Helping your Teams to Improve Well Being and Work Life Balance
Most people would agree that a healthy and balanced lifestyle is important both inside and outside of the workplace. However, many people focus more on work targets and deadlines than on their own well being, which can lead to problems in both their personal and professional lives.
Focusing on wellness and balance in the workplace improves productivity, employee engagement and satisfaction leading to better retention and bottom line results.
On the flip-side, when there's not much balance between work and life, and low focus on workplace wellness, work satisfaction diminishes, employee morale decreases, which may lead to health and mental health problems leading to burnout.
In this blog post we will discuss why investing in workplace wellness and helping teams to improve work life balance and well being is beneficial for individuals and organizations.
The benefits of a healthy and balanced workforce
There are many benefits to having a healthy and balanced workforce.
According to the HBR article from 2017 work life balance is a good predictor of employee satisfaction at work and overall happiness. Individual autonomy, job variety, security and workplaces that promote employee health and safety are linked to job satisfaction.
Workplace wellness also contributes to a increased productive workforce, which is less likely to experience burnout, job stress, mental health and overall healthcare issues.
What are the consequences of poor wellness and balance in the workplace?
Poor employee well being brings costs for workplaces that could be prevented through workplace wellness initiatives.
Employee burnout costs $322 billion to organizations in turnover and lost productivity as Gallup research shows. 75% of healthcare costs could be prevented through improved employee well being.
Why is it important for organizations to embed wellness into the culture?
I recently spoke to Elizabeth Wagner, Employee Experience Lead for a Global Consulting Firm about how wellness and balance are important for organizations.
Elizabeth mentioned that organizations need to put employee wellness first, so they can generate great ideas to drive innovation and be passionate about their jobs.
She also mentioned that although it's possible to have short term results when pushing employees to work hard, with low or no focus on individual well being, this approach is not sustainable.
As Elizabeth mentioned, based on her experience of over a decade working for a major global consulting company, employees bur nout and they end up leaving the organization, which generates the productivity loss mentioned in the Galup research, and additional cost to recruit and train new employees.
How to help your teams to improve wellness and balance in the workplace
Elizabeth mentioned in the interview that the most effective strategies to help teams improve workplace wellness are simple, although they may not be easy to implement.
Here are some of Elizabeth's suggestions to help your team improve wellness and balance that are simple and can produce great results:
Saying thank you and showing appreciation
Respecting employee's vacations and time off
Avoiding sending emails outside of working hours
Building connection with employees
Supporting employees to bring their authentic self to work
The research done by Elizabeth on workplace wellness and employee experience for many years has shown that these simple actions have a positive impact on employee well being and engagement.
All the actions suggested are simple and don't require comprehensive wellness programs. Leadership time investment to build connection with teams is fundamental to create and sustain a healthy culture that prioritizes employee wellness.
How to achieve wellness and balance in the workplace
Again, Elizabeth mentioned that focusing on workplace wellness and work life balance is simple, although not easy.
Individuals should be their own advocates and set boundaries aligned to their health and wellness plans.
Elizabeth mentioned that in order to feel valuable, employees may want to work late at night, respond to emails on weekends and while on vacation. Phones are designed like slot machines, there is a release of dopamine - the feel-good neurotransmitter - when you check a notification.
While employees may feel empowered and significant by being always 'on-duty' in the short term, this behavior may lead to burnout, health issues leading to disengagement at work and potentially resulting in resignation.
When employees don't have boundaries to preserve personal time and prioritize work life balance, their teams and leaders may take advantage of that behavior and expect that they will be working outside of working hours.
As an example, Elizabeth mentioned that when employees answer an email while on vacation, they are signaling to the team that they are available for work. After one request is complete more will come and the vacation becomes a 'workation'.
When deciding to work during vacation, the employees are responsible for setting the expectation that they will be available for their teams. In other words, if you work instead of enjoying your vacation, there's no one to blame but yourself.
In healthy workforce cultures employees should be able to set boundaries to preserve well being and balance and have these respected by their leads and teams.
One may face situations in which boundaries are not respected. In this case Elizabeth mentions that the employee could consider resigning. In her words "work is not a life sentence" and employees are free to leave if they feel that their organization culture is not aligned with their wellness and balance goals.
How corporate wellness programs and leadership engagement can improve workplace wellness and balance
Corporate wellness programs can be great resources to improve well being and balance, and they can help to create healthy behaviors and manage stress.
My organization has multiple wellness initiatives. One of my favorites is having free access to the meditation app Calm. They also encourage the use of fitness programs through discounts on gym memberships, apps to track fitness and healthy eating goals and subsidized fitness trackers.
While these employee wellness programs promote a healthier lifestyle, to be more effective and drive change in the organization, they should be combined with leadership engagement.
As Elizabeth stated in the interview, simple actions and personal connection are proven to be valuable resources to improve employee wellness and engagement.
Leaders who want to focus on a balanced and productive workforce should promote:
Balanced workload distribution across team
Clear work expectation and constant feedback
Distribution of employee recognition & rewards
Learning opportunities and autonomy to manage work schedule
Ability to fully disconnect during time off and vacations
Clear working hours expectations with flexibility when possible (avoiding early morning/late night/weekend requests)
Final thoughts on the importance of workplace wellness and balance Organizational culture is everyone's responsibility.
A healthy and balanced workforce is also an engaged, innovative and productive workforce.
Improving balance and wellness - For individuals
Set boundaries to preserve your personal time, improve balance and wellness and encourage others in your team to do the same. If you're working late because you don't have anything exciting to do after work, maybe it's time to start a new hobby.
Do you really enjoy hanging out with your co-workers? Find interesting activities to do with them outside of the workplace. You'll get extra points if these activities include regular exercise, eating healthy and mindful practices to create a healthier lifestyle.
Improving balance and wellness - For leaders
Be an example for your teams and empower your teams to prioritize balance and wellness. Before I send a message outside of working hours or check in with the team when on vacation I ask myself - what is the message that I would send to my team through these actions?
This reflection is enough for me to make a decision that is aligned with my goal to improve employee wellness, balance and enforce a healthy workforce culture.
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