Work-life balance can be defined as managing work-related stress by establishing sustainable non-work related habits. In fact, the work force is speaking out on their value. Equally impressive is that large companies like 23andMe, Farmers Insurance and The Knot are making the commitment to their employees by encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
To me, work-life balance is essential. Taking time away from the office can be just as valuable to my business as the hours I clock. Stepping away allows me to gain perspective. For me, this means getting to the beach a few times a month. This reduction in stress opens up the brain to be more creative, which is critical to problem-solving. Stepping away from the office, even if it means just powering down my phone for an afternoon, allows me to recharge.
Many businesses are struggling with their current lean workforce and believe they cannot afford to give people more time off. However, leaders need to consider the sacrifices employees make working long hours. A 2015 study by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service found of those working long hours, 27 percent were depressed, 34 percent felt anxious and 58 percent felt irritable. Moreover, two-thirds of employees acknowledged a negative impact on their personal life, including mental health issues.
I challenge leaders to reevaluate the belief system that their businesses cannot afford their employees taking more time off. Instead, consider the opportunities of supporting your workforce with their own work-life balance:
- Better levels of efficiency and productivity
- Lower levels of absence, sickness and stress
- A motivated workforce
- Improved customer service
- Higher retention levels
At Truly Nolen, the shift in prioritizing work-life balance has felt like an odyssey. We are taught as leaders: be the first one in, last to leave. While my intent is not to negate the sentiment, I believe in practice it is not practical. Leaders need to step away, unplug, recharge, and gain perspective. A key part of prioritizing work-life balance was starting with our executive team — a group of people that have been programmed to never unplug.
Second, we adjusted our approach to routing. This optimizing shift helped not only maximize routing efficiency, but also created clearly defined time shifts so partners did not feel like they were ‘on call’ after they went home. Prioritizing work-life balance was the key driver behind an all-company coordinated effort. This also opened up our opportunity as an organization to scale a four-day work week without losing productivity.
Third, we reviewed our vacation policy. Starting this year, a significant portion of our partners will have a 200 percent increase in their accrued vacation. We also made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday, which served a dual purpose: Not only did it provide the opportunity to further reflect on the sentiments of that day, but it also gave the ability for partners to enjoy a long weekend with family or participate in a day of service if they so chose.
Of course, there is one more practical reason to embrace work-life balance. If a company cannot find ways to facilitate work-life balance for their employees, I am pretty certain that employees will be more apt to start looking for companies that do.