As the summer winds down and more established business, school, and family routines return, many of us think about how we can sustain some of that personal freedom that summer schedules provide. Navigating the demands of work and life isn’t easy – it’s a topic of frequent conversation in workplaces everywhere. Creating a better sense of balance while at work can be a great place to start.
Here are some workplace strategies to consider as you gear up for the fall season:
- Flexible work hours head the top of the list of work-life supports you and your organization can provide. This isn’t new and individuals of all ages and positions want this. It’s estimated that 74% of employees want flexible work hours, but less than half get it. Allowing employees to have flexible start and end times, or take an extended lunch break once or twice a week to fit in a fitness class and adjust hours accordingly, can make all the difference.
- Brianne sets her schedule so she can drop off and pick up her kids from school every other day. She’s figured out how to finish some of her work after they go to bed. Not ideal for some, but for others it’s the only way to integrate both work and personal life. Effective communication with others at work is essential, but 100% face time is not.
- Where possible, Jonathan sets up walking meetings, where he and his team members hit the pavement instead of convening in a conference room. That doesn’t work for every meeting, but it’s a way to demonstrate the value of physical movement and changes up the usual routine of how people communicate.
- Suzanne blocks off one full day or sometimes two-half days per week to ensure she has no “official” meetings scheduled at that time. This allows her to catch up on needed communications, check in with her team members, enjoy more spontaneous conversations and calls, and strategize on ways to move forward on current projects.
- Space tells a story about how employees are supported in the work they do. Places within the physical work environment where employees can meet, connect, collaborate, chill out in a quiet space, or free form on a flip chart, sends messages about providing space for focused work and the room needed to pause and regroup during the workday.
- If your culture values teamwork, bring employees together in sports games and competitions around the office. If you value community involvement, give employees time to volunteer or participate in a local charity walk. Every company’s attention to employee wellness will look different, so making it authentic in a way that aligns with your business goals is what matters.
- Be mindful. Activities that have become permanent, such as checking our smartphones every few minutes for the next email, text, or the latest twitter feed can lead to never getting a break or a pause. Ever. Giving your mind and conversations a break from technology’s grip is essential to maintain true focus, clear thinking, and high performance.
- The work-life integration activities that leaders demonstrate send cues to their staff about what is and isn’t acceptable. They notice if you collaborate with others on schedules to openly discuss the time required for family commitments or other important activities outside the office. They notice if you take vacations or work from home when children or a family member is sick. Be aware of how important those actions are and the messages they convey.
- Watch for physical symptoms. Muscle tension, upset stomach, sleep problems, can all be physical manifestations of a body and mind out of balance. Anxiety and panic are the emotional price one pays for being out of whack. Caring about yourself by scheduling personal time very week to do whatever will energize and restore is essential.
If we consider this challenge as one of integration, where we do our best to coordinate, blend, and bring elements of work and life into a unified whole, the possibilities are greater than thinking in terms of balance – which tends to involve trade-offs and the implication that we can’t have it all. It really is about mindset and figuring out how we can fit in the doctor’s appointment, get a work out in, and show up at work to finish our projects with energy and engagement. The result – a healthier and happier you, more engaged employees, and stronger business performance. They are all connected.