Companies that keep the best people on their team know that every employee’s healthy work-life balance is different.
In the spring of 2020, millions of people were losing their jobs as the pandemic shuttered entire industries and sectors. Individuals who remained employed craved job security, so they hunkered down in gratitude, hoping that they wouldn’t be one of the unlucky ones to become unemployed. Fast-forward to June 2021, and everything is different. The dire situation from last year has rebounded so rapidly that it’s hard to comprehend the incredible resurgence in available jobs.
During the third week of June, a new kind of headline started appearing on news websites. In what Texas A&M University professor Anthony Klotz predicted as “the great resignation,” American workers are resigning from their jobs in numbers not seen in the last 20 years. According to a Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the U.S. Department of Labor, job openings soared to 9.3 million, shattering previous records.
Why are so many people quitting their jobs?
The consensus of everyone researching this phenomenon is that people have learned that life is fragile. And short. All over the world, individuals are re-examining their lives. In particular, the pandemic created an existential movement for Americans. People who were formerly happy to have a stable job have started to question what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Above all, Americans have a renewed sense of the importance of family and work-life balance. Overwhelmingly, employees want flexibility, which goes a long way towards creating a healthier work-life balance.
As an employer, you can make sure that your valuable employees have a work-life balance to make them want to stay put.
Rethink American work culture
American culture rewards hours worked over productivity and perceives those who desire a better work-life balance as weak. Some employees may be hesitant to open up about what work-life balance means to them. So, you must take a critical look at what work-life balance currently looks like within your business and determine what changes need to be made. If you have created a culture in which employees fear taking time away from work, prepare for a massive departure if you don’t make changes soon.
As you consider ways to help your employees achieve a healthier work-life balance, you should talk to them and find out what they need. To do this, you can ask them to fill out a survey about different areas of your company’s balance-related factors. Topics should include flexible scheduling, hours worked, support for employees who are parents, and more. Keep in mind that different employees will define work-life balance differently. So it’s all about finding a win-win for you and them.
Focus on employees’ productivity, not hours spent in a chair
Employee perks that offer value to employees can be a huge factor in determining whether or not they stay with your company. A service that has a minimal cost to you may be considered valuable to your employees. For example, having a massage therapist come to the office a couple of times per month won’t cost much, but your employees will appreciate it.
As a leader, your main goal is for employees to complete their work. You’re probably not invested in the details of how a task gets done as long as deadlines are met. Focusing on productivity and task completion instead of how many hours someone sits in a chair will result in expediency. Encourage your managers to reward a job well done, regardless of whether or not it took ten minutes or ten hours. Work expands in the time allotted. If employees fear finishing their work sooner than others, they may very well slack off instead of work.
Offer flexible and remote scheduling options
For years, many companies assumed that people would not be as productive when working from home. The pandemic shattered that myth, and businesses were delighted to find that some people are even more effective when working out of a home office. While this type of flexible scheduling doesn’t work for every business, finding ways to give your employees the flexibility they need will help you retain them.
However, it’s not just about working from home. Flexible scheduling is something you can do even if you need your team in the office. For example, if a parenting employee has a sick child, you can consider offering them the opportunity to work alternative days or hours to make up their time. Human beings aren’t machines. Besides the requisite bathroom breaks, employees can benefit from more breaks throughout the day. The human body was designed for movement, not sitting and staring at a computer screen for eight hours.
There was a time in the American business world when employees had to prove their dedication to the company by foregoing time off and vacations. The standard for many companies continues to be two weeks of vacation or PTO per year, but is that enough? If your company can afford to give your employees more time, it would behoove you to do so. One way to ensure that employees take their vacations is to have a “use it or lose it” policy. This means that it essentially expires if they don’t use their vacation by the end of the year.
Lead by example and review workloads regularly
Your employees will emulate you. Because of this, you have to be a good role model when it comes to a healthy balance. If you respond to emails on the weekends and while you’re on vacation, they will get the message that they are also expected to do this. Speak with your team members regularly to stay on top of who has the capacity and who is busy or stressed. Encourage your staff to check in with their managers when they are feeling overworked and need some help.
One of the most stressful situations is to be a parent who has to choose between their family and their work. It’s not unusual for a company to lose valuable team members because their staff cannot take care of their families as needed. If you can offer on-site childcare, that’s great, but it’s about more than just childcare. Providing equal benefits for maternity leave, paternity leave, or shared parental leave goes a long way towards building employee loyalty.
Don’t forget about those who aren’t parents, though. Avoid resentment by hiring a temporary staff member to pick up the slack while your new parents are out. And have backup plans for unexpected absences. Expecting non-parents to increase their workload during such leaves will have unintended consequences. You impede on their work-life balance and create hard feelings in the process.
Above all, it’s important to remember that every person’s needs are different. Moreover, their paths to a healthy work-life balance will be different as well. For example, some employees will appreciate coming in later in the morning, but they won’t mind working later. Another employee may be happy to work more hours as long as they’re not bothered on the weekend. Companies that keep the best people on their team know that every employee’s healthy work-life balance looks different.
By Chris Patton