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Employee Engagement

5 Ways to Create a Better Employee Work/Life Balance

Ask your employees what they want most, and chances are they’ll answer: a better work/life balance.

In survey after survey, work/life balance tops employees’ most-wanted list, eclipsing even bigger paychecks. Often, it’s the trigger that pushes employees to leave; sometimes, it’s the saving grace that ensures they don’t.

After all, happy, healthy employees are also more productive employees. Research confirms that employees who enjoy a sound work/life balance perform better, are more collaborative, and even take fewer sick days.

While most businesses approve of the concept of work/life balance in principle, sometimes reality falls short. But it’s a new year. A chance to turn the page. And in the wake of the Great Resignation and skyrocketing burnout, more businesses are truly committed to turning the concept of work/life balance into a reality for their people. Finally!  

However, achieving true work/life balance doesn’t happen overnight. It means giving up some long-held beliefs and norms, building new habits, and embracing new standards.

Here are a few ways you can get started.

1. Ask Employees What Work/Life Balance Means to Them

A remote-first culture is based on the idea that all employees work remotely—even if that’s not the case. Adopting this mindset prompts leaders to make decisions and set procedures from a more holistic viewpoint—whether updating communication best practices, evaluating new technologies, or planning company events. 

After all, if everyone is potentially a remote worker, no one becomes an afterthought. 

2. Prioritize Productivity Over Long Hours  

You know what work-life balance means to you, but chances are, it’s not the same for everyone. For example, a recent Gallup report found that workers are evenly divided in regard to their work/life balance preferences, which can lead to friction and misunderstanding.

Gallup found that half of surveyed employees are “splitters”—i.e., workers who prefer keeping business and life separate. In contrast, the other half are “blenders”—those most comfortable toggling back and forth between work and play throughout the day.

When managers and coworkers can appreciate these differences, work/life balance becomes more attainable within an organization.

3. Set Some Boundaries 

You can also help your employees practice better work/life balance by establishing some clear, time-related workday boundaries.

For example, limiting interoffice communications—via email, Slack, etc.—to specific business hours requires everyone to respect one another’s personal time.

In addition, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach to meetings. During the heart of the pandemic, workers spent twice as much time in meetings as before—and some have yet to kick the habit.

Perhaps it’s time to prompt your people to ask if a meeting is truly necessary before reflexively scheduling one. Sometimes, a quick email can be just as effective—while freeing people to get more done during their workday.

4. Limit PTO Carryover

Everyone needs time away from the office, even (and perhaps especially) if the office is in their home. Consider requiring your employees to use all their paid time off in each given calendar year, rather than carry it over.

Case in point: one seminal, 40-year-long study found that workers who took three weeks of vacation annually lived longer than those who did not. The researchers (who were cardiologists) found that those who take less time off suffered from elevated stress levels—to the point that it increased their risk of dying by 37 percent.

American workers are particularly bad at taking time off—but your team doesn’t have to be among them.

5. Set the Tone from the Top

To be most effective, changes in workplace behavior should come from the top down, which is why it’s important that your company’s leaders model healthy work/life habits, too.

From leaving work at a reasonable hour and taking real vacations to forgoing those infamous after-hours emails, management should practice the same behaviors you’re asking of everyone else.

This is not only the quickest way to get everyone on the same page, but it’s good for your leaders’ work/life balance, too—and that benefits everyone.

Helping your workforce achieve a better work/life balance is an all-around win-win. It benefits your employees and their families, your recruiting and retention initiatives, and ultimately, it will benefit your business because when an organization’s employees are happy, healthy, and productive, it shows in the bottom line. Explore Namely’s employee retention strategies for 2023.

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