We can all stand to make a few improvements to how we manage our time at work and at play. Despite our most determined efforts, I’m sure we’ve all been accused of failing to take a vacation week we’ve earned, checking the Blackberry at the dinner table, or (gasp) spending Sunday night in front of the computer, trying to hammer out one last slide for that presentation.
An even-keeled approach to work and life often eludes even the best of us, but for those of us who sell our companies as ones that prioritize so-called work-life balance (or sanity, if you wish), finding ways to make time for life beyond the office is even more important. Striking the right balance can make all the difference when we try to attract and retain top talent and establish a healthy and productive workplace culture.
Here are a few tips:
- Lead by example. This one tops the list for a reason. No matter how progressive, inclusive, and flexible your policies are, they won’t mean squat if you don’t put some muscle behind them. Your employees look to you for clues that they can take well-deserved breaks without leaving the business in the lurch. (Keep in mind, too, that ensuring your employees take accrued paid-vacation days will reduce the company’s financial liability.) Make sure that your management team demonstrates a culture of hard work, commitment, and urgency; however at the same time, understand that we all have lives outside of work. Family, friends, and personal time should be a priority for everyone, but getting it right can be harder than it looks. Don’t give up; your efforts will pay handsome dividends in the end.
- Play fair. Flexibility won’t be questioned as long as positive performance and achievement are rewarded. If your team sees how hard you work, then they will most likely understand when you need to leave a little early or come in a little later. This same premise would apply to others on the team, as long as they’re delivering on their responsibilities to the team. Think about it: If you allow an underperforming team member the same privileges as his colleagues, your stronger contributors begin to question why they work so hard in the first place. (It is, after all, human nature to compare your circumstances to those around you). So communicate your priorities and expectations clearly. And provide team members who go above and beyond those expectations with public recognition so you can reward their hard work with well-earned trust and flexibility.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Giving employees a bit of flexibility, when they’ve consistently delivered on their commitment to the team, can be a huge morale booster and retention tool. So if one of your team members asks to arrive an hour late on Thursdays so she can attend her favorite spinning class, and it doesn’t disrupt her team or preclude her performance, give her a break. If your assistant’s daughter has a performance at school one evening, offer him a chance to leave an hour early. Such kindnesses – with the understanding that accommodations mustn’t affect performance – will go a long way to building trust and respect in the workplace.
- Think locally – and competitively – about your holiday calendar. Literally and figuratively, take a well-rounded approach to paid time off. When setting your holiday calendar, look at every region where you have employees, and do your best to plan around different cultural needs and school calendars for those with families. Also check when your competitors have holiday closures and optional floating holidays. It’s important to remain competitive by ensuring your holidays and policies align with those in your industry. And don’t forget to account for different regional and local legislation around paid time off (the sick-leave requirements in San Francisco come to mind).
These four small steps will set you and your team off on the right foot.