No employer wants their staff to punch out the minute the clock hits 5 p.m. However, that’s exactly what can happen when the work-life balance shifts.
Long hours and constant demands can leave employees burned out and unwilling to give extra effort. The solution to that problem isn’t for the staff to work harder. It’s to give them a break, said EAT Club general manager Cole Dixon.
“When an employee feels respected and that their time is valued, they’re more motivated to go above and beyond in their contributions and look at their role as an opportunity for impact,” Dixon said. “There becomes another level achieved in terms of effort, energy and contribution.”
But fostering that balance goes beyond just offering time off. It’s also in the culture and tone set in the office.
We asked Dixon to share some tips for leaders on how to foster a work-life balance in the office.
1. Create a personal connection
Developing a personal connection with team members both in the office and at offsite functions can go a long way toward a positive work-life balance. In the office, it can be as simple as taking time during a one-on-one to check in with an employee on a personal level.
“It helps people understand that you care about them and allows you to proactively propose things to support what they have going on outside of work,” Dixon said.
Meanwhile, hosting casual events like a monthly, leader-driven happy hour can establish authentic connections both between leaders and their teams, as well as within and across teams themselves.
2. Be aware of your employees
If your employees say they’re feeling ok about their workload, don’t just take their word for it. Some people aren’t comfortable saying “no” to new assignments. But if they’re sending emails late into the night, it’s not a good sign.
Ask employees to share not just the projects they’re executing, but what each project takes. Being aware of your employees’ workload enables you an opportunity to develop time management and prioritization skills, or to take responsibilities off their plate if need be, Dixon said.
3. Set the tone
Flexible PTO and work hours are great perks, but they mean nothing if the employer doesn’t set the right tone. Employees may not feel comfortable taking advantage of these perks if they aren’t encouraged, and the only way it is truly valued as a perk is if it is used.
Dixon suggests leaders talk about it with their employees and use it themselves to set the example. Beyond vacation time, it’s a good idea to occasionally call it a day earlier than you typically would. It encourages balanced schedules and supports the notion of valuing their personal lives, he said.
“Show them you believe life outside of work is as important as what you do in work,” Dixon said. “If you only promote and celebrate what happens at work and don’t think your employees will eventually burn out, that’s an unrealistic expectation.”
4. Create an office community
A welcoming office environment can go a long way toward reducing workload and developing a community. Providing an open office space is a great place to start. It facilitates communication and collaboration while reducing team silos. Meanwhile, creating a culture of inclusion ensures people's voices are heard and encourages teamwork. Combined, they make for a stimulating and engaging office atmosphere, Dixon said.
“It comes down to creating a culture of inclusion and of social capital," Dixon said. “I have always believed that a great way to promote a work-life balance is to bring in some of the joys and fun of life, into work."
At EAT Club, employees are free to bring extended family to the office, be it their dog or a family member, and while they work hard, having a good time is always encouraged.
Incorporating hobbies into office activities like a hiking club or a beach volleyball team not only creates community but encourages employees to spend time doing the things they love and may help them discover new ones.
5. Follow up with surveys
No matter how many initiatives you offer, it can all fall flat if you don’t follow up with your employees. Providing anonymous feedback surveys empowers employees to speak up about what they do and don’t value in those initiatives and can help you make adjustments and provide a fulfilling work experience.
“It’s easy to think you’re doing a great job and touching everybody equally with your efforts,” Dixon said. “But it’s hard for some people to sit across from someone and say they don’t like something. That anonymous form is crucial in truly understanding how effective your efforts are.”
EAT Club is a food tech company that specializes in providing employer-sponsored lunch-as-a-benefit (LaaB) that satisfies individuals to power teams.