Work/life balance: is it an impossible dream? Most employees strive for it, so how can we as employers help employees to achieve better work/life balance without sacrificing productivity and without busting the budget?
Thankfully, there are a lot of options for employers seeking to improve work/life balance for employees. Whether the goal is to improve retention, avoid employee burnout, improve employee health, reduce absenteeism, or increase productivity, there are many reasons employers want to work on work/life balance for everyone at the organization. Here are some ways that can be accomplished.
Here are several ways employers can help employees achieve that ever-elusive goal of work/life balance. Consider:
- Allowing work from home, even part of the time. Consider whether even 1 day per week would be acceptable if you’re not comfortable with full-time options. Or consider allowing meetings to be attended remotely (with the help of technology) rather than in person.
- Restricting hours worked. This means having a culture in which employees are not expected to work after they leave the worksite. It can also mean restricting how many hours are expected of any employee in a given week. Some organizations even stop their e-mail servers from forwarding messages after hours.
- Focusing on the image and culture that top management projects. If they’re promoting (and living) the idea of work/life balance, employees will be more encouraged to do the same and be less fearful that the culture will not support it.
- Focusing on outcomes, not hours worked. High productivity doesn’t necessarily come in 8-hour segments. In other words, productive employees may get their work done efficiently, and not need to be at the worksite a full 8 hours every day.
- Looking deeper at workplace culture. Does the culture promote overwork? Are there manageable workloads? Are there reasonable expectations?
- Promoting breaks in the work day, which can go a long way toward keeping stress in check. Take action to prompt employees to take lunch breaks and rest breaks—taking breaks has been shown to actually increase productivity levels. Higher productivity means less need to work late.
- Giving employees information about work/life balance. While simple, just the act of providing information about work/life balance to employees can foster a better culture. This idea can result in employees taking better care to ensure this balance exists.
- Allowing extra time off for charitable pursuits or volunteer work. This usually means employees are able to pursue things that keep them happy and satisfied in life, and it can also help the company image.
- Unlimited vacation time policies. If that’s too much, consider expanding the number of vacation days available. Also consider giving extra days as a form of bonus for completion of goals or to celebrate milestones. A separate but related idea: consider encouraging all employees to use up their vacation time, rather than to let it sit.
- Providing childcare benefits. This could be in the form of discounts at nearby childcare centers or it could be in the form of on-site childcare options. Either way, if parents have options that remove some stress, it can help to achieve that balance.
- Offering maternity/paternity leave to new parents.
- Getting input from employees: ask them what other benefits may be useful. Also, pay attention to the signs of inadequate work/life balance to see if more adjustments are needed. Watch for stress and burnout.
- Providing help to employees to get everyday tasks done. This could be in the form of on-site or nearby benefits that allow employees to get more of their personal errands and household responsibilities handled during work hours. Employers could even offer a discount in some cases. This reduces total stress and allows more leisure time at home. Examples of perks that could be either on-site or discounted include:
- Laundry facilities
- Dry cleaning
- Coffee/soda/tea/juice at work or discounted coffee shop or convenience store
- Free lunches
- Gym and/or fitness classes
- Auto repairs and maintenance
- Tax preparation services
- Catering for personal events
- Gift-wrapping services
- Concierge service that coordinates other miscellaneous needs for employees
- Offering wellness plans. Having a healthier workforce can lead to less stress and fewer absences, which can boost productivity and reduce the need to work extra hours to stay caught up.
- Offering flexible hours. By allowing employees more flexibility in what hours they work in a given day, employees can better manage their time around all obligations. Some companies are even going for flexible work weeks in which employees can work 4 longer days and take a 3-day weekend every week. If this is too much, consider that flexible hours could even mean allowing employees to make up hours lost to personal appointments or errands, so they do not need to take time off to accomplish these things.
What other ideas have you considered to assist employees in gaining work/life balance? What has been your experience?
*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.