Seven Tools To Encourage Employee Work-Life Balance

by Mike O'Neill

Many employers are starting to create a better work-life balance for their employees. As a leader managing others, you know how vital employee mentality is. If your employees are overworked and stressed, it reflects on the work they produce for your company.

Prioritizing the quality of life for employees is a step many companies are taking and one you don’t want to be left behind on. By creating a healthier work environment, you’re proactively improving your company’s retention rate and the quality of work they produce. 

During COVID, many employees discovered a newfound freedom when working remotely. But with too much freedom, the boundaries between work and life began to muddle. Many employees are looking for companies that nurture a work-life balance.

I’ve developed 7 tools to help encourage your employees to maintain a better work-life balance. I’ve hosted webinars, written blogs, and started a podcast where I’ve brought specialists in to speak about this topic. Having produced various content on work-life balance, I’ve put together a list of seven tools you can use to help create a healthier work environment. 

Supporting your team and your employees isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe. These are just the tools; it’s how you use these tools that matters. Read this article and ask yourself who are you trying to help and what is the difference you’re trying to make. Once you do, you’ll be able to create a healthier work environment where your employees are pleased with the work-life balance your company has to offer.

#1. Model Work-Life Balance

You’re a leader, so the first step starts with you. It’s likely that if you’re taking calls during vacation or sending out emails after hours, your employees will do the same. Like any great leader, setting an example is important.

Your goal is to signal to your employees that boundaries are encouraged. It is important to show your employees that you’ve listened to their needs and are trying to make change happen.

Actions speak louder than words. Once you implement a healthy work-life balance into your routine, so will your employees. I’ve mentioned – that change begins with you, so be sure to set clear expectations for what a work-life balance should be. Something as simple as informing them where to work or when to work will help your employees to understand the boundaries you’re trying to implement. 

So, where do you start? Creating a work-life balance is as easy as having an automated email stating that you’re on vacation. Disconnect from team platforms when the work day finishes and set your status to “offline.”  Taking small steps towards a better work-life balance is all you need. As long as you’re moving forward and sending the message that time off is time off, you’re stepping in the right direction.

#2. Respect Employee Time Off

There’s nothing worse than getting a notification from work on your day off. You don’t want to answer a business call when you're vacationing on a beach, so why would your employees? Respecting an employee's dedicated time off proves to your employees that you’re serious about making a change.

This tool aims to get your employees into the habit of understanding that a work-life balance is important. Everyone has had a rough couple of years, so providing the support your employees need to take a step back from the stress is essential. 

Respecting employee time off will also help boost productivity within your company. Employees who are under a lot of stress don’t work as efficiently as well-rested individuals. By setting these work-life balance parameters, you’re giving your employees the space to reset and return fully charged and ready to tackle tasks.

You aren’t only a leader who models a work-life, but one who promotes and enforces a work-life balance. Being a leader means preparing and ensuring that the company can function without one employee. To ensure that everyone at the company is on board and understands the boundaries of taking time off, find someone to cover, have them set “out of office” reminders, and list alternative contacts others can contact instead of the out-of-office employee.

#3. Allow For Flexible Work Schedules

Working a nine-to-five job is no longer the ‘employment dream.’ Employees are trying to get away from a synchronized system where they have to be in and out at a certain time and given an allotted lunch hour. A flexible job that can work around their life will help employees maintain a better work-life balance.  

By allowing flexibility in your employees’ schedules, you’re giving them the option to deal with life problems as they happen. Your intent is to give your employees the peace of mind that your company’s work structure is evolving with the needs of its employees. 

An important part of flexibility is to allow unpaid leave. Life happens, and you want your employees to know that it’s okay for life to get in the way sometimes. Incidents and accidents happen unexpectedly, and you want your employees to know that you’ll support them when this happens. Even if you can’t offer paid time off, unpaid leave assures workers that they’ll still have a job to come back to once their life settles and they are in a place where they can balance work and life again.

However, flexibility comes in a lot of different forms. Giving your employees a flexible schedule isn’t just about unpaid leave. It can be as simple as providing staggered lunch options or letting employees decide their lunchtime and length. Another option would be to allow employees to choose their own working hours. By allowing flexibility, you’re giving your employees more autonomy in an environment that has changed dramatically in the last two years. 

#4. Redefine Time Off as Paid Time Off (PTO)

Let’s face it – your employees aren’t school kids anymore. There’s no need for a doctor’s note or a parent’s phone call to ask for a sick day. So why do companies still label time off as “vacation days” or “sick time?” Redefining the different types of time off is another tool to improve the work-life balance in your company.

