Work-life balance is a buzzword muttered by even the most overworked business executives and employees. But what does work-life balance really mean and why is it critical to business success? When employees and business executives talk about work-life balance they focus on the amount of time spent in the office in proportion to the amount of time spent doing other just as worthwhile activities unrelated to work. But what work-life balance is really about is being a well-rounded employee who understands that having a life outside of the workplace is critical to productivity, career success, and a satisfying life. But what does that look like? And why is it important that business owners focus on hiring well-rounded employees who have a healthy attitude towards work-life balance?
The Out-of-Balance Employee
When we talk about workplace bullies we rarely see the connection to how an out-of-balance employee who has an unhealthy relationship with work can present as bullies who care very little about others. The truth is that an out-of-balance employee may in fact suffer from a skewed perception of their place in your organization. An out-of-balance employee is someone who spends too much time working and not enough time tending to their personal life.
On the surface, it may seem that this is good for a business’ bottom-line but when you look closely this attitude can be costly. Out-of-balance employees aren’t superhuman, they eventually burn out, breakdown, quit or get fired because they’re simply ineffective. Out-of-balance employees neglect their spouses, their children, and their health. This is the employee who won’t schedule their yearly healthy checkup because they don’t have time due to their busy schedule. This is also the employee who will leave weeks of vacation time on the books year after year because they don’t want to be seen as slacking.
They must always be perceived as the most productive and the most committed. And because they neglect self-care and have no time to recharge they can become easily agitated and overly competitive and combative with other employees. In the end, the out-of-balance employee may be more willing to stay late and take on extra work but they’re also more likely to contribute to a toxic workplace culture that drives even your most loyal employees out the door. And this out-of-balance employee may not always present as a bully, sometimes they present as a workplace martyr which can have its own negative impact.
Dangerous Workplace Martyrs
The workplace martyr is another type of out-of-balance employee who can unwittingly harm the culture of your business. The martyr is always looking to go above and beyond but often in a way that doesn’t cultivate teamwork or mutual trust and respect. Below are some signs of a workplace martyr:
- They are always stressed. No matter how slow business is at the moment, the workplace martyr is always stressed because they are constantly busy doing things that they could delegate to someone else.
- They micromanage. Even if you’ve invested in skilled employees to help lighten the workload, the workplace martyr doesn’t believe that anyone can do the job as good as they can. They nitpick at everything and may even redo good work because they believe it is imperfect.
- They never ask for help. Workplace martyrs always do everything themselves. They believe that if they’re asking for help they’re not doing their job. And even if they ask for help, they may not fully trust the person helping them to do a good job.
- When you have even one workplace martyr as an employee this can harm employee morale, foment distrust, and drive away good talent. And if the rumor mill gets going about your toxic workplace culture it may be next to impossible to find healthy employees willing to work with you especially in a booming economy.
Cultivating Balanced Employees
We’ve talked about what an out-of-balance employee looks but what can businesses do to cultivate a more balanced relationship to work? Let’s take a look at some concrete strategies to ensure that you hire and retain well-rounded employees who will contribute to your business for years to come.
- Act as an example. Founders and CEOs are often guilty of having out-of-balance work lives. And when you’re trying to build a company from the ground up or when you’re trying to push past obstacles that keep your business from reaching its full potential being the workplace martyr can feel necessary. But if you want to attract and keep well-rounded employees, you must serve as an example of what work-life balance looks like. You should keep decent business hours, enjoy your time off, and be willing to delegate responsibilities to the employees you paid to help you.
- Offer flex-time. Life happens every day of the week, not just on Saturday and Sunday. This is why offering employees work from home options can make it easier for them to remain well-balanced and take care of the important life issues that inevitably come up. This will require you to trust your employees and to have a clear idea of what essential work they’re supposed to complete whether they’re in the office or working remotely.
- Give employees autonomy. Micromanaging the work of employees is the easiest way to discourage them and send them looking for other opportunities. By giving your employees the autonomy to decide how to do their work, you give them a chance to become more productive. They will have an incentive to figure out a way to complete work tasks in a more effective and efficient manner without burning out.
- Develop “life first” policies. Let’s face it, we have a workaholic culture that rewards out-of-balance behavior with lots of praise and awe. If you want to cultivate well-rounded employees, you must put in place “life first” policies that allow an ample amount of personal time and that mandates a certain amount of time off each year.
Businesses that value a healthy work-life balance will have less turnover and a happier workforce.