By: Beau Peters
Having the right work-life balance is integral to maintaining one’s health. A poor work-life balance can have serious ramifications, including chronic stress and burnout.
Forbes contributor for corporate wellness, Alan Kohll, writes that “Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. It can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains, and heart problems.” Too much stress over long periods of time can lead to employee burnout and have adverse effects on both the employee and the employer.
As an employer, you are not solely responsible for providing work-life balance to your employees, but you can assist and encourage them to maintain their own balance. Promoting a healthy work-life balance is key in reducing the probability of employee burnout, as well as boosting employee productivity. Employees in control of their work and personal lives are more likely to be satisfied at work and perform better, which in turn significantly benefits the company. Here are some ways to encourage employees to have a healthy work-life balance:
Encourage Short Breaks
At a time when this is a huge emphasis on professional productivity, taking a break seems like an indulgence. Due to an increased sense of competition in the workplace, most employees will avoid taking breaks so as to stay at the top and show their commitment. Contrary to instinct, however, taking a break is actually more beneficial to productivity. An article by Duquesne University states that “Several university studies show taking a break enhances creativity and maximizes focus.”
Encourage your employees to take breaks through the workday. Be it a short walk outside, a lunchtime yoga/meditation session, or just some time chatting with colleagues in the breakroom, taking breaks will help your employees alleviate stress and feel refreshed through the workday. Humans are not comfortable sitting still and staring at a screen for eight hours a day. Working in this type of environment can result in several health issues, including eye problems due to too much exposure to blue light from computer screens. Breaks improve your mental clarity, helping you focus and lessen the effects of burnout. In the long term, you will be more productive by taking a little time for yourself now and then.
On a larger scale, you should also encourage your employees to use their vacation time. Even though most organizations allow for a set number of paid vacation days, many employees don’t end up making use of this designated time off. Some employees even accrue time off for years in the hopes that they will one day take a long vacation, but when the time comes around to do so, unforeseen things often prevent this. Others simply feel as though taking time off regularly is contradictory to today’s “race to the top” work ethic. Career experts at The Balance suggest combatting this by allowing only a limited amount of paid time off to be carried over to the next year. This way, employees are forced to use their vacation days, ensuring they get their R&R time in.
Define Communication Expectations
In a previous article on how employers can boost engagement, we’ve talked about the importance of setting clear expectations. This is especially true for expectations in regards to communication.
Did you know that 82 percent of employees have responded to work-related emails while on vacation, and 87 percent think it’s alright to contact co-workers regarding work-related matters outside of standard work hours? These statistics aptly show “always-on” attitude that dominates the workplace. Due to this constant connectivity, employees are rarely able to feel like they’re finished with work, not leaving much room for a good work-life balance.
As an employer, you can avoid this by instituting a strict communications policy that details acceptable communication expectations. Encourage and respect your employees’ freedom to disconnect, and set the expectation that employees will only be contacted outside of work hours for work-related matters in case of a real emergency.
Watch Out for Signs of Burnout
As an employer, it is your responsibility to keep an eye out for signs of burnout in employees. Some of the telltale signs that indicate poor work-life balance include overeating or barely eating, experiencing a lack of sleep, having nightmares about work, a feeling of depression, constant irritability and fatigue, getting sick often, drinking excessive coffee, and refusing to take a break at work. If you notice any of these signs in your employees, encourage them to take action and actively work towards a better work-life balance before it is too late. Especially during times of stress, having an employer’s support in battling burnout can be extremely valuable to employees.
Practice What You Preach
A company’s tone is set from the top, and company culture is strongly influenced by managerial decisions and behavior. As a leader, you need to be a role model for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. After all, no one likes to take advice from a hypocrite.
Ensure that your employees are able to see you take short breaks through the day, utilize vacation time, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you yourself respond to work emails and calls after-hours, it’s unlikely that your employees will feel comfortable enough to truly disconnect. As we’ve stated in a previous article, “Being a good manager means leading by example. To encourage the kind of work-life balance they’d like to see in their employees, managers first have to exhibit them in their own actions.”
Work-life balance means different things to different employees, with some being more prone to imbalance than others. As an employer, you can do your part in helping employees to achieve balance by encouraging employees to be aware of their own tendencies. Use these tips to promote a healthier lifestyle and empower your employees to find the balance they need.
About the author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.