Your organization’s approach to work-life balance starts with leadership and requires deliberate steps to promote employee well-being. Here’s how to give your team members the space they need to recharge for their own health and to improve the organization’s productivity.
As in many other sectors, association workforce demographics are changing, and with new talent come new priorities. Recent research has found that millennials, especially those age 30 to 35, rank work-life balance as the most important thing about their jobs, after salary. And this preference isn’t limited to millennials: In a SHRM survey, 53 percent of employees of all ages cited work/life balance as very important to their job satisfaction—the same ranking they gave to base pay rate.
This might seem like a threat to organizational productivity, but in fact, providing a flexible work environment can reduce employee stress, save organizations money in the long run, and improve employee performance and retention.
Here are five ways to promote work-life balance at your organization.
Ask Employees What They Need
Many associations are working with limited budgets and staff, so being strategic about the benefits your organization offers is important. Start to reassess your current benefits package by asking staff what they need and want.
This can be as simple as conducting an anonymous online survey. Allow staff to indicate their current challenges with work-life balance and to describe the policies or amenities they would like to see added or modified.
When you’ve collected that feedback, thank your employees for sharing, and do your best to honor their requests. Then, keep the lines of communications open so employees know they can tell you if their needs change.
Consider Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexibility means different things for different employees. For some, it’s the ability to work remotely one or more days a week (and there are plenty of advantages to employers in that arrangement). Other employees can benefit from setting their own office hours. For people who act as caregivers for children, parents, or other family members, a modified schedule can save significant time and money and reduce stress.
If your organization isn’t ready to offer remote work or modified schedules, consider giving employees the flexibility to run midday errands, attend family events in the afternoon, or take loved ones to the doctor during work hours.
These approaches usually require a bit more planning and coordination than having everyone work the same 9-to-5 schedule, but adopting them will show that you recognize that your employees are multi-dimensional people with responsibilities outside of work.
Create a Workplace That Encourages Healthy Behavior
Work-life balance also involves employees’ physical and mental health. You can support your team’s good health with a few simple measures.
If your office is in a larger building that has a health center or gym, make sure your employees have access to it. If they don’t, consider arranging discounted memberships for them. Some organizations create club sports teams or organize workout or meditation classes for employees during the workweek. If your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth for those activities, you can encourage small shifts in behaviors—by holding walking meetings, for example.
Emphasize Efficiency Over Hours Worked
A lack of balance often results when workers feel like they have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. This can quickly lead to burnout.
An organization that promotes true work-life balance will value productivity over total hours worked. For some employees, this could be a paradigm shift. If they’ve been praised their entire career for working long hours, they might be reluctant to leave the office before their boss does, for example, even if they’ve accomplished a lot during the day.
Let employees know your leadership’s expectations about answering emails and working after hours. If necessary, help staff (including supervisors) understand the difference between a true emergency and a task that can wait until morning. Some organizations implement policies that clarify when after-work communications are appropriate and when responses are expected.
Make Sure Your Leaders Walk the Talk
Your work-life-balance plan won’t stick if your executive team members don’t model the behavior you’re encouraging. While C-suite leaders have different duties and must meet different expectations than other employees, there are a few things they can do to show that they’re practicing effective work-life balance: They can leave the office by 5 or 6 pm a few days a week, work remotely on occasion, use their vacation time, and say they won’t answer after-hours emails except in emergency situations.
Shifting your organization’s stance on work-life balance is well worth the effort. It will boost productivity, help you retain your high-performing employees, and keep your staff focused on your organization’s mission.