Happy employees is not something nice for employers to have, it is a need that’s directly tied to the bottom line. Of course, human happiness is worth so much more than a healthy balance sheet. Employers who foster a balanced working environment have employees that are more creative, not afraid to make mistakes, supportive of each other, contagiously happy, AND more productive. And let’s face it, it’s more enjoyable to work with happy people! Encouraging a healthy work-life balance is one of the easiest ways employers can influence employee happiness.
First, it is important to recognize a potentially unhappy employee who may be headed for burn-out. Some signs to look for:
- Loss of interest: Burned-out employees cannot make themselves care about their work, which is the source of their stress.
- Lack of emotion: Emotional responses are abnormal when someone is burned-out.
- Loss of motivation: Former motivators no longer are effective.
- Possible depression: Burnout is closely linked to depression.
Burnout is directly tied to increased turnover. Consider that when everything is totaled, 150 percent of an employee’s annual salary is the cost of turnover. This number is 200 to 250 percent for members of management.
Offer more employee control
Traditionally, employers set all of the parameters concerning jobs. Keeping all of the control, however, augments stress on employees. Simply offering employees more control over their time can help establish a better work-life balance. Studies show that employee control actually increases loyalty and productivity. When, where and how work gets done is the direct purview of employers. Depending on the type of work, flex time, job sharing and telecommuting may all be viable options for employers to consider.
Ask employees for suggestions
Employees have some of the best ideas on how to improve their jobs and the company as a whole. These ideas, however, are not always communicated. Many employees do not feel that people in management care, and that most managers do not have the time to sit down with each employee. The best way to hear about new, innovative ideas is to create an employee suggestion program. Some tips for improved participation:
- Make it simple: Create a simple process for giving suggestions; complicated rules do not encourage creativity.
- Respond: Let employees know that you have received their suggestions and will consider them.
- Thank: Thank each employee who gives a suggestion, even if they are suggestions you do not use.
- Reward: Employees who come up with useful suggestions need to be rewarded.
This may seem basic, but rewarding your staff is an effective method for promoting work-life balance. Employees who feel appreciated are more confident, and rewards reinforce the behavior you want to see repeated. Rewards can also provide breaks that reduce stress. Rewards do not have to break the bank. There are simple ways to thank employees for their service.
- Public acknowledgment of service
- Extra time off
Establish consistent communication
Keeping employees informed not only makes them more accountable but also helps them understand where they fit into the overall picture. Such understanding is key for employees to feel valued. Companies using the Entrepreneurial Operating Systemâ (EOSâ) will be familiar with the 5-5-5. This tool is a quarterly conversation managers have with their direct reports to stay connected. It is a regular opportunity to make sure both parties are on the same page with essential roles and responsibilities as they relate to corporate core values. The 5-5-5 is also an excellent way to gauge employee happiness in the role.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Given the unavoidable stress of life, which may be exacerbated at work, employees may face times when they need professional assistance. EAPs provide employees access to counseling and other services. Without the aid of EAP counselors, the effects of stress can spiral out of control. Employer-sponsored EAPs give individuals the opportunity to seek help and learn the skills necessary to improve their work-life balance. Counselors can address a full range of topics causing employee stress, including personal crises, finances, and substance abuse. EAPs are useful investments because they prevent turnover and reduce absences, plus give employees strategies for work-life balance.
Key take-away: Employers can and should take an active role in helping employees achieve work-life balance.
By Christine R. Spray