Paper Trails

How do I encourage employees to set work – life boundaries?

Why is work – life balance important?

Most employees strive to achieve and surpass the goals and expectations that their managers set for them.  Often times, this desire to outperform expectations results in what is known as burnout.  You are dedicated to the organization by being the hardest worker.  This could mean you are the first one in the office and the last one to leave. Maybe, you take calls and check email while on vacation. Perhaps even when you are sick, you are reachable.

Sometimes, all that hard work pays off. This could lead to promotions, raises, or bonuses. But success stories notwithstanding, working this hard does not actually increase productivity. In 2019, CNBC shared a Stanford survey showing that “productivity per hour decline(s) sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week.”  Furthermore, a 2018 Deloitte survey showed that 77% of employees have experienced burnout in the workplace and nearly 70% of them feel like their employer is not doing enough to prevent it.

Many job seekers are actively seeking positions where employers have policies and procedures that reduce employee burnout.  Applicants want the freedom at work to set boundaries so getting their jobs done does not encroach on their lives outside of work. This makes good business sense too. According to Harvard Business Review, when employers support work-life balance, they promote productivity, reduce turnover, improve employee health, and boost diversity.

Let’s take a look at some tips to help encourage employees to set work – life boundaries that can ultimately improve your employee retention rates.

What are some ways to encourage employees to set work – life boundaries?

Tip 1: Start at the top

Encourage your managers to come and go at reasonable times and take days off. Discourage making calls or sending emails after regular working hours. Ensure that leaders are taking breaks throughout the day and are encouraging their employees to do so as well.

Tip 2: Focus on outcomes

If possible, set substantive goals with your employees rather than focusing on the number of hours they are working. Train managers how to evaluate performance based on objective measurements of productivity and efficiency. It is the good work that matters, not the time spent at a workstation, the number of keystrokes logged, or the appearance of busyness. Added bonus: your managers will be better able to manage their time and set healthy boundaries around their work if they do not feel compelled to monitor their direct reports’ every working moment.

Tip 3: Ensure proper staffing and workload

Set expectations around the amount of work each employee should be able to complete in a standard workday. Share those expectations with the team and get their input on what a reasonable workload should look like and whether they are feeling underworked or overworked. If you are understaffed, you may need to assign extra work to employees, but make sure no one’s plate gets so full they are at risk of burnout. Reward the extra effort and watch for signs of low morale.

Tip 4: Be flexible

As you are able, give employees the ability to flex their schedule to take care of personal business during the workday without jumping through a lot of hoops. Use a shared calendar so everyone knows who is available and when. If your workplace has a variety of shifts, consider offering employees the ability to work hours across different shifts to find flexibility.

Tip 5: Revisit your paid time off policies

Review what you currently offer and dig into why you have the PTO policies you do. Make sure you are offering at least as much as your competitors (if at all possible). In addition to paid time off for vacation and illness, consider offering paid time off for specific activities like volunteering.

Tip 6: Talk with your employees

Ask them how they feel about their workload, whether they currently have healthy boundaries between their life at home and life at work, and what would help them better attend to their personal obligations. Survey them about what is causing them the most stress at work and what work-related matters may be keeping them up at night. Keep an open discussion going.

What should businesses do next?

Step back and take a look at your business and its’ employees.  Do you see your employees suffering from long hours worked or unrealistic expectations?  Is their performance suffering?  Or maybe it is time to try and hiring additional staff to reduce the workload of your current employees?  Either way, make sure to think about what works best for your employees and their needs.  Using a payroll and HR system, like the one we use at Paper Trails, helps reduce your managers administrative burden and empowers your workforce.  Feel free to reach out to us to learn more about how we can help.