The COVID-19 pandemic has led many organizations to adopt a remote or hybrid work schedule for employees. While in most cases, this tends to be a net positive for employees’ work-life balance, it can lead to some unintended negative consequences.
For example, when working from home, the lack of clear separation between work and home can lead to an overall increase in work hours, stress and even burnout.
The idea of being “on the clock'' 24/7 has become a nagging reality for many over the past two years. Between constant Zoom meetings, texts, and phone calls, many find themselves unable to unplug out of fear that they will miss important communications or seem lazy — even outside of normal business hours.
Because it’s increasingly important for employers to take a more active role in promoting a healthy work-life balance for their employees, here are some tips to help prioritize it in your association and create a happier workforce!
In many cases, employees who are overworked suffer from increased physical and mental health issues, which leads to more time off in the long run due to doctor appointments and illness. Most commonly, overworked employees suffer from fatigue and lack of concentration, meaning their daily tasks are often done inefficiently. The long-term impact of fatigue and stress can also lead to the development or worsening of existing medical conditions.
As an employer, it’s important to recognize the importance of your employees’ physical, mental and emotional health. Help educate your employees on developing good work-life balance habits, like exercising during lunch breaks or taking micro-breaks for meditation throughout the day.
To take things a step further, you could even start a mindfulness or exercise program for employees to show your commitment to their overall wellbeing.
We’ve all been there – you’ve just put in a hard day’s work and are sitting down with family to watch your favorite evening show… until your boss emails you and you feel obligated to pause what you are doing to reply.
With 24/7 access, it’s far too easy to stay connected all the time. But never turning “off” work can quickly lead to resentment, burnout, and poor personal relationships for your employees.
Normalize the idea that emails, texts, and other work communications should not be responded to after work hours. By encouraging your employees to unplug after hours and assuring them they do not need to read or respond to your messages during off-hours, they will get the needed R&R to come back to work productive and enthusiastic each day.
Plus, they won’t feel anxiety or uncertainty around ignoring work messages during their personal time.
Each of your employees is different — and that doesn’t change when it comes to their ideal work environment and schedule. While in many cases, employees must be present during normal work hours, when possible, allow them to dictate their own schedules based on their preferences. Some may prefer to knock out chunks of individual work early in the morning; others late at night.
Unless a task is collaborative, be open-minded to the fact that you will receive the best quality work when your employees are completing tasks at their peak productive times, whether or not that falls between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The majority of full-time positions offer some sort of paid time off and/or sick days for employees. However, in many situations, employees can feel like they’re not actually able to take off, for fear of falling behind on various time-sensitive tasks.
Remember: Paid time off programs are there for a reason!
Without time to decompress and relax, employees will easily become burnt out and overwhelmed. As a manager, be sure to encourage your employees to utilize all of their paid time off and to actually unplug during those times! In the long run, rested and happy employees will be more productive than those who were forced to work through their PTO.
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In the same vein as encouraging employees to utilize their PTO and set boundaries, it is important that your employees know you understand the value of their family time. With too much work and not enough focus on personal family relationships, stress often rises and employees are stuck in an unhappy cycle that is hard to escape from.
Not only does this affect their mental health outside of the workplace, but it also leads to lower productivity professionally. If your employees need to step away for school pick-up and drop-off, teacher meetings, or other familial obligations, be flexible and kind. If not, they may look elsewhere for a more family-friendly place to work.
Just like you took care to ensure your office was properly stocked and employees had everything they needed, you should do the same in a hybrid or remote work situation. This includes things like subscriptions to Zoom, Asana, Microsoft Office and even some physical items like a desk chair. Without the proper resources, employees will work less efficiently.
Side note: While we’re on the topic of Zoom — be intentional and prudent with the virtual meetings you schedule. Zoom fatigue is now a well-known phenomenon, and many meetings should actually be simple emails. Ensure all meetings are necessary and the invitee list is carefully selected.
Professional development programs are common among employers to support employees and help them in their career journey. While these programs are great, they fail to recognize the employee as a whole, only focusing on their work life.
To give your employees support in all aspects of their life, and to help promote work-life balance, offer programs to your employees that focus on their personal development.
This could be a daily meditation challenge, education on mindfulness or exercise classes offered during work hours. The possibilities are truly endless! Find out what makes your employees tick outside of the workplace, and play to those strengths to create a successful program.
Many times managers are surprised to find out that their employees are dealing with work-life balance issues because communication channels stay closed. Even with a manager open to these changes, employees who feel they cannot express themselves will end up feeling burnt out regardless.
As a manager, be open in your communication about work-life balance being a priority and encourage your employees to communicate their needs to you without fear of repercussions. Send surveys to help understand how your team is feeling about their work-life balance and what you can do to fix any potential issues.
Remember, a healthy culture of work-life balance will lead to better results for all in your organization. Higher productivity, motivation and happiness among your workforce is achievable with just a bit of flexibility and communication.
Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.
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