Work-life balance. It’s become a bit of a buzzword over the last few years, especially with the pandemic bringing changes to how and where we work.
But wanting work-life balance and actually achieving it are two very different things. And that’s not even considering how hard it is to find a happy medium between that and staying productive as a business.
However, doing so isn’t impossible.
In this post, we’ll run down some ways you can build work-life balance into your company culture and keep your productivity high at the same time.
The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Productivity
It’s important to note that work-life balance and productivity aren’t always negatively related. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A study in 2017 by the Social Market Foundation found that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy ones.
Work-life balance has other benefits for a workplace’s productivity. Employers that prioritise their work-life balance reduce the risk of burnout, which we know can cause physical and mental health problems. In turn, they improve focus, and workplace morale increases in general. All this adds up to a workplace that more people want to stay in for longer – and that’s valuable.
Strategies for Leaders to Promote Work-Life Balance
When it comes to promoting work-life balance while maintaining productivity, there are many different strategies business leaders can implement:
Flexible work arrangements
Post-pandemic, flexible working has become less of a luxury and more of an expectation for those entering new roles. In 2021, a survey found that more than half of workers globally would consider leaving their jobs post-pandemic if flexible working wasn’t provided. With the advent of the Great Resignation, that looks to have come true.
Flexible working isn’t just limited to working from home. Companies can look at options including flexitime, compressed workweeks, or job sharing, depending on what works best for their business. No matter what you choose, talking seriously with your employees will make them feel more in control of how they work, increasing productivity.
Encourage regular breaks
This strategy is twofold. Taking regular short breaks throughout the workday – even just to make a cup of coffee – can prevent physical problems such as eye and neck strain. It also gives employees a chance to take a mental break. But encouraging use of annual leave, for longer breaks, is just as important.
Change the way you measure productivity
It’s not hard to see why measuring productivity by the number of hours worked is attractive. It’s the ultimate “one-size-fits-all” metric – but opting for it can harm productivity, rather than helping it. Placing so much focus on time unwittingly glorifies overworking, and can lead to “busywork”, work that keeps a person busy but has little value in itself. One alternative is to adopt a task-based approach, so that employees don’t worry about having to show hours logged.
Use technology to streamline processes
Research from Personio showed that on average, employees spend 3 hours a week on repetitive administrative tasks. For someone working a standard 37.5 hours, this adds up to 8% of their working week.
One way to get this time back is by utilising technology. Many tools are now available that can automate these tedious tasks and make other changes to streamline workflows and enhance communication across the entire team. This has the dual benefit of allowing employees to do more in the time they have, while also boosting productivity as they focus on task that are higher value.
Ask any business leader if they’re a good communicator, and you’ll likely get a ‘yes’. To your employees, though, it might not be so obvious – and this could be harming your business’ wider productivity.
As early as possible, you should establish open and transparent communication channels. Make sure that employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and goals. Getting rid of ambiguity means employees will feel more empowered to manage their own workloads – knowing what they have to do, and when.
Understand each employee’s unique needs
Employees are humans – and that means no two are the same. This goes for work-life balance too. It looks different for everyone and the only way you’re going to learn how is by asking them directly. Some might prefer to start and end later in the day. Some may have family commitments. Others may like to have certain days where they work exclusively from the office. Provide them with the autonomy to manage their own work-life balance, and you’ll have happier employees (which we’ve already established is good for productivity!)
Work and life are rarely in perfect harmony with each other. But as a leader, you’re in a unique position. You can shift the scales. Just by setting the example – not overworking, taking breaks when you need to – you can impact your employees’ own mental health, and in turn, your business’ productivity.
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