10 Sep You Need to Have This Talk With Your Employees Right Now Part 3
The Work-Life Balance Conversation
The Harvard Business School reports that the psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost up to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending. Businesses and organizations intent on success need to pull out all the stops to address chronic stress in their workforce! This blog series offers three critical conversations that should figure prominently in your retention strategy.
The American worker is not well. Our employees now work more hours per week and take fewer vacation days than any other nation on the planet. A 2015 HBR study found that workplace stress could be responsible for as many as 120,000 deaths annually. Companies are turning to health and wellness programs to counteract the impact of stress at work, but the HBR researcher said it best: “”Health care programs are no good if your guy is so stressed that he can’t take advantage of them.”
We tend to blame the individual for not being capable of striking the work/life balance, but plenty of evidence points more strongly to the organizational culture. As social creatures, take our cues from those around us – especially our supervisors – and emulate behavior to conform and to meet expectations. The Harvard Business Review took a deep dive on employee burnout at the organizational level, and found three common causes:
- excessive collaboration;
- weak time management disciplines; and
- a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work.
Company leaders must internalize the reality that well-rested employees are more creative, productive, and energetic. This truth is the firm foundation for taking the bull by the horns and trying a few of these stress-reducing conversations with employees.
- Encourage employees to use ALL of their vacation days. If you have an associate who is stockpiling PTO, meet with them to start proactively planning a break in the action for them. By working together to develop a plan to address workflow in their absence, your employee will more readily ‘detach’ from work and come back more rested and ready to crush it at work.
- Ask your employees how THEY want to de-stress. Creative strategies abound! Your coworkers may want a foosball table in the breakroom. Maybe a mentoring program is the way to go. The Podium team plays Fortnite together. Whatever strategies you adopt, make sure the original concept originates from within your workforce. This will result in a much higher participation rate than something handed down from the C-suite.
- Set the example. As a company leader, your every word and deed is interpreted by your employees as ‘how we do things here’. This means refraining from unhealthy work habits and demonstrating for your team what work/life balance looks like.
- Set expectations; correct outliers. Articulate as much of your work/life balance strategy as you can when onboarding new employees, to make expectations clear. Chances are you’ll onboard someone who has internalized poor balance habits. When they pull an all-nighter, first thank them for their effort. Then, REarticulate expectations and help them with strategies to reclaim a balance that will keep them energized and off the road to Burnoutville.
The work/life balance isn’t one individual’s daily battle. It requires everyone in the office working together to develop good habits and set clear expectations. Leaders and managers have a responsibility to ‘walk the talk’ in this regard, and also to make sure that the guidelines are clear for all to follow. The resulting improvements in productivity, retention, and employer brand is what every company dreams of!