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Employee Engagement – Work. Life. Balance.
By Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective
Posted July 11, 2015
Realizing the right balance between work and "life" is of great importance to employees, their loved ones, business leaders and the business itself. Long-term health and well-being are dependent on achieving it.
There is considerable ground to cover!

Today's blog "hits the high points", so to speak. In subsequent blogs I'll focus on key steps and components to achieving balance and examples of significant progress toward true balance.

Image of switching train tracksStep away from the clock. Set aside your "To Do" list – mental or otherwise. Stay with me!

What's the worst thing that could happen if you didn't complete a single thing on today's list?

How many things could drop off your "To Do" list without anyone noticing?

Does it make sense to create a "Stop Doing" list?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in work – especially when you have a significant investment in the business. There is always more work to be done. However, the answer isn’t to work harder and longer.

The answer is to change our mindset. More is not better. Drivers of business success are achieving performance objectives and meeting customer needs. A highly productive workforce is vital.

We, collectively, need to "flip the switch" from semi-automatic "on", to a very considered and focused "on." You know – the frequently voiced, less often pursued, "Work/Life Balance."

Think of "employee engagement" as "the willingness to go above and beyond what is expected" with many benefits to developing, nurturing and rewarding engaged employees. But, when "above and beyond" becomes the norm – when people work longer hours and are perpetually connected to work – both the employee and the business suffer.

Completely unbalanced scenarios didn't happen overnight. Like other important life changes, regaining balance will take consistent, focused effort. And, "one size doesn't fit all." Reaching the right work and personal life balance will be different for everyone, and will change over time. Change is always a constant.

Does work/life balance really benefit the business? Yes. Absolutely.

Many drivers of excessive work hours aren't productive, and actually COST the business money.

Staples Advantage* recently conducted a comprehensive study of workplace trends. They found:

  • More than half of employees currently feel overworked and burnt out.
  • Working long hours is a primary cause of low productivity.
  • 80% of the most dissatisfied workers are looking for a new job.

Given that consistently high levels of productivity are key to achieving objectives without people putting in unrealistic hours and feeling perpetually tied to work, what can you do to ensure your work environment and culture increase productivity rather than reduce it? There are actually several things. And none of them will break the bank.

7 Critical Elements to Achieving Balance

To effectively create work/life balance, it's important to incorporate things your employees' value, and remove barriers to their productivity. Some of the most common components:

  1. Culture
  2. You must create a culture where everyone knows they are cared about and valued as a person, there is mutual respect and trust; people listen to each other, learn from each other and help each other. All employees know what is expected of them, and if they meet their performance objectives, they will be successful – as the company is successful.

  3. Flexibility
  4. Providing employees with as much flexibility as possible – while still holding them to their agreed upon commitments will likely result in happier, more productive and loyal employees. This is particularly important when considering time outside of work – whether it is the ability to “unplug” for the evening, the weekend, or take whatever vacation is due them – without the expectation of being “on call.”

  5. Meetings
  6. You've attended plenty of unproductive meetings. Set an example for how to conduct meetings.

    Be sure everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time, meeting topics, their role within the meeting and that the meeting will end with action items. Ask for questions and suggestions. Listen and respond – even if the response is that you will need to get back to them at a later time. Adhere to set start and stop times.

  7. Work Environment
  8. The environment should be comfortable, with furnishings that fit employee needs, places to meet as a team (and tools to support team meetings), and places for people to step away for a break, a snack or drink. Essentially, the work environment should put people at ease, remove distractions and facilitate productivity.

  9. Supportive Technology
  10. If you have outdated, IT issue-prone hardware/software, your employees will be frustrated, and waste time trying to get work done. You will pay high IT issue resolution costs. No need to be an "early adopter." Simply ensure your hardware and software is up-to-date and supports employees' needs.

  11. Internal Communications
  12. Focus on clarity and brevity. Set up methods to simplify ensuring everyone involved is included in various communications. For situations where action items need to follow a communication, be clear about specific responsibilities, coordination and due dates. Regardless of method, communications from you are opportunities to establish and reinforce critical elements of effective communications.

  13. Performance
  14. Today, rather than adhering to long-time informal – yet strong enough to make one wary of not "toeing the line" – metrics, such as "hours in the office" (AKA "face time"), success in the current business environment, requires setting – and realizing – performance metrics tied to the actions, behaviors and achievements that create happy customers, an increasing customer base, and increased profitability.

    Provide your employees with a desirable culture and an environment that fosters comfort, focus and productivity. Ensure each employee fully understands their role. Then measure the actions and achievements that produce the desired work/product/service that meets or exceeds your customers' expectations.

    You'll know you've made progress when you observe employees asking each other questions, helping someone new to the team, and openly engaged in conversation focused on potential improvements to the collective results.

Consider Your Actions
No surprise. Your employees are looking to you. Your actions speak louder than words. Make sure what you do, say and praise truly reflects those things that will drive business success. You may want to act on creating that "Stop Doing" list.

Your employees are far less likely to leave on time, stay "unplugged" when they are not at work, and take the vacation they are due if they consistently watch you doing just the opposite. Time to lead by example.

Summary
Achieving a sustainable balance between work and the rest of life is critical for the health and well-being of everyone. The fact that creating this balance helps increase revenues, profits and decreases employee turnover…BONUS!

Action Items:
  1. Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive business success in your business.
  2. Ask your employees what, from a work environment perspective, makes them most productive.
  3. Decide what personal changes you will make to set the right example for your employees.

*Staples Advantage is the B2B division of Staples. Access the 2015 Workplace Index study here.

Fresh Perspective
Fresh Perspective helps business leaders make key strategic decisions. We adeptly research, analyze and synthesize results to deliver only ‘need to know’ insight to leaders so they make the right decision the first time. Lisa Hays, founder and CEO, gained considerable experience from widely varied roles in large corporations. She combines her 30+ years’ experience, expertise and objective viewpoint to directly help business leaders.

Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective, Inc.
913-438-8626
lisa@a-fresh-perspective.com
www.a-fresh-perspective.com
Twitter: @Periwinkle4Lisa
www.linkedin.com/in/lisahays

Meet Lisa Hays, President/CEO