People Relaxing in Park

Employees fill multiple life roles; worker, parent, committee member, friend, caregiver, each with their own demands and challenges. Working in today’s high-tech, fast-paced work environments can be demanding, and if the stresses of the job interfere with other life roles, all roles suffer. When homelife responsibilities clash with work obligations, finding equitable solutions benefit everyone. Teaching and encouraging employees to do their best at work, be satisfied with their efforts and leave it all behind when they go home helps to ensure a good work-life balance. Open communication policies at work help team members seek solutions when problems at home prevent them from doing their best. However, stress is inevitable, and everyone needs healthy ways to relieve it. Best practices for companies that want to emphasize work-life balance include four things:

  1. Supporting a clear division between working and non-working hours
  2. Keeping lines of communication open to encourage employees to seek answers to work-life balance challenges
  3. Promoting stress-relieving outside activities
  4. Encouraging leave when it’s needed

Do Your Best, Leave it at Work

While there are exceptions, team members should try to stop working and thinking about work entirely at the end of the day. Managers and supervisors who encourage everyone to work hard and do their best, but stop work when the day ends, get refreshed workers the next day. People who take work home, check emails throughout the evening, and think about work issues when they should be relaxing or being with family don’t have a good balance. Companies should try hard to limit situations where employees must check emails in the evening or be available for phone calls and texts.

Here are five steps to a healthy end-of-day routine:

  1. Make a list of current projects and tasks and the steps needed for completion
  2. Prioritize the list
  3. Review and update the list at the end of the day, crossing off what’s done and adding anything new
  4. Celebrate the day’s accomplishments
  5. Start your transition to home life

Companies can encourage everyone to end their day this way. By celebrating accomplishments and writing a summary of any problems to resolve or work to do, people can feel good about their job but stop thinking about it. An after-work period for decompressing also helps, especially after a particularly intense day. For some, the commute home with music or an audiobook works. Hitting the gym or taking a walk helps others. Getting together with friends for coffee or a drink and snacks can provide a transition, too.

Stress-Busting Activities Companies Can Promote

Many companies, including The MDC Group, understand how important outside activities are to employee mental health and work-life balance. The link between physical activity and mental health are well documented, so companies that pay for health and fitness programs or gym memberships are helping employees cope with stress from work or home life conflict and challenges. Companies often get discounted group rates for memberships. In addition to workout facilities and classes, some clubs and gyms offer team sports, and whether pickup basketball or adult swim teams, they provide human interaction in a fun atmosphere. Such activities help employees enjoy their off hours and develop healthy and beneficial friendships.

While physical activity improves both body and mind health, not all stress-relieving activities need to be athletic in nature. For example, companies can promote work-life balance by encouraging life-long learning. While many pay for classes that relate directly to an employee’s job, The MDC Group and other progressive organizations pay for any and all continuing education classes. Employees can learn to cook, speak a second language, or oil paint with the company footing the bill. Individuals who might hesitate to spend part of their family’s budget on an art class will expand their life horizons when their employer pays for it. If someone works all day and takes care of family all evening and on weekends, they can burn out or become anxious or depressed. A Tuesday night cooking class or Saturday morning pickup game can make a tremendous difference to that person at home and work.

Open and Transparent Communications

Transparent communication means everyone involved is sharing all information, good and bad. Such communication leads to better and faster problem solving. In the workplace, if there’s a conflict or disagreement about a job or project, openly discussing everything clears the air, lets everyone know they are heard, and gets to a solution much faster. Encouraging everyone to express their opinions and feelings provides a pressure valve. By diffusing any conflicts and letting everyone voice their opinions, employees feel better about working towards the best path forward.

Companies with open and transparent communication about work issues also encourage employees to be honest about any family or outside difficulties. For example, if someone suddenly has a sick parent to help or a child with mental health challenges, some company cultures discourage employees from sharing the information with supervisors. In a more positive and supportive company culture, where communication is a priority, employees feel better about seeking a work-life balance solution to a new situation.

How Important is Taking Leave?

A big part of promoting work-life balance concerns company leave policies and practices. The latest leave management systems allow everyone to know their leave balances easily, and companies should encourage team members to take leave when they’re sick, lose a family member, have or adopt a baby, or need personal time to resolve a problem. When individuals don’t take leave when they need it, it affects others in the workplace, too.

If they are entitled to maternity or paternity leave but encouraged to cut it short because they are needed at work, that doesn’t promote work-life balance. Everyone knows people who never take a vacation break. Eventually, team members who never take leave burn out, so companies should encourage all team members to take annual leave. Team members come back recharged, happier, and more engaged after taking a break and getting a fresh perspective. Encouraging leave also shows the organization cares about its people.

Work-life balance has become more important in recent years, and a company that commits to promoting it in every way possible earns their employee’s loyalty. When team members keep work worries at the office, they can handle personal challenges more easily. If they feel free to talk to coworkers or team leaders about challenges that could prevent them from doing their best at work, there’s less stress all around and a better chance for a solution. Companies that promote and even financially sponsor healthy leisure time activities, get happier, mentally, and physically healthier team members.


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