You want your employees to be engaged in what they're doing, so the first step is making sure they're not overwhelmed with outside commitments. Silicon Valley CEO Raj Narajanaswamy makes a strong case for how fostering a healthy work-life balance throughout your company will contribute to better financial outcomes. He points out that work-related stress routinely costs American businesses $200 to $300 billion annually -- and that doesn't even begin to address the less quantifiable ways in which anxious workers erode your company culture. To foster mental and physical health, here are twelve ways to improve your workforce's work-life balance.
1. Help with childcare
Problems with childcare are often the biggest factor in throwing your employees' work-life balance off-kilter. A few companies such as Patagonia find it cost-effective to provide on-site childcare for employees. If that's not feasible, you may be able to join the 58 percent of smaller firms (and 83 percent of larger ones) who offer a dependent care flexible spending account.
2. Make sure employees take all their paid leave
Whether it's sick days or vacation time, American workers are neglecting their paid time off. A study by TSheets found that 65 percent didn't use all of their PTO in one year -- five days, on average, were left unused. Employees need time to recalibrate and take care of their personal life outside of work. Furthermore, nearly half of the employees who participated in the TSheets survey answered that they'd like to get more time off.
3. Flex the time and location of work
Flexibility is an obvious solution to work-life scheduling conflicts. It allows people to handle urgent commitments that exist outside of work, enabling them to be focused and productive while they're working. Research conducted by MIT and University of Minnesota adds new evidence to the consensus that flexible working arrangements improve employee happiness.
4. Connect employees with volunteer opportunities
That may just sound like more work to your employees -- but in fact, donating time to others makes people feel more "time affluent." One of the needs we have as human beings is making a meaningful contribution to society. Science backs this up: Researchers have found that people who volunteer report feeling a better work-life balance.
5. Offer financial education for employees
With the average college loan debt now at around $23,000, and 17 percent of those borrowers now behind in their payments, it can be tough for millennials to make ends meet. The average household has about $10,000 in credit card debt as well. Providing financial management tools to your employees - or helping with loan payments - can help ease a major source of distraction.
6. Explore the 30-hour workweek option
This is an organizational transformation, not simply an individual option, because to be successful it has to be implemented throughout a whole team. Otherwise, an individual worker choosing shorter hours will simply feel increased pressure to keep up with everyone else. Harvard Business Review relates Amazon's experimental switch to three-quarters time for some of its teams, combined with ongoing full benefits and perks. The arrangement is expected to increase employee motivation and boost recruitment and hiring.
7. Provide ongoing leadership training for managers
A poor relationship with the boss is one of the three top reasons for people quitting their jobs. If you provide ongoing leadership development for your managers, they'll be far more skilled at helping individual employees balance outside stresses with job demands.
8. Counsel employees to avoid becoming the office confidante
This suggestion may surprise you since you probably make efforts to foster teamwork among your staff. However, Harvard Business Review highlights research showing that the person to whom everyone brings their problems often ends up overworked and chronically short of time. If you (or your managers) notice an employee falling into this trap, provide the person with encouragement for setting boundaries.
9. Promote your employee assistance program
Is your EAP going largely unused, month after month? Access to counseling is a valuable perk, and emotional support can be vital in helping people strike a healthy balance in their lives. Launch a company-wide campaign to highlight the value of your EAP and ask company managers to present the use of behavioral health services as a sign of personal strength.
10. Promote wellness through better sleep habits
For people already feeling short on time, devoting extra hours to sleep may not seem like a helpful plan. Getting less sleep than you need, however, causes physiological impairments can interfere with effectiveness at work. Work-life balance researcher Russell Clayton points out that more sleep helps employees "find an effective rhythm between work and life."
11. Encourage physical fitness
There are numerous ways for organizations of all sizes to support their staff in becoming more physically fit. A stronger, healthier body will reduce overall life stress for your workers and decrease work-related burnout by boosting productivity. Offer recognition and rewards to employees who reach certain fitness goals. This can easily be done with an integrated wellness and recognition and rewards program, such as one offered by Achievers and Limeade. You can also sponsor special events, subsidize gym memberships or even add a fitness room to your work location.
12. Invite pets to the office
Of course, this won't work if every employee does it, or if someone's favorite pet has to be fed live mice on a daily basis. However, many companies are finding that a pet-friendly company culture increases employee happiness and improves employees' reported work-life balance.
Creating a work culture that nurtures employee motivation is a complex art, and each organization has its own unique formula for achieving it. Putting any of these twelve tips into action will give you a great return on your investment, however -- brightening your own professional life and boosting employee happiness. To learn more, download our e-book, "How to Incentivize Your Workforce."
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