New perspectives on this perennial career issue encourage employers to focus on integrating their employees’ work and personal lives.
In recent research by an international organization, the United States ranked 30th among 38 countries in achieving work-life balance. The top country? The Netherlands, where only 0.5 percent of the citizens work more than 50 hours a week, versus 11.4 percent of Americans putting in serious overtime.1
The U.S. also fails in the extent to which technology encroaches on home life: 56% of those polled say family dinners are often ruined by email communications—though 40% think that responding to those communications is just fine.1
What’s not okay, however, are the long-term effects of excessive work hours. The risks of heart disease increase with more than 55 hours of work per week, and the prevalence of depression and anxiety almost double, as compared to those clocking a 35-to-40-hour work week.1
Small-business owners may find themselves particularly vulnerable to work-life imbalances—especially those launching a new venture and fulfilling multiple roles in their organizations. Also, unlike their friends and family who work for others, entrepreneurs are on their own in setting and maintaining boundaries between their work and home lives.
Battling Longstanding Myths
How can you avoid the dangerous downsides? Researchers are realizing that employers must take a different approach to the typical workday. Instead of trying to keep work and home separate, they suggest ways to integrate the two—and that includes within the workplace.
Doing this can foster employees’ personal well-being and sustain productivity, without causing burnout.
As an employer, you’re uniquely empowered to lead the charge to improve work-life balance. Here’s how to do it:
- Set boundaries for work hours and work-related communications, whether internal or external. Share these policies with your clients, so they can adjust their expectations of your availability accordingly
- Foster telecommuting. This goes beyond, “Okay, you can work at home.” Give your staff the right tools to work remotely–like instant messaging, conference call systems, and fast access to your office data–so they’re not wasting time with dropped calls and faulty data connections
- Hold a “Bring your family to work day” a few times a year, if not more. This humanizes the work environment while demystifying “the office” to significant others and kids. You could also make one or more days a week pet-friendly
- Sponsor active events for your team. Whether it’s a friendly softball game, miniature golf, or a escape-room challenge, getting out of the office with your coworkers–during the day, if possible, so as to not take away from personal time–encourages closer relationships and reduces tensions
- Trust your people to commit to specific tasks and goals that they can accomplish in their own way–at home, in the office, or on the road. Consider a flex-time program to accommodate working parents and those commuting long distances, among other situations
- Set a great example by following your own rules. Come in and leave on time and be accessible when working remotely. Employees will follow your lead
Exercise your managerial role.
For some overburdened businesses, innovative best practices are not enough. If you realize that one or more of your employees are handling more than one job, it’s time to review your business plan and budget. Can you revise these to add to your organizational chart? Likewise, are there entire functions, like payroll, information management, and IT that you can farm out?
When you’re realistic about resources and ensuring your employees are treated fairly, then you’re doing your best to be a responsible manager. It’s also a great way to say thank you for their dedication to your business goals.
Need some additional work-life balance tips?
Visit a branch to talk with an M&T Business Banking relationship manager to get more insights on managing your business or call us at 1-800-724-6070.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.