The concept of a work/life balance has become a much-touted one in professional circles over the past few years, with those in the working world seeking out new and more effective ways to juggle their various personal and professional commitments.
But while the emergence of smart phones and widespread connectivity has allowed us to be more flexible in terms of the way we manage our time, has it really helped us to become more balanced individuals?
Unfortunately, the pursuit of this supposedly balanced lifestyle has in fact achieved the very opposite, blurring the lines between work and play to the point where it’s become difficult to differentiate the point at which one ends and the other begins.
And whilst managers and business owners might fail to see the problem in this – after all, more work must surely mean greater productivity – the adverse effects of this always-on lifestyle are slowly beginning to take its toll.
Studies show that employees who regularly check their emails outside working hours are 48% more stressed than their more offline counterparts, with this added anxiety leading to further complications like lower engagement, absenteeism, burnout and ill health. So whilst the ability to work anywhere, anytime might see a short-term spike in returns, the long-term fall-out can in fact be extremely costly to business.
Studies have also indicated that the quality of our work is heavily influenced by the health of our personal relationships. Now how healthy can a relationship really be if it’s constantly interrupted by email breaks and hurried phone calls? Put it this way, a night spent sleeping on the couch isn’t likely to up your team’s output.
For business owners, it’s vital that a more holistic approach to employee well-being be applied if the work/life balance conundrum is ever to be solved. Whilst benefits like flexi-time are undoubtedly appealing, particularly to employees with families, they’re not necessarily doing anyone any good if they result in the abolition of set hours and the complete abandonment of boundaries.
Ultimately, the old adage that states that a happy employee is a productive one still rings true, but the reality is that this happiness should ideally extend beyond the walls of the office if it’s to apply in any real sense.
So how do you ensure your employees enjoy the best of both worlds? Here are a few simple tricks to help you redress the balance in your workplace:
Whilst smartphones have undoubtedly played their part in unsettling the balance between work and play, they can also be effectively used to rectify it. Apps like Daily Routine or CrunchTime are designed to track activity over the course of the day, keeping tabs on working hours, sleep time, overtime, mood and even weight. By encouraging employees to utilise tools like this, you’ll help to make them more aware of the hours they’re committing to professional and personal pursuits, and help them to differentiate between the two. Ultimately, all managers should take time to look through employees’ time reports at the end of every month, reviewing the number of hours spent working, and helping them to ensure they’re allocating appropriate time to their own lives.
Physical wellbeing plays an enormous role in establishing a balanced lifestyle, and as such, it’s important that you not only encourage your employees to tackle fitness-related pursuits, but also that you afford them appropriate time to do so. Many of us tend to forego that morning run or afternoon gym session purely due to time constraints, so by offering each employee an hour during the working day during which they’re encouraged to get out and stretch their legs, you’ll soon start to see improved performance levels as well as a spike in overall wellbeing.
Rather than using flexi-time as an incentive to boost productivity, why not offer your employees an allocation of wellness days, which they can use anytime throughout the year (within reason of course). Essentially, you’ll be offering them a no-strings-attached, no-technology-allowed day off, which they can cash in when they feel they need to recharge their batteries. Of course, your best employees will likely avoid cashing in on perks like this, so it’s important that you strictly enforce this policy, and ensure that all employees make use of their annual allocation, much as they might feel they don’t have the time for it.