For many workers, technology has transformed the 9-to-5 job into a 24/7 one. This change is causing some to feel constantly plugged-in, making it harder to separate work and personal time. However, flexibility is becoming increasingly important in the workplace. When workers of all ages search for a new job, flexible working is one of the key criteria they consider when choosing prospective employers. In a recent study by Workplace Trends, 75 percent of employees listed work/life balance as their top priority.
Whether the goal is to recruit new talent, improve retention, avoid employee burnout, reduce absenteeism or increase productivity, there are many reasons employers want to work on work/life balance for everyone at the organization.
So how can employers help employees to achieve better work/life balance without sacrificing productivity and without busting the budget? Not only do employees and managers think differently about work/life balance, but so do companies in general. There are no hard and fast rules! Therefore, companies should design workplace flexibility programs specifically catered to their staffs.
The ways that first come to mind are regarding where and when to work:
- Allowing work from home, even part of the time.
- Restricting hours worked. This means having a culture in which employees are not expected to work after they leave the worksite.
- Focusing on outcomes, not hours worked. High productivity doesn’t necessarily come in 8-hour segments.
- Offering flexible hours. By allowing employees more flexibility in what hours they work in a given day, employees can better manage their time around all obligations. Some companies are even going for flexible work weeks, in which employees can work four longer days and take a 3-day weekend every week.
Modern businesses need to rethink old habits where you went to the workplace between 9 and 5 every day and performed standard tasks, and realize that times have changed. Then - and this is the hard part for some - they need to trust their employees. Trust them to take accountability of their own workload and time to get things done, whether this is at 9 am in the office or 9 pm at home. If businesses cannot trust their employees to work flexibly, then why did they hire them in the first place?
Although flexible working is the main goal, here are several other “less mainstream” ways employers can help employees achieve that ever-elusive goal of work/life balance:
- Focusing on the image and culture that top management projects. If they’re promoting (and living) the idea of work/life balance, employees will be more encouraged to do the same and be less fearful that the culture will not support it.
- Looking deeper at workplace culture. Does the culture promote overwork? Are there manageable workloads? Are there reasonable expectations?
- Allowing extra time off for charitable pursuits or volunteer work. This usually means employees are able to pursue things that keep them happy and satisfied in life, and it can also help the company image.
- Review vacation time policies. Consider expanding the number of vacation days available or giving extra days as a form of bonus for completion of goals or to celebrate milestones. A separate but related idea: encourage all employees to use up their vacation time, rather than let it sit.
- Providing childcare benefits. This could be in the form of discounts at nearby childcare centers or it could be in the form of on-site childcare options.
- Offering maternity/paternity leave to new parents.
- Getting input from employees: ask them what other benefits may be useful. Also, pay attention to the signs of inadequate work/life balance to see if more adjustments are needed. Watch for stress and burnout.
- Providing help to employees to get everyday tasks done. This could be in the form of on-site or nearby benefits that allow employees to get more of their personal errands and household responsibilities handled during work hours, such as dry cleaning, auto maintenance and fitness classes.
- Offering wellness plans. Having a healthier workforce can lead to less stress and fewer absences, which can boost productivity and reduce the need to work extra hours to stay caught up.
Encouraging a healthy work/life balance shows your employees that you don’t just value their job performance, but that you respect them and value their well-being. The fact that they will be more likely to succeed and stay productive on the job is the payback to you!
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