In the last five to ten years, companies have begun rigorously implementing work-life balance initiatives. At least on paper. In the ever-connected work environment, it’s difficult to get away from the office when it’s always in your pocket. As such, work has slowly crept into nights and weekends. Work that used to require an office can now be performed on a beach in Cancun or a ski cabin in Colorado. Companies have provided workers with tools and technology to ensure they can perform their jobs anywhere and now expect them to.
Work-life balance initiatives have several goals in mind, but they all revert back to decreasing employee turnover. In some high-stress careers, like banking or consulting, the hours take their toll and people burn out. In another scenario, it’s ensuring new mothers have ample time at home. These are important, as employee turnover is expensive and work-life balance now provides a selling point for some companies, like Patagonia (“Let my people surf”).
By implementing stricter and limited work hours, companies also accomplish three other goals they probably haven’t considered. While turnover is expensive, the cost of these is far greater and provides businesses with significant advantages over their competitors. If your company is considering or has implemented work-life balance initiatives, consider these three goals in your objective.
The first is time management. I have yet to see a company hire additional resources to meet their goals. Somehow management has decided by limiting work hours or protecting weekends, the same amount of work will get done in less time. We don’t typically believe this is true – but it is. By limiting office hours or other initiatives, workers remove the “fluff” from their schedule and are more productive. Take your day, today as you read this, how much was “hard work”? Can you account for what you were doing all day? Did you need to go to all of those meetings? Probably not.
Secondly is the tools and technology to be more efficient. Like the technology that allows us to work from home (or from vacation), technology can help make us more efficient in the office. One nightmare for bankers is “turning comments”, where senior leadership or clients make edits on a paper copy and scan them back for you to make in the actual document. Absurd! Why not have them make the edits themselves? There are lots of ways to make work more efficient with existing tools, companies need to take advantage of implementing them.
Thirdly is the hobbies and skills you can gain in your free time. When working over 70 hours a week, we drop anything that resembles personal development and attempt to keep our friendships on life support with the occasional drinks and brunch. Limited work hours provide time for reading, writing, and learning. During a recent slow period at work, I worked from home and completed two Udemy courses. My employer will see those effects immediately as I’ve learned to be a better writer and coder. Best of all, my employer didn’t pay or force me to take the classes. I paid out of pocket because I wanted to. Some employers may flip the coin and point out some people will play videogames or sleep instead. This could be true, it’s about who you hire and their ambition for self-improvement. To be clear, if they want to play video games or sleep – let them. It’s their choice and that’s the point of work-balance.
I don’t this the list ends with three other goals as work-life balance doesn’t end with just limiting office hours. There are different approaches to implementing and achieving the goals your organization sets. Increased efficiency, internal technology and processes, and employee improvement are all things companies value right now. Turning to work-life balance to help achieve these while improving employee satisfaction is worth the investment now.