Twenty years after the working world recognized the importance of work-life balance, most of us are still struggling to achieve it.
Back in the 1980s, the discussions about work-life balance centered on overwork, but today thanks in a large part to technology like intranets and employee apps (check our employee benefits app), the conversation is changing. The boundaries between work and home that used to be fixed are now blurred.
The downside is that employees can’t (or don’t feel like they should) switch off. At the same time, there’s a big upside in the form of employee flexibility. You can work from anywhere and, depending on the nature of your job, when you want to. In short, you can have a life.
Is tech that promotes work-life balance a net positive for employees? Absolutely. What is sometimes less clear is whether it’s good for companies. In this post, we’re going to discuss why the answer is yes and how you can help your team find work-life balance with an employee app.
Why more companies are looking for ideas to improve work-life balance
Study after study has shown that work-life balance, which was once dismissed by executives as a luxury, is now considered an essential element of personal success. It is also a critical component of business success. Take a look at these stats:
The consulting firm Hay Group conducted a study that concluded that employees at companies they perceived as not supporting work-life balance were more likely to leave.
UC EXPO found that 82% of employees would prefer a job that offered flexible benefits over one that didn’t.
In a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, a large majority of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention after flex work programs were instituted.
The Oracle simply talent report found that 54% of executives believed work-life balance improves employee engagement.
The Corporate Executive Board found that employees who believe that they have good work-life balance will work 21% harder.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that employees with a good work-life balance were less tired, less prone to errors, and more likely to follow safety procedures to the letter.
And work-life balance promotes physical and mental well being, which is important when you consider that unscheduled absenteeism costs $3,600 per year for hourly workers and $2,650 each year for salaried employees, according to workforce solution company Circadian.
Clearly, there are plenty of solid, bottom-line driven reasons to find new ideas to promote work-life balance at your company. Employees have lives outside of the office, and when you acknowledge that, you reap the benefits of their happiness.
Flexible work: the most important factor in work life balance
As you probably have inferred from the stats above, flexible working arrangement may be the key to helping your employees achieve the kind of work-life balance that will make them more reliable, more productive, healthier and loyal to your company. That’s because you, as an employer, can only really influence the ‘work’ side of the work-life balance equation.
Ceding control to your employees puts them in the driver’s seat, empowering them to make decisions about how, when, and where to work, so they don’t feel torn between personal and professional obligations. This can be particularly beneficial for employees with young children, aging parents or other personal responsibilities that might otherwise interfere with work.
Consider a hypothetical employee who is extremely talented and dedicated, but is also caring for an aging relative who needs help to get to medical appointments. In the past (before tools like employee apps and collaboration software plus flex work arrangements) this employee would have needed to take an entire day off to give their relative the assistance they need. Even if they were massively productive, they’d appear less dedicated on paper than a peer without family obligations thanks to those frequent time off requests.
With a flexible working arrangement, that employee wouldn’t have to take time off because their employer has recognized that there are lots of different ways a work day can be structured (and that different employees have different work styles). Additionally, they don’t have to choose between professional success and doing the right thing. As a result, the employee not only gets more done, but also feels less stressed and happier in their work life. Everyone wins!
Remove the barriers that have made telecommuting impossible
Employee apps plus collaboration tools and virtual meetings have made it possible for companies to have 100% remote teams, but a lot of businesses are still clinging to the old in-office 9-5 model of work. Some employees will do better in the office because they need that face time, but others thrive when they work at home or have the freedom to work at home some of the time. In general, though, most employees prefer having the option to telecommute some or all of the time. A study by FlexJobs found that:
- 50% of workers said they were more productive outside of the office.
- 30% would take a pay cut of 10-20% if telecommuting was an option.
- 42% said they’d choose telecommuting over other perks.
The problem, of course, has been how to communicate with and oversee those remote teams. The idea that telecommuters are sitting around all day in their PJs is outdated, but the concern that they’re less engaged, missing memos, and not meeting deadlines is a real one. An employee app like Blink can assuage those fears, however, by bringing your remote employees back into the fold. Plus, you can keep your frontline employees in the know and engaged, and keep track of their needs.
