Work is a leading source of stress which impacts employee well-being and business results. Many businesses have invested measures that support employee well-being and business outcomes such as; anti-smoking programs, nutrition, and physical fitness. However, most programs lack the luster of what work-life balance really means – the balance between time spent working and personal life.
The Benefits of Work-Life Balance
Companies that obtain a reputation for encouraging work-life balance attract new talent and tend to keep existing employees happy. These companies also tend to enjoy higher employee retention rates, which results in less training, loyalty, and a higher degree of in-house expertise. A successful program enables employees to feel they have more control of their lives and lead to attracting new talent, reduce absenteeism, increase retention rates, increase productivity, and improve staff motivation.
A happier less stressed workforce improves employee health and well-being and provides a positive perception of the employer. When employees have a greater sense of control and ownership over their own lives, there is a tendency to have better relationships with management, leaving work issues at work and home issues at home.
Fostering Work-Life Balance
As with any new program introduced in the work place environment, education and communication are key. Communicate new program initiatives by posting them in the cafeteria, employee resource center, and communicate in meetings. Here are five steps to foster a healthy work life balance.
Educate and Communicate
Maintaining communication helps employees feel more relaxed and have less anxiety if they know what to expect daily, so consistency and organization is key to having a steady and reliable work environment.
Create a Designated Quiet Space
Developing an area where employees can take breaks away from the hustle and bustle allow the mental break that is needed in a stressful environment. This area should contain comfortable seating, plants, soft lighting for reading, and soft music. Some companies have even added fish tanks to a serene space, since this has been known to lower blood pressure. Again, communicate that this is not a lounge for a social gathering, but a calming place for silence and solitude.
There are a lot of companies these days that provide a virtual workforce, however, most companies cannot compromise productivity; but there are still options. For example, employees who have emergencies that arise due to sick children, consider offering an additional day for them to come in to make up the time or, work from home for the day so they do not have to worry about lost wages and company deadlines will still be met. Be considerate of employee’s family needs.
In months where business may be slower, companies can offer a flexible schedule where employees are allowed to work four-ten hour shifts every other week allowing for a three-day weekend. This provides employees to enjoy more time with family and friends.
Another option is to allow the employee to find a replacement to work for them the day they need to be off, so there is no interruption in business productivity. A win-win situation!
Encourage the Use of Vacation Time
Most companies provide standard two-week vacations, however, when you consider 365 days in a year, this isn’t enough time to achieve a work-life balance. Companies can also consider offering an additional couple of “Health and Wellness” days.
A way to encourage employees to take vacations is to implement a “use it or lose it policy”, therefore, any unused vacation days left at the end of the year are forfeited.
Another idea is to have employees submit periodic time off at the beginning of the year. This helps employees to have something to look forward to. This also assists companies to have a better handle on staffing requirements.
Promote Short Breaks Daily
Set the precedence of taking short breaks. Our bodies were not designed to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, or be on our feet for 12, which can lead to a variety of health issues. Encourage employees who work eight or more hours a day to utilize the “fifteen-minute break” in the day to get up and stretch; this has been known to make employees feel less stressed, more productive, and focused.
Allow Unpaid Time Off for Life Events
For those employees who do not qualify under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you could offer an unpaid leave to assist those helping a parent or relative with a serious illness or, extending maternity leave.
Another idea is structuring a paid time off (PTO) accrual system where employees can earn vacation time by way of perfect attendance. For example, for each month an employee has perfect attendance, they gain an additional day off, which can be used for emergencies or other life mishaps.
Overall, it is important to encourage employees to be aware of satisfaction, inner peace, and balance. Empowering employees to take control of their work-life and home-life will have a profound impact on job performance and satisfaction; and at the same time, enabling you to provide what’s best and effective for the organization.
Denise Calabrese is a Certified Human Resources Specialist attained through Michigan State University. Driven by her passion for customer service and helping others, she currently works as a Human Resources Coordinator specializing in recruitment, employee relations, and case management.