Live to work, or work to live?
It’s a question that many members of the modern workforce are asking themselves.
For many people, work finishes at the end of the working day. But for many more, it can eat into the evening and even the weekend.
Some employees welcome this, but others abhor it.
A good People Company – an organisation which puts its people first over everything else – will understand its employees and their work-life needs and desires based on their personalities and expectations from work.
Although employers alone can’t provide a 100% work-life balance for their employees – employees have to take some responsibility to change their attitudes to work and home life – there are many things companies can do to help workers to find and maintain a work balance that’s right for them.
So, here are some workplace practices employers can adopt to ensure they’re supporting their employees to get the balance right.
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1. Offer flexible and remote working
81% of 3,500 employees we polled placed importance and value on flexible working. They want to be trusted to manage when, where and how they work.
It’s no surprise really.
Workers value employers who empower them to manage their own time. Employees feel valued at companies where they know they can finish earlier get their boiler fixed or see a physician when needed, safe in the knowledge that their employer knows that they’ll still get the job done.
2. Encourage managers to focus on productivity rather than hours
Rather than count the hours employees work, encourage managers to focus on the completion of a particular task.
Some days employees may need to put in long hours to complete a task, but this is offset by the days when they don’t need to do a full eight-hour day.
3. Encourage breaks
Encourage your employees to take breaks, take a walk or even work in an entirely different part of the office.
You can create break-out rooms or set aside spare desks that workers can go to. Sometimes team chatter and phones can be overwhelming and it’s healthy to break away for a bit.
4. Regularly review workloads
Review your allocation of duties to ensure individuals have achievable workloads.
You will need to familiarise yourself with the processes of allocating work. What seems like a small task to management might actually take an individual a day to do.
Managers who talk to their teams regularly will know who is busy and stressed, and who has capacity.
Ask your staff regularly to indicate to managers whether they are overworked, just right or have spare capacity.
5. Lead by example
Ensure that managers and the senior leadership team enjoy a healthy work-life balance too.
Make sure they’re leaving the office on time, taking breaks and not emailing workers out of office hours or expecting them to deliver work in unworkable time scales when it isn’t urgent.
6. Give employees time to volunteer
Research shows millennials are more motivated by social action rather than simply just getting paid when looking for employment.
Having the opportunity to do good is not just confined to millennials, though.
And if workers are allowed the freedom to give back while working, they will generally feel good about themselves and about their workplace.
7. Reconsider time off
Could you afford to give your staff more time off?
Equally, another way to prevent burnout is to force workers to take their time off within the holiday year by not allowing them to carry over holiday or capping how many days they can carry over.
Most team members would rather book the time off than risk losing them.
8. Increase support for parents
Often companies lose great talent, especially mums, because they can’t cater to their childcare needs.
The problem isn’t restricted to mums alone, with many men saying they want to spend more time with their children, too.
Ensure the mums and dads in your organisation are getting a better work-life balance, so you don’t lose precious expertise.
Not all companies can provide company crèches. However, you can consider ways to help with childcare costs.
Also, providing better and equal benefits for maternity, paternity or shared parental leave will encourage all parents to balance their working life and parenthood regardless of their gender.
And consider if you can do more to offer parents part-time roles or job shares.
9. Offer health cash plans
Provide health cash plans providing reassurance to employees knowing that they have insurance if they or their family become unwell.
It also encourages a more pro-active approach to health check-ups and inoculations leading to fewer staff absences.
10. Perks or no perks?
Our research revealed that while 40% of business owners believe office games and similar benefits are important to employees, just 5% of workers agree.
So, if you’re considering perks in the office such as ping pong tables, think again.
However, there may be additional services that can save employees time and money and alleviate stress.
These may include:
- Subsidised gym membership or free fitness classes
- A discount at the dry cleaners
- Massages in the office
- Company cars or support including petrol allowance
- Repairs and maintenance
- Helping staff with their tax returns or tax support if they have any questions.
Think about what’s right for your people and your company, and design experiences personalised to your workforce and your people.
11. Ask your employees for views
Almost half of workers (47%) have never been asked by their employer what will improve their experiences, our research found. Only 12% are asked on a regular basis.
Want to create a better work-life balance for your employees? Try asking them.
12. Acknowledge every employee is different
Many of your employees may be desperate to achieve a better work life balance. However, others may feel satisfied with the time they spend working.
Some may want to start work later but be happy to finish later too. Others may not mind working extended hours, if it means they can switch off when they get home.
Some may be eager to work part time, but just don’t know how to approach the matter with their manager.
Companies that attract – and keep – the best people know that every employee is different, and they design experiences at work that can be personalised for everyone.
If your company is serious about creating a better work-life balance for your employees, there won’t be a one-size-fits all that works.
You’ll need to tailor your approach to each employee.
The role of smart HR tech
Vital for all of these things, however, is HR technology that helps and not hinders your employees’ productivity. Progressive people-focused companies know the benefits of:
- A self-service cloud system, which means employees can access information and means they can request paid time off easily, no matter when it is and where they are
- People analytics that give HR true insight into employee engagement and productivity
- Workforce planning, meaning companies and managers have a clear view of workloads
- A system that integrates with a range of benefit providers and third parties
- Regular pulse surveys to gauge feedback and views
- Experiences you can tailor to different groups and demographics.
Get a clear overview of a system that encompasses all of this and more.
The importance of tailoring experiences
The benefits of a healthier work-life balance to your business are phenomenal.
Not only are workers happier and more productive but your company will become well known for looking after employees and so will attract top talent helping to hire and retain the best.
Really, it comes down to whether your business is a People Company.
Are you an organisation where your people are the most valuable asset, and where company success is dependent on their workforce being successful?
If so, supporting a good work-life balance is vital.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in October 2020 and has been updated for relevance.
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