Career Management

Work life balance – three little words which are often used to describe a comfortable relationship between your work and home life. Every employee wants this, and apparently every great company offers it. But do they really? I am not so sure.

Have you ever stopped to wonder if you personally actually have a balance between your work and personal life? If not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you taking your work home with you, perhaps you even work while on the train or bus to work?

  • Do you work more than 40 hours per week?

  • Do your colleagues contact you out of hours or when you are on leave?

  • Do you find yourself reading/replying to work emails over the weekend on your smart phone?

  • Is it difficult for you to take time off to attend events such as your child’s birthday or school sports day?

  • Are you exhausted when you get home, keeping you from fulfilling your family commitments?

  • Do you spend enough time with your family? Are the kids always in bed when you get home?

  • Do you find you have no time to spend on self-development, or your favourite hobby?

  • Do you lie in bed at night thinking about work issues?

  • Are you stressed about your work?

Well, if you have answered ‘Yes’ to some or most of the questions above, then your work life balance quotient is extremely poor and it needs fixing!

Now let me ask you this:

Have you ever considered applying for another job because your current role does not give you the balanced life you desire?

I am certain that most people have. Why? Because I hear this every day from candidates who seek my help to secure a new role. What if your team felt this way? Could you be risking losing your high performing team members by pushing the boundaries so they too do not have a healthy balance between work and life?

I meet with up to 10 candidates per week who are considering a new career opportunity, most of these suggest an improvement in their work life balance is a primary reason for looking for a new role. I ask them what does this need to look like for them to catch their eye and every time I hear a different response.

I believe that if you were to poll 50 people on their perception of work life balance you could have as many as 50 different answers. People want different things and it is impossible to fulfil everyone’s needs. Commonly people want a shorter commute to work, reasonable working hours to spend time with the family, and increasingly people want flexibility in their work arrangements. Whatever the individual responses maybe, they generally come under one category and that is simply ‘Time’. We expect so much of our people and take up so much of their time, and yet time is the one crucial commodity that everyone craves.

Technology:

The advancement of technology affords many of us the opportunity to have a flexible working arrangement. Smart phones, tablet computers, cloud based IT systems and super fast Internet connectivity should make this simple, but in fact it does the opposite. We continue with our fixed working arrangement but still use the tools available to us in an attempt to get ahead, work harder and be more effective, but we end up using these to do yet more work and become a slave to our emails and never switch off.

The danger we face with this is loosing our most valuable team members. We happily accept they are committed and loyal employees, but blindly ignore the fact they are working too hard and will inevitably burnout. And then they leave you to join another business.

We all agree that employees want and deserve a better work life balance. But is this just a fashionable statement we use to attract people, when really we want to get more from our teams for less?

The bad news for the Australian demographic is that we desperately need to offer more to our workers. These days most Australian families have the husband and wife working in full-time or part-time jobs while the children are looked after by expensive childcare services.

Better work life balance for employees:

So how can we promote a better work life balance for our employees?

  • Allow your employees to work the hours they are employed to do, over 5 days and no more.

  • Don’t expect your team to work when they get home, unless you are offering a flexible working arrangement.

  • Embrace flexible working arrangements, set clear expectations around these and give your team the chance to prove themselves working away from the office.

  • Take a look at your parental leave policies, do they allow enough family time.

  • Embrace cultural change and your employees differing commitments or beliefs.

  • Allow your employees time during the workday to take a break (not just eat their lunch), encourage them to do something they enjoy like exercise or shopping or study.

  • Reward your staff for high performance with extra time off work, add it to their annual leave balance to take when they wish.

  • Do something special once in a while that they will remember, like take them out for the day to an event, or a team building exercise, or maybe just send everyone home at lunchtime on a Friday!

It is too easy to forget that a happy employee is a productive employee. An employee will only stay happy if they genuinely feel they have a balance between their work and lifestyle commitments.

Just imagine how productive your team would be if they were all happy employees?

Author: Paul Simms is an executive recruiter with 15 years of experience across the Australian and UK markets. He is the founder of Wright Executive a specialist business within the Accounting and Professional Services sector.


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