When employee productivity and output drops, it may be tempting for employers to rev the engine instead of stopping to look and check if something’s wrong. However, asking employees to work more hours and being extra stern with them probably won’t work — a lot more can be gained from HR professionals examining what is causing the low morale and subpar work in the office and then working from there.
Perhaps it is a workflow process issue or an organizational shift that workers are still getting used to. But more often than not, the answer is that your employees may actually be working too hard and not spending enough time on themselves. This may sound paradoxical, but the numbers don’t lie: 66% of full-time American workers feel that they do not have a work-life balance, with 60% claiming that this has led to poor morale. Poor productivity and high turnover rates are some of the short-term downsides of not having a good work-life balance, but its long-term effects are far more worrying. Employees who work more than 55 hours weekly are at a higher risk of coronary heart disease and strokes, as well as of developing depression and anxiety.
Businesses in the U.S. are not only suffering the consequences of a poor work-life balance among employees, but they are also missing out on some significant benefits that this crucial balance brings. The organizational advantages of a focus on work-life balance include better staff retention and therefore lower recruitment costs, higher morale resulting in productivity, and a company reputation that says you value your employees and will attract even better ones. More importantly, workers who have a healthy work-life balance can avoid mental health issues, allowing them to concentrate better and learn on the job. Psychologists at Maryville University have discussed this connection between mental health and learning success, as the recognition of this correlation has sparked a demand for professionals who can help businesses take care of their employees, who in turn, help achieve business objectives. Companies are catching on to the fact that the mental health of their workers should be a priority to achieve long-term organizational goals, and more HR offices are joining in the movement towards workplaces that value a good work-life balance.
Of course, promoting a work-life balance among workers is easier said than done, and it may be overwhelming when you don’t know where to start. If that is the case for you, here are some things you need to know:
Don’t overwork your employees
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized burnout as a medical condition. According to the WHO, burnout is a result of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
As HR professionals, you must take special care that your workers don’t suffer from burnout, as this will hurt both them and your company. Overworking them will not only cause fatigue and physical exhaustion, it will likely result in mental health issues that can negatively impact their professional efficacy in the long-term.
Support mental health initiatives
Employers’ and supervisors’ participation in open conversations about mental health in the workplace will greatly reduce the stigma that may be present about the topic. Offering an Employee Assistance Program that allows employees to have free therapy sessions is also a good, concrete way to support your workers’ wellbeing. Practicing empathy and paying attention to what your employees need, can go a long way in improving their mental health and the working relationships within your organization.
Explore flexible work options
It’s crucial for employers to recognize that not every employee works at the same pace or with the same style. Some may find that their most productive hours are at night when everyone is sleeping, and forcing them to come in groggy during the day may just be harming their productivity.
Exploring flexible working options like flexible working hours or working from home may be intimidating, but there’s really nothing to worry about. In fact, a 2-year Stanford University study found that working from home actually boosts productivity, reduces employee attrition, uses up fewer sick days, and encourages shorter breaks. Allowing employees to choose what schedule and work style is best for them shows them that you trust their judgment and puts them in the best environment that they choose for themselves.
Respect time off
It’s difficult to ignore work these days because everyone has become accustomed to 24/7 connectivity. This connectivity means that your boss’ work email can come when you’re sat around the family dinner table or during a night out with friends. Even paid time off can be interrupted with a simple notification, making it hard to ever truly relax.
With this in mind, French workers recently won the right to ignore emails after work hours. CNN Business reports that a labor law has been implemented in the country that gives employees the right to disconnect. Even though there’s no legal requirement here in the U.S., implementing a similar rule for your own team can be beneficial for everyone, who will then know that time off is time off. Employees who can take the time to relax without worrying about work will be motivated and recharged during their actual working hours.
Prioritize your own personal time
Supporting initiatives from the sidelines is not enough when it comes to promoting a work-life balance. You may respect your employees’ time off, but not your own. Think about what message it sends to workers when you say that they do not have to answer work emails at home, but you send them anyway. How does it affect your employees when you offer flexible working hours, but you stay in the office for more than 8 hours a day? Indeed, company workers look to HR professionals as role models when it comes to a work-life balance and the things you do or don’t do directly affect how they work. Prioritizing your own personal time is advantageous for yourself and your team, who will see that it’s okay to ignore their phones and put away their laptops after a full day of work.
There’s only so little that employees can do for their mental health at work because the bulk of the responsibility falls to the higher-ups who write the policies that affect their workers’ lives. When your HR team begins to focus on a better work-life balance for workers, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner. The benefits of a mentally healthy workspace are endless for everyone who will enjoy doing their tasks at work, knowing that they can come home and spend uninterrupted time on themselves or with their friends and family.
This is a guest blog written exclusively for Talentnow.com by Willow Nevaeh.