Despite the fact that global corporate spending on the expansion of workplace wellness programs and policies has ballooned to nearly 50 billion dollars a year, there is substantial evidence from the National Institute of Mental Health that these programs are not having the effect on workers that business leaders are seeking. This is due to the fact that far too many leaders and executives don’t understand the fundamental issues with their work-life balance and burnout issues. Dynamic leaders should recognize that the way to increase work-life balance and employee satisfaction is to breakdown bad behaviors and invest some trust in a more productive system to avoid burnout. They need to model the lifestyle and behavior they expect from their employees. What can you do as a leader to instill this sense into your employees? Here are the practices that we have seen succeed at HJR Global
Eliminate Leadership Burnout
It’s hard to be a business owner or a company leader to encourage your employees to take advantage of the wellness programs provided by a company if that leadership doesn’t display the proper work-life balance themselves. Employees that see their bosses work late into the night will feel that they need to give up their time with family or the activities that they enjoy outside work in order to perform in an acceptable manner. If leaders display that they are willing to answer emails and join conference calls during vacations, employees will feel that this is expected of them as well. And even though the World Health Organization has recognized employee burnout as a medical diagnosis and many companies are aware of this, there is still an emphasis in a lot of work spaces on busyness over productivity. What this means is that a whole lot of people are only giving half their effort, while sitting at their desks stressed out and mentally or physically ticking off boxes on a to-do list, but not really getting a lot done. When leaders adjust their behavior to line up with their wellness initiatives and work-life balance expectations, workers are 55% more engaged, 77% more satisfied at work and more likely to stay at that company then seek opportunities elsewhere. However, only 25% of employees surveyed indicated that they work at a company with this kind of culture? How do we as leaders make a change?
Changing Work Habits In The Office
The best way to get the most engagement out of your employees is to make work-life balance and focused productivity your goal as a leader, rather than a quantity of work that you deem enough for the day. Studies have found that working in 90 minute stretches with a period of intermittent renewal empowers employees to get more of their work done in less time with a higher level of quality than those that spend their entire day over busy work, working long into the night, but not really getting anything done. If you pay your employees hourly, wouldn’t it be better to encourage good working habits that promote efficiency in the hours that they are scheduled to work, rather than paying someone overtime for half the effort? How employees perform at work is directly related to a leader’s attitude toward productivity and wellness. How you model behavior affects what employees feel is acceptable for them. Do you encourage breaks and vacation or treat them as inconveniences? Employees that feel encouraged to take breaks and use their vacation time are more likely to stay with a company. What’s the general attitude among leaders toward perks being used? If your company offers a fitness center or nap rooms or other means of decompression at work, but leaders stare down their nose at people daring to use these perks has a negative effect on productivity. It can be even more subtle than that though. If you don’t use these facilities as a leader or you choose not to take vacation or standard breaks, your employees won’t either. Companies can promise a high level of work-life balance all they want, but if that culture isn’t reflected by leadership choices, no such balance will exist.
Focusing On Work-Life Balance Outside The Office
Do you call your employees on their vacations or email them with trivial things? Do you request people to come in on holidays for meetings or choose to ignore major holidays because you see the potential of just one more day of work? Do you call or email your employees late at night and expect an immediate answer or an answer first thing in the morning. These are critical mistakes that even the most well-meaning employers make that could cost them in the long run. After all, an employee that seeks better work-life balance will often leave a job for less pay just to pursue a comfortable environment. The responsibility to switch off lies on the shoulders of leadership. Is that email worth sending right now or can it wait until the morning? Think about any situation with the attitude “Will someone be injured or will the building burn down if this isn’t solved immediately?” Usually, most things can wait until morning. Have work that must be completed immediately with some overtime needed? That’s an opportunity to ask a little more of your employees now and make it up to them later with a morning off, a special work outing or something of that nature. There are lots of solutions to the question of work-life balance. It’s up to leaders to find them.
Emotionally Intelligent Initiatives For The Future
For most employees, one of the most important things that matter on an emotional level is to be recognized and appreciated for their work by their direct supervisors. People are a lot more likely to produce at a high level and stick with a company for leaders that recognize their work and their needs, especially work-life balance needs. Emotionally intelligent leaders recognize the needs of their team and the strategies that increase productivity while also supporting an atmosphere of comfort and satisfaction. If you can recognize burnout in your team and they seem to be emotionally disconnected from their work, or if they have directly expressed to you their disconnection, perhaps it’s time to expand your work-life practices as a boss and it might be time to work on your emotional intelligence skills. No one is too emotionally intelligent and every opportunity to get better a leader makes your team stronger. If you want to make a change to the status quo and shake things up for the future, start with that and it will change all aspects of your personal and professional life.