When you get to know your employees, you know they are unique in many ways. However, when it comes to their work-life, employees desire similar things such as being appreciated, growth and development opportunities, and work-life balance. Many companies have found ways to incorporate developmental and recognition opportunities into their organization culture, but often work-life balance falls prey to archaic policies and procedures, a need for control, “this is the way we always have done it” or “taking care of the customer first” thinking.

To address work-life balance, leaders must think about the impact work systems and policies have on their employees’ lives. It’s a matter of listening to your employees, being creative, and finding ways to impact their lives positively, both professionally and personally.  For instance, allowing your employees to telecommute or job share can help alleviate traffic-related stress. Or you can follow the lead of companies like Kum & Go and Wal-Mart that are using new scheduling technology which allows them to move from the traditional retailer’s variable schedule model to a more predictable and flexible scheduling option. This allows their employees to better plan their lives around their work, as well as provides a more consistent ability to schedule childcare or school-related activities. With today’s technology, there are many more work schedule arrangements companies could consider in helping their employees achieve work-life balance.

Finding ways for better scheduling options is just one way to help employees with work-life balance. Knowing what your employees struggle with the most is a good start for identifying areas where work-life balance can be enhanced. Holding focus groups, or conducting climate surveys are two ways to obtain such information.  Often small tweaks in benefit offerings such as offering mid-day exercise classes or bringing in-house popular certification classes that benefit your employee population can have a considerable impact on work-life balance. Keep in mind that small changes can bring about huge successes.

One thing leaders should do when addressing work-life balance is to be the example you wish to see in your employees.  Your words and actions become more than suggestions; they become the rules and norms.  Be careful about being connected to work 24/7, or always working long hours because your employees may feel that’s what they must do to get ahead whether your work-life balance initiative says otherwise.  Setting the examples by taking vacations, disconnecting when possible, or following good work-life best practices is essential.

When employees have a positive work-life balance, they do better at work. Periodically looking at what, why, and how things are done can uncover unintentional ways that processes, policies, and procedures are unnecessarily negatively impacting work-life balance.  Additionally, looking at what other industries are doing, or discovering new technology can uncover ways to positively impact work-life balance which is good for retention, while benefiting the employee, as well as the company.

Shaunna Tyus, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a human resources retention consultant specializing in helping organizations that are losing sales or productivity because of high turnover find the root causes and make adjustments that result in increased employee happiness, productivity, and retention.

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