12 Jul Leadership in Work-Life Balance
In today’s hyper-competitive work landscape, one concept that has risen in prominence is that of work-life balance. But what is work-life balance, why is it important, and is it possible to have a ‘balance’ of two separate worlds one of which is constantly changing and shifting? Ensuring work-life balance in your organization is crucial because it results in an improvement in productivity, engagement, morale, innovation, and reduces turnover. Guaranteeing this balance requires leaders to walk the talk of their desired culture where work-life balance is the norm by modeling such behaviors themselves: acting as a symbol for the practices they wish their employees to emulate, and setting up systems that stimulate their employees to pursue a balance of work and leisure. However, in a similar way to how we must define culture before attempting any transformation, we must define the kind of work-life balance that is the most conducive for our well-being and productivity. Leaders of organizations must recognize that they too have a role to play in shaping the work-life balance of their people, for better or for worse.
As the most influential figures in their organizations, leaders are usually the individuals who drive culture change, and changing your organization’s culture to one that supports a worker’s right to a balanced life is no different. The people in your organization look to you for what behaviors are encouraged, discouraged, or tolerated, and in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, your decisions and actions are the general indicators of what is expected among employees. Therefore, it isn’t enough to just state verbally or through your company’s policies or mission statement that you and your organization value a healthy balance between work and leisure, it is more important to live out the values you speak, for it is your behaviors that symbolize what is held in high regard in your company’s culture. A leader’s behaviors are especially important because of how their people interpret such actions or attribute meaning to them, that are derived from what people believe is valued in the company culture.
What actions should leaders keep up in order to signify that your company is committed to improving the work-life balance of its people? Individual actions that leaders can take are making sure to use your allotted annual leave quotas, leaving your weekends work-free, and to refrain from replying to work emails after work hours, actions which encourage the rest of the organization that following suit is acceptable, and will not be punished or perceived as slacking off. To reinforce this, leaders should also communicate their intent in such actions, to make sure that the message their people receive is the same as the one they (the leader) intended to give. A leader that puts their values into practice should take into account their workers’ productivity as well as their adherence to a healthy work-life balance when selecting those for a promotion, and communicate their intent so that their people know they don’t have to sacrifice their wellbeing to rise through the ranks.
Finally, it is important for individual workers to have their definition of work-life balance as well. There are only so many hours in the day, and it is important for them to truly maximize the tasks they are currently completing, whether work-related or leisurely.