Work-Life Balance: The Bottom Line

Today’s work force is riding a tidal wave of work-life trends as concepts like “mindfulness” and “nap rooms” become main stream. Many companies are redefining parental leave (for Dad’s, adopters, or non-birth parents), and volunteer days become the norm. The pattern here is making room for what happens in life and allowing for work-life balance, but three questions linger:

  1. “What do our employees really want?” (A lot)
  2. “How much is this going to cost me? (Not much)
  3. “Can employees doing ‘less work’ really get more done?” (No, but read on)

To begin, work-life balance is more than nap pods and personal days off. At its core, the notion of work-life balance reflects an employer’s support for their employees well-being and a respect for their life outside of work. It goes beyond policies; it really is about culture. We all know someone who has taken a job because of the great vacation package only to find they had no time to use it. In fact, almost half of Americans do not use all their vacation days!

Company cultures that support work-life balance project security to employees. It provides fulfillment for workers by allowing them to manage their personal lives so that they come to work focused and ready to perform.  Do you think an Assistant Manager who sent a sick child to school because he had no personal days is providing his full attention? Or that a project lead who commutes 2 hours each way every day (because there are no flexible work arrangements) has the focus to catch every mistake? According to most established behavioral science, the answer is a “not a freaking chance”.

We bring our whole selves to work (distractions of the morning last all day) and leading companies already recognize that. Those that have not, will find attracting new hires much harder. Getting top talent through the door requires real work-life balance options. Running existing employees in high gear for months is now a certifiable lose-lose situation. Productivity plummets after a 50 hour work week and, even worse, drive absenteeism and turnover. Employee ROI crumbles under the weight of overtime.

Solutions come in many forms. Part-time arrangements, job sharing, in-office perks. What is best for your bottom line?

STOP. Ask employees what they want first. Prioritize, start one-at-a time, and cut anything they don’t want. The best execution on increasing (actual and the perception of) work-life balance is a supportive culture from managers. Will you convince all managers this is a good idea? Maybe not. The alternative is losing another good employee.

Finally, your people will not likely get more work done. They will just get exactly the same amount done. And appreciate you for it.


Posted: 9/21/2015

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