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10 ways to promote a healthy work life balance

Following the results of our question of the month on work-life balance [link] we did some research into what policies companies are implementing to ensure employees are taking care of their wellbeing, as well as their workload. What we noticed was that it didn't matter what sector the industry was in, every business has the potential to offer a good work-life balance. Transportation companies, factories, food retailers and banks were all using elements from our top 10. Interestingly, tech start-ups were noticeably less prevalent than expected, despite being famed for their trendy workplaces.

In a 2011 paper, Kossek, Lewis and Hammer argued that improvements a company can make towards a better work-life balance for employees can either be structural (such as office design and flexible work options) or cultural (supportive supervisors, collaborative ethos, social events put on by the company). Both of these working in conjunction will create the best work-life balance and the happiest employees. These should always be seen as a core part of a business in order to enhance organisational effectiveness in both the short and long term. Employees will feel more satisfied and well rested and effective in the short term whilst simultaneously enjoying their job more and therefore more likely to stay in the long term.

Here are 10 things to consider and help promote work-life balance in the office:

1) Offer flexible hours

Although not always possible the opportunity to work to different schedules so employees can make their own decisions about how to manage their time and workloads can be a big factor to boosting productivity. US defence contractor Raytheon, for one example, offers flexible work schedules including compressed work weeks, flexitime, job sharing, reduced hours and telecommuting and the trust and control the company places in employees hands impresses them.

2) Option of working from home

The rise of mobile email and remote working options means that employees are reachable from outside of the office. Giving employees the option to avoid the rush hour once in a while, spend time with their children, or complete personal matters can help with company satisfaction as well as building trust. If a piece of work needs to get done too, sometimes time out of the office can offer a better environment for greater productivity. Communication can still be maintained with supervisors through all the varied communication channels available. However, on the flip side, long periods can conversely affect team morale and long term productivity.

3) Set tech boundaries

In this inter-connected world, we can get sucked into staying in constant contact with our smartphone or emails. Allowing workers to switch off to feel like they don’t need to be available every second of the day is highly beneficial for stress levels and getting that balance. In fact, French workers have now been given the legal guarantee of a “right to disconnect” to tackle the 24/7 work culture. 

4) Organise social events

Having sociable events that employees can attend can be beneficial and help build a cohesive unit. For example, all teams at tech giant Cisco are provided with a "Fun Fund" which can be spent on celebrations and fun activities. Our survey looking at if employees had a friend at work showed that 65% of respondents who had a friend also said that it contributed to their engagement and productivity.

5) Practice what you preach

If supervisors are also involved in socialising and have the same tech switch off boundaries it shows to employees that there is no expectation to keep working.

6) Offer wellbeing options

Whilst some offices have the space and resources to have gyms, cafes and cleaning on site, this can't always be the case for every company. Smaller gestures can send the same message though such as exceptional performance being rewarded or encouraging employees to talk a lunchtime walk or use gym facilities. US supermarket chain Wegman's offers a Wellness Program which includes customized yoga programs, subsidized Weight Watchers at Work meetings and employee fitness discounts which are popular with employees.

7) Have a 'quiet space'

Designating an area of the office for when colleagues need to just step away from their desk is another small, but effective measure. Perhaps they are having a bad day.....some comfortable seating, plants, books and soft music might make it a little better. Capital One even offers an Employee Assistance Program with free counselling services for those facing really tough times, showing the company cares about everyone's mental as well as physical health.

8) Interesting CPD

Interesting continuing professional development workshops for employees keeps engagement and interest in the work and their goals. This could be new research or expert talks, some tips on tech that might save some time, or even other wellbeing things that might help them such as group activities or cooking workshops etc. This can encourage office bonding and new friendships across departments too. 

9) Encourage out of work interests

Particularly for younger recruits, sponsoring/helping with further education will be an attractive offer whilst also showing that the business is interested in the personal interests of their employees. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan gives employees who work more than 20 hours a week the opportunity to complete a bachelor's degree with full tuition coverage for every year of college through Arizona State University.

10) Offer company perks

Whatever the person is doing in their daily job, it would be nice to feel like they personally get a material benefit from what they are doing. Perhaps the biggest perk of working for Southwest Airlines is that all employees have free unlimited travel privileges for themselves and eligible dependents on Southwest flights!

 

Implementing any (or all!) of these tips can help companies ensure that their employees' wellbeing is at the heart of their organisation. It will pay big dividends in the eager response received from workers and the more committed they will be to the business as a whole.