During the 2020 Lockdown we’ve had plenty of time to think about how we work.
For some it has given them the opportunity to tackle that forever-growing list of jobs done and spending some quality time with the family. Lifestyle changes have come about too; Some may permanently switch to cycling or walking to work, and infrastructure changes may result to further encourage this.
Work life has been different too. Many have been able to work from home, and, depending how this went, this may continue to some degree when matters return to normal. However, this may bring about a blurring of the lines between work and home life. Having been someone who would regularly take his work home, responding to emails at dinner instead of catching up with my family, and working in to the early hours to keep the boss happy, I know all to well the risk that increased working from home could bring.
Whilst technology means we can work just as well in the comfort of our own homes, employers and employees need to manage the balance between work and home to protect all parties. In essence, there needs to be a Work Life Balance (WLB for short).
What is Work Life Balance?
Well, quite simply it’s about balancing working life with home life by applying a flexible approach to how, where and when people work. Getting the balance between work & home life for you and your staff is crucial to getting the best out of people. What would you rather have – motivated staff, or those who just do a job and are prone to absenteeism?
At this point you might be thinking “Oh, here we go, some ideological babble,” or “this kind of thinking increases costs and reduces the amount of business we can do – It’ll end up costing me.”
Both are fair points of view, and at the same time I’m hoping that you’re thinking “tell me more.” Well, here’s the headlines.
Get work life balance right for you and your staff and productivity can increase, staff retention can improve, flexibility in working arrangements can be an opportunity (not an obstacle), reduced stress/absenteeism, motivated and happy staff are a great advertisement for you. Oh, and profits may rise too.
WLB is in the same pot as Corporate Responsibility. It a win-win-win because of the benefits to the individual, society and (most importantly for you) the business too.
So, what can you do to improve the work life balance of you and your staff? Well, this article doesn’t have the answers – it’s more of an intro to the subject really. But reading this is a start because (hopefully) it’s making you think about work life balance. The real benefits will come from positive steps and putting Work Life Balance in to practice.
Common features in achieving WLB in your organisation.
– Talk to staff/colleagues, set up focus groups. Your employees are the best people to tell you how to improve their WLB, so why not ask them. Do they want/have flexible scheduling, support for working parents, what about their working hours.
– Understand current legislation and how it applies to your organisation. Consider approaching local business guilds for advice.
– Consider working from home options – how did this go during lockdown? We realise this won’t be viable for many roles in tourism, leisure and lifestyle industries, but where possible it could be explored. But keep in mind the risk of blurred work/life boundaries. Working from home increases flexibility of the workforce but there has to be boundaries which you and your colleagues must be clear on from the start otherwise, if you get this wrong, it could be detrimental.
– Can you be flexible outside the standard “9 to 5” day?
– Have fun at work. A happy workforce is a productive workforce
– Can you help your team work more efficiently instead of longer hours?
– Make staff feel appreciated
– Term time working (perhaps allow unpaid leave during peak holiday times)
– Look for quick wins to score early points. Parents who need to pick up children after school, staff who are carers or who do voluntary activities.
– Promote healthy lifestyles (food, body, mind)
– Encourage self-development and creativity (sponsor work-related training or allow time for personal projects)
– Educate your team on WLB. Give them the ability to help themselves.
– Talk to your customers too. Done right and this could give you a great profile with them.
– Take in the wider picture :- What is the impact as a whole and on all affected parties, rather than looking at the issues in isolation.
This is just a handful of suggestions and thoughts on the subject, and if you go through each one you’ll start to think about the opportunities these can bring for your company. Seek other material too, perhaps engage one of the many experts in this field.
Bringing this back to the post-lockdown world, if you’re on a zoom call with a member of your team this is a good opportunity to find out how they’re faring. Are they making sure that home life isn’t affected by homeworking? How is their productivity and quality of work? Certainly, it looks lockdown is leading towards more working from home, so it’s crucial for the well-being of your colleagues and your business that you get the work-life balance right.
In this crazy world of ours it would be easy to think “Ah, to achieve WLB I just need my staff to continue working from home like they’ve done in lockdown”. However, we must not forget that humans are social creatures and still need that interaction in their lives, whether its standing in the office kitchen having a chat or being able to wander over to a colleagues desk and ask a work-related question. Work Life Balance isn’t just about working from home, it’s about striking the balance between work (wherever that takes places) and the home-life of your team.
Lead by Example
The boss is always there before everyone and leaves after everyone, right? Whilst you might think that’s what you should do, it actually puts pressure on employees to work longer hours. Yes, having a boss who swans in at 10am and departs for a round of golf at 3.30pm every is not good either. But you can show WLB leadership by showing there are things in your life that are as or more important than work and that sometimes you have to be in a bit later or leave early and can still get the job done.
Would doing the school run make you late in a couple of times a week? Great! Occasionally you may leave work early for family events, and let your team know it. Start dropping hints about planning to leave early to see little Billy’s school Christmas play (okay, maybe not in 2020) so they know its fine to do so. Let them know that WLB is important to you, not just by words but by actions.
Also, take all your vacation days and make sure your team do too!
You could be working for 50 years of your life. None of the really important stuff in your life will happen at work. Work will still be there tomorrow. And the day after. As the world speeds up we can all feel the pressure to do more, work harder, work longer. Whilst we can’t “stop the merry-go-round”, we can all find ways to make the ride more bearable and even, dare I say it, enjoyable. Work Life Balance is the key.