by Thomas Hawk
The pursuit of a balanced lifestyle has a long and impressive history. Recorded interest in the topic dates back several thousand years. The concept of balance has received renewed attention more recently as people, often under stress, strive to juggle work and home commitments. Helping people balance their work and home life has become an additional expectation of managers who themselves are trying to balance their own. Here are some ways to help yourself and others achieve a balanced lifestyle…
1. Keep things in perspective.
In Success: Full Living, Justin Belitz provides a simple method of breaking down life’s activities into seven categories which he calls the ‘7Fs’-Fun, Family, Friends (Social Life), Finances (Work), Fitness (Health), Faith, and Formal and informal education. He stresses that his categories are only suggestive and can be added to or subtracted from depending on your belief system. It’s the process that’s the important thing. Balance is achieved by attending equally to each of the 7Fs, Belitz says. Conversely, when some are emphasized at the expense of others, imbalance occurs, requiring a review of life practices and a return to a more balanced lifestyle.
2. Monitor behavior-yours and others.
No one is expecting you to become a qualified psychologist or lifestyle counsellor. In your management role, however, you are likely to be able to help others lead a more balanced lifestyle. You are aware, for example, that people’s behaviors have been learnt-from their upbringing, their schooling, and by modeling significant others. And some people can be oblivious to the detrimental effects that their behavior can have on themselves and others. By people-watching in your organization, you will come to realise those who lead a more balanced lifestyle than others and those for whom intervention could help. The ways that you manage these situations will influence your behavior, too.
3. Recognize work-life balance problems.
As a manager, you might find it hard to judge whether you are encouraging your staff to balance their commitments at work with those at home. Tell-tale signs of poor work-life balance include:
employees doing a lot of overtime
employees taking a lot of time off to deal with ” emergencies” involving children or other dependents
high levels of employee stress
high rates of absenteeism
high levels of staff turnover
If you want to ensure your business is one which encourages a healthy work-life balance, the first step is to talk to your employees, their representatives and supervisors about where improvements could be made. There is no right answer or approach that works for every business, although there are a handful of tried-and-tested techniques which can help.
4. Consider the options.
There are no hard-and-fast rules on what constitutes a healthy work-life balance. Much will depend on your business’ operational requirements and the needs of your employees. The UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service suggests the following options:
Flexible working practices
Part-time working, flexitime, job-sharing, home working, and self-rostering (allowing employees to
choose which shifts to work).
Flexible working lives.
Policies that encourage flexible working lives include unpaid career breaks and paid sabbatical schemes. These are a cost-effective way to retain valued staff or reward those with long service. Allowing your employees extra days off work – whether paid or unpaid – can improve their work-life balance. Holiday purchase schemes enable employees to buy additional – usually limited – holidays on top of their annual entitlement. You could consider giving employees maternity/paternity/adoption/parental leave in excess of the statutory minimum, e.g. higher pay or longer leave.
Such schemes give employees a measure of control over how their working lives are organized and
foster greater employee loyalty and commitment.
Making the working environment more attractive
Improvements to the working environment can boost morale and help you retain valued staff. Typical techniques include: free exercise classes, free/subsidized canteen, company days out, childcare vouchers, funding/time off for learning.
Consider improving the quality of employees’ work lives by designing jobs so they provide: some variety of method, location or skills; regular feedback on their performance; discretion in the timing, sequence
and pace of work; opportunity for problem-solving and learning/personal development; specific responsibilities for achieving tasks or goals; an understanding of how they contribute to the final product/service.
5. Be flexible.
It’s not the amount of time that people spend at work that’s important, but how effective they are while they are there. You will find that working hours can become more flexible when your focus is on outcomes. Parents often need this flexibility. No matter how well they think they have organized their time, something invariably happens to prove them wrong-children with flu, school meetings, or a family pet that needs to be taken to the vet. And unexpected demands on time are not confined to employees with children. Medical appointments, emergency dental care, and professional development activities are just some of the reasons why flexible working hours are worth considering. Show your preparedness to act in the best interests of your proven performers.
Dr Neil Flanagan provides access to essential management know-how for busy people on the move. A FREE gift awaits you every time you visit management2go.com and you can take advantage of your FREE e-Topic and newsletter that will keep you informed about everything management. And if you’d like more information about issues raised in this article, you can go to