The term ‘work-life balance’ is often debated and whether or not that is the best term, or most desirable way, to describe the way employees seek to create a life that incorporates all the things that matter most to them. Some say work-life integration, or work-life fluidity, but regardless of what term resonates most with you, the goal is to understand how can you create enough balance between the responsibilities (and joys) of your career and the other parts of your life. This may include being a spouse or partner, parent, volunteer, athlete, hobbyist…whatever it is that you do when you are not working.
How to Find A Work-Life Balance
Most people want to achieve a better balance in their lives. We all feel stretched in some way and seek to be able to better juggle all of things on our “to do” list. In fact, multiple surveys have shown that flexibility or work-life balance is the number one thing employees are looking for in a job and it is a major contributor why many people leave their job or organization.
Employees who have more balance in their lives are happier, more productive, and gain more satisfaction from their work and career.
If you’re finding it challenging to juggle your career and the rest of your life, or if you’d just like to find a better balance, here are some tips.
- Schedule Downtime
- It might seem odd to schedule breaks into your everyday life, but it’s important. Plan to spend time with your friends or family members and dedicate yourself to not working during this time. Put down your phone and tell yourself that you won’t check work email, text messages, etc. during your scheduled downtime. Even if you’re planning on giving yourself an hour on Friday night to read a book quietly, schedule it so that you’ll do it. I have found blocking off time for yoga and meditation is the best way to ensure I remain consistent to my commitment for quiet, tech-free time.
- Limit “Wasted” Time
- A lot of us spend time doing activities that aren’t enjoyable or that don’t add value to our lives. For instance, you might spend too much time gossiping or venting to colleagues at work, or you may devote too much of your day to browsing online or checking out social media. Think about whether you truly enjoy these activities and, if you don’t, try to spend less time doing them so you can free up time for the things you really love. I have cut out looking at social media in the morning until I have accomplished some of the things I want to do, things that I know will be more satisfying and fulfilling to my life.
- Don’t Be A “Martyr”
- A 2015 study by Project: Time Off found that 39% of employees want to be seen as “work martyrs.” This means that they don’t want to take vacations or time off because they want to show how dedicated they are to their career. Unfortunately, this attitude often leads to unhappiness and stress, not to mention burnout. You can’t be creative and effectively problem solve if you haven’t properly recharged your batteries. If you don’t want to take a longer vacation (which I generally think people should), then at least schedule more frequent mini-breaks over long weekends.
- About 43% of work martyrs are Millennials, compared to 29% of overall respondents. Millennials are also the most likely to make others feel shame for taking vacation (despite that taking time off has many benefits).
What Organizations Can Do to Promote Work-Life Balance
Since a lack of work-life balance can cause employees to leave their current roles, and since creating a workplace culture that encourages a work-life balance can attract talent and increase employee engagement, it’s a good idea for leaders to spend some time thinking about how their organization can promote a positive work-life balance.
Organizations can encourage a greater work-life balance by:
- Offering Flexibility
- Flexible start and end times for the workday can help team members by allowing them to commute when there is less traffic or giving them time to handle various life tasks. You can also provide some flexibility during the day to run errands, pick up children from school, help an aging parent, attend a fitness class, etc.
- You may even want to consider four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, so your team can have a three-day weekend each week, but this will depend on your organization and whether you need all employees working at certain times.
- Some organizations may be able to let team members work from home on certain days. Even allowing this a few days a year can be beneficial. Again, this will depend on the nature of your organization and the work you do.
- Limiting After-Hours Emails
- In today’s world, we’re connected 24/7, but this isn’t always good for our work-life balance. Set some rules regarding after-hours email / text communication and when you expect your team to respond.
- Only contact team members who are on vacation or otherwise away from work when there is a true emergency. Respect your employees’ time off by not asking them to participate in work related activities or tasks when they have booked vacation time.
- Determine what type of communication policy works for your organization and stick to it. Limiting after-work emails will give your team the chance to unwind and put down their phones for a while when they’re not in the office. Encourage tech-free time away from the office.
- Lead By Example
- Teams will mirror their leaders. If the management team responds to emails when they’re on vacation – or if they never take vacation at all – the team will follow their lead. If you want your team to focus on their work-life balance, you’ll need to do the same yourself. It truly is about the walking the talk. Acknowledging that everyone can benefit from a greater work-life balance, and actively encouraging the right behaviours to achieve that balance, is a key to being an effective and engaged leader.
As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.