A Growing Disconnect
Industry experts all agree - the most critical factor impacting today’s employees is the struggle to maintain a healthy work/life balance. However, there appears to be an increasing divide between how employers and employees view this issue. In a recent study by WorkplaceTrends.com, entitled, “2015 Workplace Flexibility Study”, 67% of HR professionals think that their employees have a balanced work-life, yet almost half (45%) of employees feel that they don’t have enough time each week to do personal activities. So what’s behind this gap?
Technology the Villain
According to the study, the majority of workers say that their manager expects them to be reachable outside of the office in the following ways; 9% by email, 23% by phone, and 33% by email and phone. From the HR perspective, 64% expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office on their personal time; 18% by email, 3% by phone and 26% by both email and phone. One in five employees surveyed spent over 20 hours a week working outside of the office on their personal time - not exactly conducive to a healthy work/life balance. Technology has expanded the workplace from a 9-5 workday to a 24/7 workday - a serious intrusion into an employee’s personal time.
Workplace Flexibility – a Panacea?
Employers are slowly coming to the realization that workplace flexibility can be a powerful antidote to employee work/life imbalance. Allowing employees to work from home and on flexible schedules can go a long way to solving this problem. But employers are still skittish about virtual workers and modified schedules fearing that employees will take advantage and productivity will suffer. Actually the opposite is true. The top benefits organizations saw in their work flex programs were improved employee satisfaction (87%), increased productivity (71%), and retained talent (65%).
The Hidden Danger in a Flexible Workplace
If you adopt a flexible workplace, you will need to be on guard that the flex workplace doesn’t evolve into a 24/7 workday. We are all tied to our devices no matter where we happen to be. You’ll need to establish some ground rules that will help your employees “disconnect” from the workplace even when they’re working at home or on flexible schedules. Here are some suggestions that may help you avoid the flexible workplace pitfalls:
Set the example – Don’t make demands on your employees for after hours contact and refrain from doing it yourself. While on vacation, don’t call in 50 times a day. And be sure to take a vacation and encourage your employees to do the same. Your employees will follow your lead in how to conduct themselves away from the workplace.
Help your employees manage their time and stress – Offer your employees in-house training in time management and stress management. You’ll be surprised at how a little knowledge can generate big results.
Educate your employees on your business – Make sure your employees understand your business cycle and seasonal fluctuations. This will help them apply their energies and efforts in a more balanced manner.
Create a personal connection – Get to know your employees on a personal level and be able to relate to their needs for a more balanced work life.
Don’t forget to have fun – Inject some entertaining and amusing activities periodically into the workplace, as well as, a healthy exercise program. The business that plays together stays together.
We Need to Move Up in the Ranks
The U.S. ranks 28th among advanced nations in the category of “work-life balance.” which is just nine steps from the bottom. According to Dr. Carmella Sebastian, a certified expert in workplace wellness, smart leaders know that when people have a healthy work/life balance they are better employees. So be a smart leader – take the steps to make this happen!