Finding the right work-life balance isn't easy, and a recent study of 9,700 workers from Ernst and Young states that "33% of full-time employees globally say it has gotten more difficult to manage work/family in the past five years." 48% of those surveyed in that same study said, "My responsibilities at work have increased."
Unfortunately for businesses, problems with work-life balance have a high cost. One study from Hay Group found that "More than one in four employees (27%) in organizations that are not perceived to support work-life balance plan to leave their companies within the next two years." High turnover is extremely expensive, and employees who feel like they don't have time for family and personal time are more likely to abuse sick leave, experience burn-out, and avoid tasks. HR Grapevine’s list of the top 13 cities for work-life balance doesn’t contain even one American city, which means American businesses have a great deal of room for improvement.
There are many ways to promote a better worklife balance for employees, but first, we have to identify the problems. We've taken a closer look at the five biggest problems with work-life balance, and provided strategies for solving each one within your company. Watch employees engage in work, improve productivity, and stay with your business longer using these effective solutions.
Problem #1: Rigid Work Hours, Expectations, and Location
With many parents in the workforce, flexibility is essential for work satisfaction and focus. In addition, many baby boomers also care for elderly relatives. For these workers, a lack of flexibility in the workplace results in low job satisfaction, frustration, and frequent use of sick time. Even in jobs with ‘flexible options,’ employees often feel pressured to show up at work during typical working hours to demonstrate a good work ethic.
One company wanted to see if creating a flexible work environment actually changed anything. They split their 700 employees into two groups. The control group kept their normal working conditions, often working more than 50 hours per week. The treatment group didn't work fewer hours, but they were given greater control over when and where they worked. They also received more supervisor support for their personal lives.
The results were astounding. According to the Harvard Business Review, "Over a six-month period, the people in the treatment group experienced a significant reduction in work-family conflict — that chronic sense of being pulled in two different directions ... People in the treatment group also reported that they felt they now had adequate time to spend with their families while managing their workloads."
Solution #1: Flexible Options
It just isn't realistic for every company to offer flexible, remote work options for every employee. But it's important to help employees feel like they have control over their lives. Offering any kind of flexible option is a great way to help employees improve their work life balance.
- Try combining separate sick and vacation hours into a general ‘paid time off’ category. Employees will feel more free to take time off when they need it, improving engagement at work.
- Offer a remote work day as a reward for high achievement or productivity.
- Train managers to show empathy for caregivers. Brainstorm creative solutions to build flexibility into their schedules without giving preferential treatment.
- Offer training and professional development tasks via webinars and other options that create flexible locations.
Problem #2: Poor Management
A Gallup poll of over one million people found that bad bosses or immediate supervisors are the number one reason people quit their jobs. Lack of individual respect, broken trust, and very little recognition makes employees feel overworked and underappreciated. Managers get relatively little professional development and face hundreds of decisions each day.
Solution #2: Easy Management Improvement Practices
Just a few simple steps go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction. Show appreciation for employees, take the time to treat them as individuals, and create an open environment where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns and bringing up ideas for positive change.
- Show appreciation through small rewards, incentives, or even a simple thank-you email.
- Remind your employees that their work is important.
- Use active listening to show employees you care for them as individuals.
- Communicate openly and seek feedback from employees about upcoming changes. Look for their input to improve your work environment.
Problem #3: Unbalanced Workloads
In many companies, top employees are extremely productive and work extra hours, while others show up to work and collect a paycheck without getting much done at all. This leads to discontent and perceptions of unfairness among top employees.
Solution #3: Take Another Look at Those Job Descriptions
It's easy to take a job description written years ago and use it again for a position that's evolved into something completely different. Take a close look at current positions and rewrite them to reflect current expectations and conditions. New employees will better understand their jobs, and you'll eliminate tasks and positions that aren't needed.
- Double-check the job description before hiring any new employee.
- If some positions have too many tasks, while others don't have enough to fill 40 hours, transfer some responsibilities.
- Eliminate jobs that aren't relevant anymore.
Problem #4: Stress Management
It's normal to have some stress, but high-stress jobs require conscious stress management for productivity and work-life balance. Most employees don't have the tools or time to manage their stress effectively, so it's important for companies to support employees in this way.
Solution #4: Employee Assistance Programs
Include an EAP in your benefits package. Your company will attract higher-quality talent when you show you care about their health and wellness. These assistance programs help your company, too. In a study published in the International Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Studies, researchers found that "An average of 17 hours per year were saved when employees used a consulting service that provided counseling, referrals, and research in areas such as parenting, education, childcare, adoption, and elder care."
Problem #5: Unfair Decision-Making
When employers make significant decisions without employee input, job satisfaction suffers. Employees feel like their work-life balance is out of their control. Employees even perceive great decisions as unfair when they feel they don't have any say.
Solution #5: Survey Your Employees
Survey your employees regularly. When it's time to make a big decision, get employee input from every level. Brainstorm ideas with immediate supervisors, then follow through. Managers should present great ideas from their teams to higher management. Incredible buy-in can be achieved when employees see an idea from their team put into practice.
Work-life balance is a challenge for businesses and individuals, but good business practices make a huge difference. Improve health and wellness, engage your employees, and improve productivity with these simple solutions.
Connect First is a cloud based call center software provider offering elegant, cost-effective solutions to complex challenges. To find out more about how our solutions can work for you, contact us today.