Much has been written and spoken about work-life balance: It can be tough to achieve for any number of reasons although working from home and not being able to draw a line between the job and leisure time can be particularly difficult. But is there anything you can do in your Human Resources department to help employees who might be struggling to switch off?
After all, it’s only a short journey from no work-life balance to employee burnout - and that’s no good for your employees or your company.
Burnout and exhausted employees don’t perform to the best of their abilities. And a workplace that is known as somewhere that expects staff to be on call and answering emails no matter what time of the day it is, is not going to be attractive to top talent looking for new positions.
Stories about toxic work cultures are a dime a dozen and overworking your employees for little to no extra pay is not a good look!
The thing is, company culture has a big part to play in helping your people maintain a healthy balance between the work they’re paid to do and their free time.
So how do you ensure that your organization is helping your employees find the balance?
How to help your employees achieve a better work-life balance
Those who have been in the workforce for longer may remember (perhaps not too fondly, either) that ‘having it all’ was the ultimate goal. That working hard whilst playing hard and enjoying the financial and material spoils of that work were the be all and end all. It was all about cramming as much work in as possible and then showing off to the neighbors when the brand new shiny car showed up on the driveway.
But this was not a sustainable model and as more and more people realized that the price of success meant little to no family time apart from a week’s vacation once a year and that, actually, the new car was only new and exciting for a month, it all started to feel a little empty.
And as these things do, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction and today, many employees are looking for a better quality of life, a job that aligns with their values and a compassionate company that sees happiness and wellbeing as being as important as profits and turnover.
So if the key to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce is better work-life balance, how can you make that happen?
These are a few ideas:
Ensure boundaries are put in place
Make sure that your managers are not emailing, Whatsapping, Signaling or SMS-ing employees outside your work hours. Naturally your working hours will be written into each employee’s contract so that everyone knows what to expect. And that expectation should be that they will be left alone during the hours they are not at work, at weekends, and on vacation.
Especially when on vacation!
This should also be a given, whether your employees are office-based, working remotely or you operate on a hybrid team model.
Allow remote, flexible or hybrid work
Talking of remote and hybrid work, if you’re not already offering this, is there any way it would work for your organization? There are definite pros and cons when it comes to working from home (for both the employer and employee), but factors such as cutting out the commute, making child care easier, and being able to deal with life admin in and around work play a huge part in achieving a better work-life balance.
You might not like the idea of switching to an all-remote way of working - and some of your people may like the social and motivational aspects of being in an office environment, but it may be worth trialing remote, flexible or hybrid work for one day a week for a defined period.
Offer support to your employees
The days of the HR department being responsible for running payroll, handing out disciplinary actions, and posting job adverts are over. At least, you’re still doing those things but now a whole new raft of tasks have also fallen to you and your team.
And crucial among those is creating a company culture that motivates and engages your employees and helps them feel supported and appreciated.
The only way you can do that is by knowing the signs to look out for when it comes to employee burnout or stress. Signs that an employee - particularly a previously productive and proactive employee - might be struggling are constant tiredness, confusion, disengagement, lack of initiative or efficiency and a generally poor performance.
There are ways you can support employees who appear to need a little help. Checking in with them (or asking their manager to do so) is crucial. Do they need help with attaining work-life balance? Is everything okay at home? Are they having problems at work, either with the job itself or a coworker?
Read more: 6 Ways to Show Your Employees a Little Love
It’s only by knowing what someone’s problems are that you will be in a position to help them. Maybe they just need to take a duvet day to sort out some personal tasks that they simply don’t have time for. Or maybe they need a week or more of unpaid leave to give them time to recharge their batteries. If the issue is work-life balance related, there are things that you as HR can do to assist.
How to help your employees achieve a better work-life balance: conclusion
A greater work-life balance - for everyone in your organization - needs to come from your company culture. Managers need empathy and to be able to see when one of their team needs help. People should know that if something is troubling them that there is someone they can talk to, in confidence and without judgment.
When employees aren’t stressed, tired and unhappy and they feel that their employee sees them as a person and not just a number on payroll, they will be much more inclined to bring their best, most productive and positive self to work.
And that’s good for them, good for their team and good for the company as a whole.