It’s a rare thing to be successful without feeling like you’ve had to make some hard sacrifices along the way. In the quest to “keep up with the Joneses,” many people feel like they have to work harder and longer hours just so they can live a comfortable life. But at what cost? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to be living this so-called American Dream?
In 2014, Harvard Business Review published a study that gives us the grim reality of what it’s like to work your fingers to the bone. The study revealed 94% of working professionals report clocking more than 50 hours each week at the office; more alarmingly, 50% of those respondents reported putting in an astounding 65 hours of work each week. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business conducted a similar (but separate) study that reveals those who are in a “high demand” career, are 15.4% more likely to die than people who work in a “low demand” career.
Those numbers paint a very grim picture for what it’s like to achieve that big house with a white picket fence, don’t you think? As an employer, it’s part of your responsibility to encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance – otherwise they are going to burn out and productivity is going to plummet.
The big question is, how? What steps can you take to ensure your employees aren’t burning themselves out at the office?
Start with the hiring process
The very first thing you can to do promote a healthy work/life balance is by talking about how important health is right away in the hiring process. Best practices for hiring not only include conversing about a healthy work/life balance, but also offering a pamphlet that lists things they can do to achieve a healthy work/life balance.
Some examples of items to cover on a pamphlet can include:
Adhering to a Healthier Lifestyle: 70% of Americans have a difficult time creating and adhering to a long term plan, so expecting your employees to overhaul their lifestyle upon accepting a job offer is not going to work out to your benefit – you may even get some push back! However, you can create incentives to help them along the way. Some examples of incentives can include:
- Offering healthy snacks in the break room, instead of vending machine fare.
- Encourage physical activity like walking clubs or alter work schedules to workout.
- Create a company sports team (baseball, bowling, basketball, etc.)
- Give health and wellness information for your employees from reputable organizations.
- Organize an incentive program for most miles walked, weight lost, etc.
- Rewards can be money, gift cards, extra day off, whatever you want it to be.
Develop a Strong Support Network: We all know how stressful work can be sometimes, and when you are experiencing stress at work and at home, it can be too much for anyone to handle. Encourage your employees to create a strong support system. Also, let your employees know they can come to you (or your human resource team) if they have any work-related concerns.
How to Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance
After you’ve hired the new employee and have provided them with information on how to achieve this balance, there are some things you can do on your end to help them achieve and maintain this balance. These things include:
- Offer PTO (paid time off)- Instead of offering sick leave, paid personal days, and paid vacation time to employees why not offer PTO time? When you give PTO time, you are giving your employees the ability to make their own decisions of how to manage their paid time off. With this method, neither party has to worry about what time has been used for what days – it all comes out of the PTO. Plus, offering PTO time eliminates the need for extra policies (like what constitutes as a sick day), which can simplify things on your end, as well. For an example of a PTO Policy, check out a sample policy guide here.
- Have Regular Staff Meetings- We like to think we know everything when it comes to how to manage our business. Except, we don’t. The only way you can learn what is going on with the staff and what could be changed to make the work environment better is by consulting with your staff. Have a few employee-elected representatives talk with the employees or fill out surveys. Then, once a month, have a sit down with these representatives and hash things out. You can identify specific problems that you can fix right away, make plans for change over a certain amount of time, or brainstorm possible solutions to the problems.
- Offer Education- One of the easiest ways to encourage employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance is by teaching your employees how to go about doing it. While the pamphlets you may give out about healthy lifestyles, or the information provided by healthcare providers may or may not be useful, you can host seminars or workshops that teaches employees how to make healthy choices. Motorola offers their full-time US employees participation to the LIVESMART program that provides advice on managing the commute, wellness incentives, complimentary will prep, and even webinars on health and wellness.
- Allow the Ability to Work From Home- While not all employees can perform their duties from home, for those who can, give these individuals the opportunity to work from home one or two days a week. Nicholas Bloom (an Economics Professor at Stanford University) worked with Ctrip (China’s largest travel agent) to conduct an experiment to test out his experiment about employees who had the chance to work from home. The results of the study indicated employees tend to work 9.5% longer at home than those in the office, but also they were 13% more productive. Despite working a little longer and getting more done, these people were happier and less likely to quit!
- Lead By Example- Leading by example is something that some people may find difficult – after all, it’s easy to promote healthy lifestyles, but it can be challenging to implement them yourself if you have a few bad habits. However, it’s important to do so. It’s not going to look very good if you encourage your employees to join the office sports team, but you, yourself, are not part of it. Or you take some time off for a vacation, but you answer messages and emails while away. When you make a conscience effort to practice what you preach, your employees will take notice and follow your lead.
Having a successful career doesn’t mean you have to burn the midnight oil each and every night. As an employer, you want your staff to be in their best condition (physical, mental, and emotion) so they can be productive and happy at the job. It is important that you encourage your employees to strive for that healthy work/life balance, but you also have to understand that it isn’t going to happen overnight. With that said, even implementing small changes like having fruit salad instead of donuts at the next meeting will make an impact. It’s a process, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s achievable!