Ways your company can promote a culture of work-life balance
Maybe your company already has a culture where flex work is encouraged. Or maybe your firm isn’t ready to embrace the remote work movement. There are plenty of other ways you can help your employees achieve work-life balance.
Cut down on mandatory meetings. Pointless meetings literally cost your company money in the form of lost productivity. Look at upcoming meetings with a critical eye. Do you really need to gather twenty-five people in a conference room for a quick project update, or can you do that through your employee app? When you do deem a meeting necessary, do you really need an entire hour? Could you accomplish as much or more in a half hour? Sometimes having a clear agenda and then sticking to it lets you accomplish a lot more in less time.
Improve communication. Companies that implement internal communications plans tend to have more productive, more engaged, and happier employees who are less likely to leave to seek employment elsewhere. Look for comms solutions that make it easier for higher-ups to share information, for employees to find what they need, and for everyone to work collaboratively regardless of where they are. An employee app like Blink can be a one-stop solution to any issues your company currently has with internal comms, cut down on time sucking administrative tasks and maybe make instituting a new flex work policy easier.
Foster an environment where collaboration is the norm. The old saying ‘two heads are better than one’ has stood the test of time. When you take steps to help employees work together, whether in-office or in the field, they’ll be more likely to come up with innovative ideas and to accomplish more. With an employee app, employees can create personalized feeds that empower collaboration — both within teams, but also across departments.
Don’t stigmatize taking time off. Vacation time should be a right, not a privilege, but there can be a negative perception around using vacation days even in companies where taking leave is encouraged on paper. Sincerely encourage your employees to use their PTO, even during busy times and around holidays.
There should be no penalty for taking leave, and it should be easy to request time off, but we all know that many employees find it hard to ask for the vacation time they need. When you use an employee app, your employees can make their PTO requests in it instead of having to put in the request face to face. This may actually make it easier for some workers to use their earned PTO.
Be sure time off really is time off. Many employees feel an obligation to do a quick check of work email or the employee app during their PTO. Some employers expect to have an always-on, 24/7 connected workforce, but you can imagine how employees feel about workplaces like that. Be respectful of your employees’ time off and trust that they will catch up quickly when they return. Emergencies happen and sometimes it will be necessary to reach out to an employee on vacation, but you can do a lot to promote work-life balance at your company by setting the expectation that no one should be working on vacation.
Support learning and development. The benefits of giving employees time to hone their existing professional skills (and to learn new ones) should be obvious. The two questions you may have are how to fit training and education into the work day and how to support remote workers in their development. Some companies have embraced a 70-20-10 strategy where professional development is segmented into 70% on the job training, 20% mentorship or collaboration and 10% formal coursework. An employee app can be the platform on which teams collaborate and where course registration and attendance are managed.
Make your company culture more fun. The line between work and life has become increasingly blurred and more work has crept into our lives, so why not try to balance the scales by letting a little life creep into work? Your employee app can also be a place where employees can create after-work events, create interest-based online communities, invite colleagues to see them in performances or sports games, and otherwise get to know their coworkers better. This will foster cohesion among teams, even when the members of those teams are located thousands of miles apart from one another.
You can lead the work-life balance charge at your company
Employees will take their cues from management. If they don’t see management taking PTO, working from home, and using the employee app, chances are they won’t do any of those things, either. Your choice to embrace work-life balance in your own career will send a strong message that your firm is serious about giving employees the tools and the flexibility they need to succeed in both spheres. Let them see you don’t confuse hours spent at a desk for actual commitment.
Remember that happy employees who feel like they’re contributing value will be more productive. Many companies have found that flexible work arrangements and telecommuting are the keys to boosting employee satisfaction and productivity, but even putting a new internal communications plan in place or making it easier to request PTO can help your employees get closer to achieving true work-life balance. This is one area of the employee experience where small steps can potentially lead to big returns!
Blink can make it easier to promote work-life balance at your company. Try it out today. Enter your email address here to get started.