For more than 85 percent of males and 66 percent of females in the United States, the workweek extends longer than 40 hours. In addition, Americans use an average of 51% of available personal time off, and 61% choose to work even when they’re on “vacation.”
Throughout many industrialized nations, and most specifically the U.S., we’ve created a culture where we are expected to be more productive and work longer hours. This can lead to exhausted employees, costly mistakes and a great deal of stress.
According to Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, “Not only do mistakes cost money, but stress-related illnesses—like depression—account for the highest behavioral costs.”
For this reason, a negative work-life balance is as much a health issue for the business as it is the employee. Following are five ways to help promote a better employee work-life balance.
1. Adopt Project Management and Time Tracking Technology
The number one reason (40%) employees don’t take time off is because they fear the mountain of work they’d come back to. It can be hard for your teammates to take time away from the office if they have too much work on their plate.
Leverage time tracking and project management tools to keep tabs on employee workloads, deadlines and ownership responsibilities. Review project status reports and timesheets weekly to flag when workloads inhibit taking time away.
Shift assignments, assign more support or work with the employee to find ways to optimize their time management to ensure work gets done, and they don’t feel conflicted about taking time away.
2. Move to the Cloud
Unchain workers from their desks by moving your business technology to the cloud. Cloud-based platforms give any employee with a browser and an internet connection the ability to access important work documents and systems from anywhere, at any time.
Consider moving some of the following technologies to the cloud:
- Webmail (e.g. Gmail)
- Document management (e.g. Google Drive).
- Project management and time tracking (e.g. WorkflowMax).
- Customer relationship management (e.g. Salesforce).
- Accounting platform (e.g. Xero).
3. Get Flexible with Time
With employees no longer chained to their desks, give them the flexibility to adjust their schedules as the need arises. For example, let them start the day from home so they can drop the kids off, leave for an hour in the middle of the day to get to a doctors appointment, or take off early to go enjoy a couple hours of sunshine.
As Entrepreneur states, “the main reason [to implement flex time into workplace operations] is to retain key, dedicated employees whose personal needs conflict with traditional work hours.”
As a 2010 study by the Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom found, it’s a benefit that can help your business. According to the study,“workers given flexible hours by their employers tend to work more intensely than their counterparts with more rigid office hours.” Reason being? Workers felt they owed employers a thank you for empowering them to choose where and when to get work done.
4. Remove Incentives to Work More
Some employees may need an extra push or incentive to use vacation time.
Start by staffing departments so that work can be appropriately covered when a person is out of the office. This will help alleviate some of the fear that they’ll have a mountain of work to come back to.
Next, continuously empress upon employees the need to take time off. This messaging needs to come from the top down, and it can’t be lip service.
Finally, take a look at your existing benefits structure. Are there incentives in place that encourage employees to avoid taking vacation days? Examples here include rollover of vacation days year to year, or end of the year lump-sum payments for vacation days left unused. Instead, implement a “use it or lose it” vacation policy where any vacation days left unused at the end of the year are lost.
If that’s not enough, consider going the way of Evernote and FullContact and pay your employees to take some time to disconnect.
5. Plan Team Outings
All work and no play will make Jack, Jane and all of your employees dull boys and girls. Demonstrate to employees that downtime and a life outside of work are core company values with planned outings.
Consider regular happy hours, attending sports games as a team or host themed potluck lunches or dinners. Also encourage employees to bring their families and loved ones (not to the happy hours).
Promote the need for relaxation, unwinding and relationship building on topics other than the latest department project. Have these events serve as reminders to your team that unplugging every once in a while is important.
How does your company help team members live both work and personal lives to the fullest? Share in the comment section below.
Image Source: Quinn Dombrowski under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic