Work-life balance is an age-old subject, but its prominence is on the rise as employees gradually demand greater control over their personal and professional lives. Achieving work-life balance truly depends on one's definition of the term, and each generation has its own criteria regarding work, recreation and employer expectations. Currently, most companies manage five generations of workers. From baby boomers who are in the process of retiring, to millennials who value a workplace that supports their lifestyle outside of work, human resource managers are learning that flexibility, not necessarily perks, holds the key to employee retention. Fortunately, most companies already have several flexible tools at their disposal.
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
Caring about your employees’ health communicates that you’re invested in your workforce beyond the time they spend in the office. If your facility has a gym, encourage employees to use it. If it does not have one, consider offering free gym memberships, or promoting gym reimbursement through your company’s insurance plan. From your company’s point of view, even moderate exercise improves overall employee health, reducing the amount of absenteeism. From your employee’s point of view, exercise boosts energy and improves one’s mood, making for a more enjoyable and productive workday.
Implement a flexible work schedule
Some people are simply not morning people. Others are up at the crack of dawn ready to go as soon as their feet hit the floor. Natural body rhythms may have a genetic link, so why not try to accommodate these preferences whenever possible? If you company operates on shifts, allow your employees to choose whichever shift feels right to their patterns. If you company is global, let your morning people and night owls sort out clients according to their most effective work hours whenever possible.
Allow remote work
Although companies are increasingly embracing remote work teams, many actually lack a proper remote work policy. Implement clear and flexible rules regarding telecommute work and let employees take advantage as necessary. Otherwise, carefully assess your employees' day-to-day tasks and determine whether telecommute work is a viable option. Even a partial remote work arrangement could drastically lead to a healthy work-life balance.
Provide flexible options for working parents
Work-life balance can be especially tricky when juggling your career and family life simultaneously. Does the workplace provide a built-in child care facility? Could you, as an employer, afford to give employees time off during quiet periods? How much time off can a person on maternity leave have? Making small adjustments, combined with the aforementioned remote work options, can greatly improve an employee's work-life balance.
Measure performance more effectively (objectives, not hours)
Many employers require employees to abide by the standard 40-hour work-week. While this keeps employees in the office when needed, their work may not necessarily require eight hours to complete. With today's technological advances, many functions require less time than in the past. Something to consider: if the quality of the work is equal, does it really matter how much time it takes for an employee to accomplish a task? Today's workforce, especially younger workers, value the challenge and the accomplishment more than the hours spent on a project. Perhaps your company should consider measuring their performance accordingly.
Enforce paid time off
Some organizations have now implemented a universal time off policy that includes paid vacation time, sick days, as well as a general period out of the office - all into one. Recent studies have found that employees who utilize vacation leave or PTO are more productive and more likely to be promoted than their counterparts. Taking PTO generally results in a renewed state for employees, which better translates into higher productivity. "We have found consistently that after taking some time away from the job, employees return more motivated, more productive and with a new level of commitment," says Matt Collins of Loans Now.
Although technological advances have made it easier to multitask at home and at work, many companies' outdated policies are preventing employees from achieving a healthy work-life balance. Remember, the most important requirement for today’s workforce is flexibility. Embracing flexible policies can greatly reduce stress and dissatisfaction and, in turn, it improves productivity in and out of the office.