Telling employees that you want them to enjoy a good work-life balance is one thing. Actually promoting a company culture that guarantees it is something else altogether. Promoting a good work-life balance through company culture requires discipline among both management and front-line workers.
Among COVID's many lessons is the fact that it's easy to put in a lot more work from home. It is easier to stretch those eight-hour workdays into nine or 10 hours because there is no commute time involved. But it is also easier to get burned out. Management's task these days is to make sure that this doesn't happen. For starters, this means changing the culture.
- Well-Defined Work Hours
The foundation of a culture that promotes a healthy work-life balance is well-defined work hours. If a company's normal workday runs from 8 AM to 4:30 PM, there should be no scheduled video meetings outside those times. No more scheduling meetings at 7:30 AM just because previously commuting employees are now at home.
Sticking to well-defined work schedules can be very difficult for employees who want to get just one or two more things done during the day. It is a challenge for managers who have a tendency to send just one more email or schedule a quick before-hours video call to talk things over before the start of the day.
- Unplugging from Technology
A healthy work-life balance requires discipline when it comes to unplugging from technology. For example, leaving the laptop on all evening creates the temptation to continue checking for new emails. The screen becomes an open invitation to schedule the next round of meetings for the coming week. Above and beyond that are cell phones, social media, etc.
As tough as it might be, companies genuinely looking to promote a culture that includes a healthy work-life balance should be encouraging their employees to unplug at the end of the day. They should be telling their workers to shut off their computers and stop checking email. If workers do not make a concerted effort to unplug, they never will.
- Nothing Is Earth-Shattering
Perhaps the biggest work-life impediment American companies have to get over is the perception of what qualifies as earth-shattering work that has to be done now. U.S. business differs from their counterparts in most other countries in one unique way: we don't ever seem to know when to stop.
For example, maximum productivity is never enough. Companies are constantly seeking to improve productivity year-on-year. That looks good on the balance sheet, but it often means demanding more from workers.
Truth be told, nothing in business is truly earth-shattering. There really is no task that cannot wait until tomorrow. An entire company is not going to collapse because John didn't file his reports or Mary didn't run the last dozen pieces through the automated inspection robot.
- A Team Effort
The reality of work-life balance is that it requires a team effort. It requires that management make a concerted effort to refrain from demanding extra work. It requires that employees make a commitment to schedule their workdays and stick to that schedule. Work-life balance is achieved only when everyone makes a commitment to it and follows through on that commitment.
If you still prefer doing things the old school way, you might be convinced that constant pressure and stress is the best way to motivate your employees to be productive. Your employees, particularly the younger ones, would probably disagree.
An ideal work-life balance has been elusive thus far. However, it is achievable with the right mindset and company culture.