How to create a work-life balance in your workplace
“How do you create a work-life balance?”. I was asked this question at the end of a recent Wheel of Life workshop for a big corporation here in Brunei, and it actually made me really excited. Why? Well, it speaks to a growing recognition that employees aren’t just cogs in a machine. It recognises that, when your employees have a good work-life balance, your workplace is going to thrive.
This is the kind of change that I am so thrilled to be seeing in the business world! I wholeheartedly believe that we can have both, we can all have a career and a personal life. We can all have a work-life balance.
What is work-life balance?
The obvious answer here is that balance is working hours that don’t take over your life. But, in reality, work-life balance is more than that.
Work-life balance is feeling recognised for who you are as a person both inside and outside of work. It’s feeling supported by your workplace to explore endeavours outside of the office, even if they’re unrelated to your job. And it’s feeling able to switch off from work and be fully present in your personal life when you head home for the evening.
It’ll also look slightly different for everyone. Which is what makes it such a challenge for so many businesses!
Work-life balance comes from the top.
Lead by example with your own work-life balance
In a recent episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast, the former First Lady reflected on how she felt inspired to make work-life balance a priority after seeing how a previous boss approached motherhood.
She shared how her boss would always pause a meeting to take a call from her five-year-old daughter, no matter how busy she was. She had this uncanny ability to swivel in her chair, be a mother, and turn back to being a boss. For her, that was work-life balance and she didn’t think twice about it.
This woman was in a senior position and, although she didn’t explicitly speak to the subject at the time, Michelle was watching and learning from her.
That story is the perfect example of leading from the top. No matter what you say or what you permit your teams to do, as leaders you need to be doing it too. Only then will people pay attention, take action and actually follow suit themselves. Because then they’ll know, that if it’s okay for you it must be okay for them too.
View your employees as individuals with their own definition of work-life balance
It’s all very well saying that you want to create a culture of work-life balance for your team but that’s going to mean different things for each and every one of them.
Some team members will be perfectly fine working late nights, others will need to have access to flexible working so that they can pick their children up from school, and others will sit somewhere in-between.
Take the time to get to know each one of them. It’s likely that you’ll need to make the first move and open up the floor for discussion. Make a new habit of starting your meetings with a few minutes of chit chat before you move into the key topics for the day. This will help you build up a more rounded view of their lives so that you can see where they might need extra support or have additional needs that’ll need adapting to.
Creating an open culture like this will signal to them that it’s good to ask for flexible working when it’s needed or to raise the topic of how they can pursue a better work-life balance themselves, rather than them feeling too shy to raise the issue.
Make the effort to understand your team’s passions outside of work
If your employees are going to live a rounded life, with a good work-life balance, you’re going to need to understand what balance means for that person.
This is where the Wheel of Life comes in. It’s one of my favourite exercises to complete with my coaching clients and can be done together by your team in a workshop style setting, or individually in their own time.
The aim of the Wheel of Life is to help your employees find out what they need to prioritise in their lives, where they are currently, and what’s feeling a little off-balance. It’ll highlight areas that need further improvement, which will enable you to see where you can best support them.
In fact, I love it when I see corporate leaders bringing the Wheel of Life exercise into employee reviews. Instead of solely focusing on deliverables and targets, you can make balance a part of your assessment and work on the Wheel of Life together. By checking in regularly, and in such a structured way, you’re going to be able to see what’s feeling out of balance for your staff and create a plan together to help them recalibrate things.
When your employees have a good work-life balance, you’re going to be able to get the most out of your team. They’ll be more productive, more engaged in their work, and more likely to stay around for the long-haul. A balanced workplace is a successful workplace.
Help your team do the inner work that’ll help them focus on their business work
Download the Wheel of Life workbook when you join the Empower You waitlist, a group coaching programme launching this autumn: