Technology, undoubtedly, has tremendously changed the way we work in the office, but it has also done so outside the workplace. In a hyper-connected world, it seems we never leave work behind. Emails, voice messages and appointment reminders follow us wherever we go, and we mostly acquiesce to their around-the-clock demands. But are we letting our professional obligation take over our personal lives in the process?
Striking a perfect work-life balance in today’s high-paced environment seems increasingly challenging. According to the BBC, young workers becoming sick due to work-related exhaustion is rising in Sweden, with the number of reported cases up 144% since 2013. Work stress in Japan, whose workforce puts in some of the longest work weeks in the world, has led the government to call for having Monday mornings off. In the U.S., job stress is associated with 120,000 deaths and $190 billion in healthcare costs. The world’s largest economy is also ranked near the bottom of the work-life spectrum among developed nations.
Randstad own recent research shows that two-thirds of working-age adults surveyed say they respond to calls, emails and text outside of working hours, and most (59%) do so immediately. The Randstad Workmonitor research also found that 56% say their employers expect their availability outside of regular office hours and that 45% even expect this during holiday and personal time off.
The blurring of work and personal time is clearly accelerating. While some may view this trend as a push toward greater productivity, the opposite may be occurring. One survey found that 41% of workers in the U.S. said work stress made them less productive while 33% said it made them less engaged. Stress also led to 14% being absent more frequently.
These and other findings should have employers, well, stressed. Keeping employees connected at all hours might seem like a good way to get more work done, especially for global teams in different time zones. But losing their ability to participate – due to illness or lack of engagement – will be far more detrimental. So what can you do as an employer to ensure your workforce is well rested and minimally stressed in the office?
six tips to keep them happy
Corporate culture and long-standing practices may impose unnecessary stress on your workforce so it’s important your organization examines ways to encourage change in behavior and also job requirements. Consider the stress points that are taking a toll on workers and look for immediate ways in which you can alleviate burnout. You should always strive to create an environment that is supportive, fun and encouraging so employees look forward to and not dread the workday. To achieve this, consider these six steps in your talent management strategies.
1. establish quiet time for personal lives.
One of the most effective ways to encourage employees to de-stress from their jobs is to create hard boundaries for working hours. You should consider having a policy in place to prohibit the exchange of emails, calls and texts during home time (from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., for instance). There may be occasional exceptions, but by establishing such hours, you enforce respect for workers’ personal times.
2. provide fun, mental health days.
Employees often use their paid time off to tend to personal obligations or doctor’s appointments so these may not actually provide stress relief. Consider offering a day per quarter or even more often for “fun time,” when workers can engage in an activity strictly for their well-being. This can be a day trip to the beach, time to garden or just sleep in. Creating a well-rested workforce can significantly improve productivity.
3. monthly office parties or outings.
Even offering a few hours of relaxation and socializing in the office can do wonders for promoting morale and engagement. Creating themed gatherings, catering meals or scheduling a morning retreat regularly can help employees to take their minds off work and help them to bond. Companies often do this only when they’ve achieved a work goal or milestone, but you don’t need a reason to celebrate each other’s contributions.
4. work from home and flex schedules.
Anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time commuting to work can tell you how stressful their mornings and evenings can be. Consider establishing a telecommuting policy if you don’t already have one, which would give employees some reprieve from the daily grind. Alternatively, consider flexible work hours that enable the workday to start earlier or later than 9 a.m. Working families with childcare responsibilities may achieve a better work-life balance just by adjusting their start or end times.
5. give as much leave as needed.
These days unlimited vacation time is a standard offering at many organizations. While most employees understand that doesn’t really mean as many days as they want, they also want to be assured that companies are concerned about their work-life balance. You will have to trust the judgment of your employees and managers to reach a workable arrangement, but such an approach might help reduce burnout and productivity loss.
6. create a wellness program that rewards and recognizes.
Lots of programs offer rewards like cash or gift cards, but combining these with recognition, you can increase participation and the fun factor. Recognize individuals and teams that achieve wellness goals that include taking time off, stepping away from their devices and devoting time to personal activities. By encouraging workers to leave work behind and get recognized for it, you’ll shift perceptions about work-life balance.
Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be difficult in today’s always-on work environment, but as an employer interested in reducing burnout and stress, you should examine how you can help workers maintain boundaries between work and personal lives.