By renaming paid leave, vacation days, and sick time, you are giving your employees the power to use their paid time off without fear of judgment. Your employees are given the time off with the expectation that they will use it. However, labeling these hours assumes that the time they ask off must be used for a specific reason.

As an employer, you want your employees to feel safe, not like you’re looking over their shoulders. What they do with their paid time off is up to them, and your goal is to assure them that their PTO is given with the expectation that it’ll be used. Let your employees know that you believe PTO is good for them and, in turn, good for the company. There are no strings attached.

Start by sending out a mass email to all of your employees explaining the change and the reason behind it. Genuinely express that the company wants them to take PTO, and it’s important that this message is told as simply and clearly as possible. By redefining time off as PTO, you’re telling your employees that their work doesn’t have to come before their life, and they can have a work-life balance by taking time off as they need.

#5. Limit PTO Carry-Over

When things are limited, people are more inclined to use them before they run out of time. The idea is the same with limiting PTO carry-over. Limiting the amount of PTO carried over from one calendar year to another encourages your employees to take time off of work.

However, this tool may come with a negative consequence. Ultimately, your goal is to motivate your employees to use up all their time off within a calendar year. By implementing this tool, some of your employees may see this as trying to take away allotted time off by setting a limit. 

Make sure that you clearly state the reasoning behind it. Limiting PTO carry-over doesn’t have to mean that it all disappears when the calendar year changes. Be flexible and open to different ideas and perspectives.         

Make sure that you’re actively encouraging time off. Normalize taking time off to have a personal day or to de-stress. Inform your employees that PTO isn’t solely for vacation or sick time. Allow them to use the time however they want. Bring positivity and fun into using up PTO within a calendar year. Supporting a work-life balance means listening to your employees' needs, so pay attention to their reactions and attitude when implementing this tool.

#6. Offer Job Sharing

The definition of work is changing along with what people want from their work life. Many employees realize that a 40-hour workweek no longer fits their lives. From entry to senior-level positions, it’s important to allow flexibility to support a well-rounded work-life balance. 

Your objective is to give your employees options, so they know you value them and their needs. You demonstrate that your company is listening and acting by providing options. To build up retention and keep a positive work environment, you must encourage different work-life balance forms.

Two brains are better than one, and if you have two qualified people in the same position who want to work part-time, you get double the reward. By employing job-sharing opportunities, you get two different views and two well-rested employees who’ll do the job with double the quality. This isn’t only a win for the employees who want to work part-time but for the company as well. Instead of one highly-qualified employee, you now have two. 

Supporting a work-life balance isn’t just about giving your employees a better balance – it’s also about rejuvenating the company and adding depth to job positions. By allowing your employees to job-share, you’re telling them that you are listening, caring, and respecting working quality. However, in this case, you get both quality and quantity.

#7. Implement Fun

The most important tool in maintaining a work-life balance is to have fun. The playing part of the job will strengthen each employee's bonds with the company. Providing a less-serious environment for co-workers to come together will help maintain the balance between work and life.

Your goal is simple: be authentic and have fun. By allowing fun into the workspace, you’re creating an opportunity to rekindle your employees' drive towards their work. Your employees will be able to build cohesion with one another and support each other’s work-life balance.

It’s principal to implement fun regularly. Making it a one-time thing won’t encourage your employees to maintain a healthy balance. You want to constantly remind them that stepping away from work is okay from time to time. Sponsor your fun even regularly. Ideally, this would be something that occurs monthly, but these tools are for you to discern how they will work in your company. You know your employees and what they want – utilize that knowledge to give them fun.

Be the leader who models a work-life balance, supports it, and is constantly looking for innovative ways to be there for them. 

Results of Work-Life Balance

These tools are the foundation for creating a better work-life balance in your company. Use them knowing that balance for your employees means better productivity, retention, and enthusiasm within your company.

Remember that each of these seven tools are just tools. Use them as you see fit to create a unique work-life balance for your employees. What works best for one leader might not be what’s best for you. 

So decide what your employees need by:

  • Taking the first step and implementing a work-life balance in your life
  • Setting boundaries around time off and enforcing those boundaries
  • Allowing employees time off to be anonymous and private
  • Giving autonomy back to your employee’s schedules with flexibility
  • Encouraging them to take PTO within each calendar year
  • Offering employees who want to work part-time a job-sharing option
  • Having fun and regularly removing the pretense of work

However, maintaining a work-life balance doesn’t end there. We have many webinars, blogs, and podcasts to support your company’s transition. Check them out today!

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