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  • Leigh Kester

Do you support work-life balance?

Work-life balance, what is it and how do we enable our employees to achieve it and how do we accomplish this for ourselves? Are we all on the same page?


As a nation we have grown more flexible in our workplaces due to COVID 19 Pandemic. We had to adapt at great speed, and we become more resilient because of it. But what does that mean for that all important balance? Less commuting time, less travel cost, more time at home being able to collect children from school, being present in the mornings and having a time for that all important first cup of coffee. Which means we have mastered work-life balance, right?


Image demonstrating a typical working from home set up

Although there are benefits to working from home there are also added pressures. Research through Liberty Games has shown that 41% of people are more likely to work through their lunch working from home and 38% working longer hours as they are now more accessible through email and mobiles. The working day isn’t simply ending at 17:00 and to top it off 27% of employee feel as though their boss thinks they’re not working, so it is likely they work overtime to prove that they are. This isn’t a method which is healthy for the team, organisation, or the mental health of the individual. This is demonstrated in Microsoft’s 2022 New Future of Work Report, they share that “Remote work and subsequent work-life balance and job autonomy can improve job satisfaction, but employees may feel socially isolated, guilty and try to overcompensate”. As employers or managers, it is our responsibility to help alleviate these pressures and demonstrate trust in our teams.


Finding time between work and life itself is a balancing act and we are not all equilibrists. Often people pleasing is prioritised over work-life balance and it is a difficult trait to overcome. Some may feel obliged to work the extra hour at work or taking on extra responsibilities for a friend, to prove to their manager they are committed. However what drives this is an unhealthy work culture that may not be in our best interest – in terms of health and wellbeing. Committing more time to work should not be at the expense of your health and happiness. What we as individuals can do is advocate for ourselves. Think of what is realistically going to make you happy. Don’t be afraid to set your own boundaries or to give yourself a break, it is important that there is ‘you’ time.


Employer’s and managers have a role to support work-life balance, by being realistic about targets, ensuring staff are trained, and communicating effectively. This can dramatically help alleviate the pressures at work. Listed below are a few ideas to get you started.


Surveys:


Managers can run regular surveys on work-life balance with staff, Survey monkey offer a great template to get you started. Remember when looking to find a solution, that the same won’t apply to all staff and the individual’s needs will need to be explored during 1:1’s or informal meetings.


Empathy:


Become an empathetic leader, get to know your staff and be aware what is happening in their lives. Create an environment where people trust you to discuss issues. Challenges at home can affect work concentration and therefore could impact the outcome of a project. So be understanding, if someone needs to go and collect their sick child from school, let them, if something is going on at home which means their attention isn’t on the task at hand at work, offer support and allow them time to process the issue. You will be rewarded with a more engaged, valued, and productive employee.

Otherwise, that issue is likely to be drawn out, which also means that the employee won’t be focused on work for a much longer time, and this might start to impact on how they interact with the team.


Trust:


Trust is your all-important key skill to being a manager. If you work in an organisation where employees can work from home, this is on the mutual understanding that there is trust that the employee will work. However, to demonstrate that you trust them show them. Give them praise on how well their projects or outputs have been whilst they have been working from home. As a manager you will need to relinquish your need to micromanage and adapt your management style to focus on outputs and timelines rather than task by task assignments. Employees will be looking for reassurance of trust from their managers via consistency, support – even if mistakes are made, being approachable and authentic.


Take a break and checking in:


Make sure you check-in with people, whether that is at their desk or on-line. Showing interest makes people feel valued and demonstrates compassion. It takes no time but is hugely important. Encourage people to take lunch breaks. Actively check in with “have you taken your lunch yet” or “don’t forget to have you lunch” etc… This allows the employee to reset during the day, to attend to any personal emails, texts or calls but also to allow them to have a bit of time unwinding – ideally away from the screen.


Use your holiday:


Equally encourage employees to take their holiday entitlement, it is important that employees feel as though they can take their holidays and that they should be encouraged to have downtime and a space away from the work environment. This can be implemented in employment policy and can be shown with limiting how many holiday days each person is able to carry over to the following year.


How to improve work-life balance


  • Plan ahead and manage your time

  • Consider how you work best

  • Set blocks of time for different tasks

  • Be disciplined about when you end work.

  • Minimise IT distractions

  • Speak up if you need support

  • Go out for lunch, or enjoy lunch with colleagues

  • Take breaks

  • Practice mindfulness.

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