When it comes to work-life balance, talking the talk and walking the walk are very different things. It’s not for want of trying but all too often work-life balance becomes an empty promise.
For many, the freedom of working from home during COVID-19 has been eye-opening. It's allowed people to design their life, their way. To start early and finish up at 4pm, to take a longer lunch because you're ahead on your project, to take an extra 15 mins for lunch to hang out with your 6 year-old.
So does that mean we're staring down the barrel of a brand new definition of work-life balance? Maybe. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's look at 8 things to consider when building a culture of work-life balance.
|1. Be clear about the WHY of work-life balance|
Now memorize that list. So when you get pushback from employees who wear stress as a badge of honor, you’ve got a persuasive arsenal at your fingertips.
|2. Practice what you preach|
Employees often don’t appreciate how much work HR does behind the scenes to keep everyone happy and productive. But one thing that does get noticed is your behavior in – and out – of the office.
You can tell employees to leave at 5.30pm and take their full holiday allowance until the cows come home. But if you’re regularly at your desk until 8pm and never take a holiday, they won’t believe you.
Your behavior sets an expectation, even if you don’t mean it to. So even if you’re a total workaholic, you can’t build a culture of work-life balance unless you live it yourself.
|3. Secure executive buy-in|
To improve work-life balance in your business, make it a major strategic priority rather than a bullet point on the HR agenda. For many (if not most) businesses this is a major cultural change; treat it accordingly. Which means you’ll need buy-in and support from the executive team, to drive change from the top.
They’ll need to be a role model for work-life balance, but it’s more than that.
For Kambil, executives are the engine that drives cultural change – ‘unfreezing’ old beliefs and assumptions, driving change by setting, communicating and modeling new behaviors and outcomes, then ‘refreezing’ the organization to lock in that new culture through reinforcement.
To effectively cement a culture of work-life balance, you need the C-suite to power the initiative; not just agree with it.
|4. Train managers to spot and counter burnout|
Promoting work-life balance isn’t enough. You have to ensure employees take you up on the offer. Otherwise, it’s like bringing the best-ever muffins into the office every day only for nobody to eat them. You waste time baking and your people are still hungry: lose, lose.
|5. Set clear expectations – then reinforce them|
You won’t create a culture of work-life balance unless you define what that looks like and the behaviors it entails.
For some businesses, work-life balance might only mean encouraging vacation. Actual vacation. Not lying on the beach with a laptop or making calls sipping Sangria,
Your aim is to narrow down from ‘we want a better work-life balance’ to ‘we want to bring our culture of work-life balance to life by doing x'.
Then you reinforce the behaviors you want, so employees know you’re not just saying that. Like Daimler, who offer to
The point is, decide which work-life balance initiatives matter to you, set clear expectations, and reinforce them. So employees know this isn’t a trap.
|6. Be flexible and create space for individuality|
There's reinforcing expectations then there’s setting rigid rules. Banning after-work emails (
Because work-life balance isn’t just about encouraging employees to take more time off. It’s deeper than that. It’s about giving employees more space to be themselves, so they can bring more to the table in the workplace.
Work-life balance is, at its heart, about flexibility and individualism. Maybe I love taking 30-minutes at 10pm to clear my inbox after the kids have gone to bed. Maybe you prefer to get to the office 30-minutes early to do the same. The best work-life balance initiative recognizes and creates space for that individuality, while still promoting balanced behaviors.
|7. Create a conversation|
This ties into the above, because work-life balance shouldn’t be dictatorial. Instead,
They might need some help to overcome their own habits (like disconnecting from technology, for example) and think differently about work. And that demands a conversation, not a top-down series of rules.
|8. Onboard new hires into your work-life culture|
There’s no point being transparent with your current employees if new hires aren’t also aboard the work-life balance train. Which means your employee onboarding program has work to do.
Think about your own onboarding process. If it focusses purely on sharing explicit information about working with you – rules, regulations, processes, and people – then it’s not quite where it should be.