10 Tips for Employers to Promote Balance
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Our employers are a big part of our lives. They provide us the opportunity to make a living, and depending on our jobs, some of them allow us to make a real difference in the world. No matter how you look at it, a huge part of our waking day is spent engaged closely with our employers.
Great employers care about us, too. It’s in their best interests-studies have shown that our well-being as employees brings them profit and success! Here are 10 easy ways employers can promote balance and keep employees happy, healthy and productive:
- Showing friendliness for work flexibility. To the extent possible, allow employees flexibility in time, location and method of accomplishing work tasks. We understand that you can’t always allow this—in a call center or a retail store, there needs to be coverage, for instance—but understand that we are human beings with families and needs outside off work. If employers want to maintain their workforce in the future, they may want to listen to the talk about Millenials’ keen expectations about work flexibility.
- Giving recognition in the moment. Did you see your team member do something great? Don’t just tell her, but tell the team too, by thanking her in front of them, or using a recognition tool (such as Globoforce) or internal social media platform (like Yammer) if one is available at your workplace.
- Ensuring accountability for all team members. Knowing that every team member will be supported and taken to task for his performance if appropriate helps everyone feel good about pitching in together to do the best work, even if extra effort is needed. Ownership over successes as well as failures helps the team feel in control of their own destiny and keep the focus not on complaining, but on solving real problems.
- Providing opportunities to keep learning. Continuous, embedded learning in the context of their work keeps employees engaged and feeling good about their value to the organization. When employees are engaged, they are more strongly committed to their employers, and the balancing act between work and life is easier to maintain.
- Listening and connecting on a human level. No one has everything in common, and it’s not expected that managers be best friends with their team members. But genuinely empathizing with employees and understanding where they are coming from as people can help reduce some of the stress that comes with a work and home life that sometimes is bursting at the seams. Notice when your employees are having a tough time, and check in to make sure they are okay. As Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Make sure you are focused on understanding your employees.
- Knowing that after-hours activities aren’t always welcome. Depending on the culture of your workplace, it may be expected that employees go to happy hour after work, or attend events in the evening. For some roles, it may make sense to expect frequent after-hours socializing, but don’t make the mistake of believing this is off-duty time and there’s something wrong with employees who decline to show up and have fun on demand. Here is a rule of thumb: if a manager is present, it’s still work, and there are other ways to build your team’s connections.
- Offering honesty with compassion and respect. Employees generally know when they are not doing the best they could in their work, and they really do want to succeed. Your team members appreciate hearing the truth, as long as they feel safe to have a real conversation about what’s going on and what they need. But when they don’t trust managers to understand where they are coming from, or feel like one false move will get them fired, employees may not be receptive to feedback. Be sure to lay the groundwork first.
- Cutting off gossip and comments on personal issues of others. Sometimes when a team member is going through a particularly tough personal situation (divorce, illness), other employees, particularly those more prone to chitchat, will bring up details in conversation at work. Besides coming off as unsupportive to the employee in crisis and distracting your team members from their work, it can create an atmosphere of risk for EEO and ADA concerns. Express empathy one on one, but don’t allow other employees to comment, and if you come upon any conversations, be clear that gossip won’t be tolerated.
- Sharing leaders’ joys and challenges. Real, human stories from leadership help all employees feel like they are understood and that the company values their whole selves, not just the commoditized work they provide to the company. A manager mentioning his child’s illness or a VP sharing the challenges of caring for her aging father can go a long way toward creating a culture of understanding and support for employees’ needs beyond the workplace.
- Considering gradual entry and exit plans. Returning from maternity leave, especially for a first-time parent, can feel overwhelming. Providing options for gradual re-entry, including extended part-time work, can allow new parents enough time to adjust to this huge change in their home life, while returning to work and remaining engaged in their careers. Soon-to-be retirees help themselves and the company transition by gradually sun-setting their schedules, working part-time for the last six to twelve months of their time with the company, if pension provisions do not interfere. Flexibility recognizes the real effects of substantial personal changes, instead of using arbitrary cutoff dates that don’t work well in real life.
When employees and employers work together, great things can happen. Employers remembering that work and life are now inextricable can help us all manage to do our best work and enjoy our lives at the same time!
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