You have built an extraordinary workforce. Their results are spot on, and you are known for promoting a culture of effective, efficient, and engaged employees that has brought profitability and long-term success to your company. However, in today’s culture of “do more with less,” recognizing and encouraging work/life balance is critical to keeping your employees in optimal performance mode.
The lack of a healthy work/life balance is one of the most easily missed factors that can negatively impact an employee. This article will focus on helping you recognize what work/life balance is and the typical signs that your employees are struggling with their work/life balance.
What Is Work/LIFE Balance?
Work/Life Balance is how people manage their time and commitments between their professional lives and personal lives. It is a moving target that continues to evolve as time progresses.
Generations of workers lived and worked in a time seemingly devoid of the electronic tethers that are standard today. Wi-Fi and Smart Technology alone have created an almost 24/7 work environment that workers of the past never faced. While the circumstances have changed, the need for work/life balance persists.
Activities in both lives can carry high priority, and sometimes those priorities can conflict. When out of balance, it can lead to employee burnout, stress, resulting in health conditions including unscheduled time off and health insurance costs along with significant drops in productivity and profitability.
Signs of Employees Struggling with Work/Life Balance
While overt signs of work/life balance failures, such as the employee who has been working all night and sleeping in the breakroom or calls from family members to human resources looking for their “missing” family member, are easy to identify, some other signs may be less so. Stress and burnout can be red flag symptoms of work/life balance struggles.
Additional signs can include:
- Decreases in productivity
- Sudden and unexpected increase in costs/losses
- Increasing errors, including those related to safety
- Messy workspaces
- Customer service challenges
- Missed/constantly rescheduled appointments and meetings.
- Overtime increases without specific causation
- Increase in unscheduled time off and “personal emergencies,” especially related to family members.
- Stress-related employee conflicts
- Increase in negative attitudes in the workplace, including helpless, hopeless, and apathetic behaviors
- Increase in absenteeism/tardiness
- Increase in health insurance claims/costs
- High levels of staff turnover
- Poor results in the employee survey
- Increase in legal actions against employees reported to the Employer (i.e., divorce, garnishment, creditors)
Work/Life Balance Is Ultimately in the Hands of the Employee
Regardless of the Employer’s interest in promoting work/life balance, the ultimate control of balancing professional and personal commitments belongs to the employee. They must take the initiative and responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves.
The Employer can support and encourage employees to make good work/life balance choices by creating policies and procedures that benefit the workers. These policies can include flexible scheduling, telecommuting/remote work, PTO scheduling, work assignments, healthy living incentives, and communication methods with managers up through the chain of command.
Reinforcing healthy work-life balance behaviors, both publicly and privately, along with great workplace-related results, should be visible within the company and modeled by company executives.
Perfection Is an Illusion
Perfection in work/life balance only happens in the movies. Reality is notorious for throwing a monkey wrench into the best plans and intents. Needing to take an urgent call while at a child’s sporting event or even the poor man who inadvertently became a cat while on the video call reminds us that life happens.
That said, carefully crafting a well-communicated plan to encourage and support employees to have a full life both inside and outside of work is highly worthwhile. Great benefit plans, flexible scheduling, generous time-off policies, and newsletters that highlight individuals and their volunteer activities or hobbies are great ways for the employer to encourage work/life balance.
On the flip side, strong and fairly enforced policies hold individuals accountable for their decisions, protect the employer, and are appreciated by effective, efficient, and engaged employees.