun” will go a long way toward improving their work/life balance. Consider which upcoming company projects or plans present opportunities to engage the best minds at your business.
Let’s consider a hypothetical programmer, Stewart. Stewart loves to program for his company, but he also spends most of the free time he has programming a video game of his own design. For the first two years on the job, Stewart is able to balance this high rate of output by sacrificing every free second he had as well as his other, healthier hobbies: running and swimming.
In Stewart’s the third year on the job, taking on an increasingly large role on the development team, Stewart is forced to put his game on hold while pushing for an advanced release date. Though he’s able to get in a quick run by waking up an hour earlier, he can’t seem to find the time to program his game between the demands of his job and his longtime girlfriend.
Now what should Stewart’s boss be thinking? Should they be thinking about what sort of counter-offer they can get approved from upper management? Should they be thinking of what sort of decorations to use for Stewarts’ going away party? Or, should they be looking for interesting work opportunities that a bright young man like Stewart would love to try?
If you chose the third option, you would also recognize that someone in Stewart’s situation would love the opportunity to shake things up. Providing Stewart with the chance to travel to Germany to work with another coding team in the company is just the sort of “fun” work that secures the loyalty of employees. By giving this work/travel opportunity to Stewart, you’re showing him that he’s a valued company asset and that there could be many uses for him within your company.
Providing fun, engaging or interesting work opportunities to your employees will allow them to branch out while still contributing to the success of your company. Offering this sort of variety in the work that your employees do will keep them engaged in their jobs for longer and improve their relationships with these jobs
By following these 5 tips and creating a culture of transparency around workload, you will be able to improve the work/life balance of all of your employees. Emphasizing work/ life balance at your company will also appeal to top talent and will ensure that your most important employees don’t burn out or leave before their time is up.