You will often see companies that boast high employee satisfaction and retention rates, but how did they get to that point? Oftentimes they will go into their culture and explain what it’s like to work there, what their end goal was, and how they got there. This is all well and good, but just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
So, how would another business leader go about achieving the same end goal but through different means? First, you need to establish your company’s identity, branding, and mission. At this point, you should have a clearer understanding of how your company will run and what types of people will make a good fit. For those who already have all that done, just go over it again and make sure the culture is turning out the way you want/need it to. After that is set, you need to keep your employees happy with their work. One way to do this is through work-life balance.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is viewed as a buzzword to some, an excuse to work less, or as an unattainable goal. Dr. Steven Poelmans said, “…companies and employees need to think about harmonizing work-life, prioritizing things in the various parts of life as you need to. Work-life balance is about having a sense of meaning and purpose in life.” He also states that the term balance is not a good fit, and actually makes people interpret it incorrectly. You can have people who feel at ease with a heavy workload but still make use of all their personal time, on the other side you can find people with smaller workloads who use most of their time on family and personal matters. It ends up being about how they find satisfaction and accomplishment given their responsibilities.
A more commonly used and known definition of the word is the ideal situation where employees divide their efforts (time and energy), between work and personal matters. This lines up with Dr. Poelmans’ version where there isn’t a notion of how much time should be given to both, as people are different and react uniquely to their given circumstances.
Why Work-Life Balance Matters
The division between work and personal life directly affects the stress and fulfillment levels of your staff. Although stress can come from a multitude of sources, not having enough time to take care of one’s own needs certainly adds to it.
Stress will cause higher attrition rates as employees who don’t feel as if they have enough time to take care of themselves will begin to search for employers who will. For example, if an employee has a doctor’s appointment but a huge deadline is coming, there is a chance they will opt to do the work instead as, without the money from work, they wouldn’t be able to afford the appointment. The stress of not being able to see a doctor will be one more thing to worry about on top of the other outside factors. Once an employee reaches a tipping point, they will quit for other opportunities, ones that afford them the ability to financially support themselves as well as have time outside of work for themselves.
High-stress levels will also directly impact how productive any given employee is. A healthy amount of stress will allow people to allocate time to finish tasks accurately. However, when overloaded on the work, personal life, and financial fronts, panic will set in, and with their minds being stretched so thin, they will begin to miss things they usually wouldn’t have to think twice about. This will snowball into their personal lives as relationships will be strained, causing even more damage to their work performance.
Companies that have a healthy balance will see their employees exhibiting higher engagement levels. With a healthy amount of stress, people can function at their best. Being happy in any aspect of our lives bleeds into other parts. Think of a time when you were given a gift that made you feel incredible or when you were given a promotion at work. There is a high chance that you carried that feeling with you for the rest of the day, at work and even at home. People might have even commented that you were more sociable and interactive while this was happening. The other side of this is if you’re in a bad mood, everyone will also feel it and stay away from you, in addition, your work performance will also suffer.
With proper work-life balance, you get happier workers with healthier stress levels, which results in better performance. With disproportionate amounts of time in either, where one side is neglected, higher stress levels will cascade into lowered performance, employee burnout, and eventually a high attrition rate.
Aiming for Work-Life Balance
The million-dollar (less or more depending on the size of your company) question, how do I achieve work-life balance for my company? The trick to answering this question is to find out what makes your company tick. There is no universal answer to this question because each company is different, their cultures, location, and people make it so that solutions have to be tailor-made.
Offering the option of having flexible schedules or working from home has become a more popular option in recent years. While COVID is still a world event, more and more employees are looking for chances to work from home. This may help alleviate any added stress or pressure felt as there is less contact with other people and has the added benefit of eliminating travel time.
Performing a workload audit is another way to move towards a healthier work-life balance. It will help you gauge who is overloaded with work and allow you to act accordingly. Making changes will help improve everyone’s work situations and this will positively affect productivity and stress levels. Changes in deadlines to the division of labor could easily give people the time they need to maintain both their professional and personal lives.
Depending on the size of your company, it might be nearly impossible to get to know all of your employees and their specific situations, but your HR department can do something similar. By having HR do regular check-ins with your staff, you will get a better understanding of what needs to change. This can work for both work and personal matters, although they will have to be careful when dealing with personal matters, as they are still in a work environment. From this point, the appropriate changes can be made, it is important to note that the changes do have to fit your company, as not all fixes work well for all companies. An example of this can be seen with delivery companies, a distribution center cannot afford to send workers to work from home as the work needs to be done onsite.
Through proper work-life balance, you will see less burnout, higher resilience to stress, active and inclusive behaviors, as well as lower attrition rates. Though there is no singular solution to fix this balance for all companies, the strategies to identify certain markers are. Choosing a solution that doesn’t mesh well with your company will hurt morale in the office but can be resolved by moving over to a plan that will work. Doing nothing in fear of damaging your company will result in long-term damages while taking actions and correcting them will reap more benefits as well as data.