(This is the third in a monthly series about Corporate Health, where we examine different methods and ideas for improving efficiency, your company culture, and employee morale.)
How many hours will you work this week? If you answered, “the standard 40,” you are in the minority. The emphasis working professionals place on their jobs could be considered chronic. According to a recent Forbes article, 94% of employees put in over 50 hours in a workweek, and more than half of employees clock in over 65 hours! The reasons vary: they believe working the extra hours reflects well on them as an employee, they are concerned about layoffs and want to appear more valuable and loyal, or, quite often, they are simply overburdened with more work than can be completed in a standard, 40-hour workweek. Whatever the reason, the notion that working an abundance of extra hours is a positive thing is misguided. In fact, overworked employees suffer from higher stress levels, irritability, loss of concentration and productivity, depression, relationships issues, and more. Companies that recognize the problems associated with overworked employees and strive to help them achieve a work-life balance will reap greater benefits in the long run.
The security industry is known for the high-pressure jobs, especially for operators in monitoring centers. Yet when Bold surveyed a group of monitoring centers recently to ask if their company actively promoted a work-life balance, half of the responders said “no.” More revealing was how many of the affirmative responders described the work-life benefits their company offered: PTO and “fair hours.” Many would agree that those are two items which should be a standard for employees at any company. One responder described how their company encouraged the use of PTO, unlike other companies who would “give you static for taking days off.” Making employees feel guilty for using vacation days they earned over a period of service is another reason work-life balance is so badly skewed.
Some of the companies in Bold’s survey had better examples to share, including working with employees to accommodate doctor visits, appointments, and school events, or allowing employees to utilize flexible schedules which better suit their individual needs. Across the nation, other companies are finding ways to help their employees in small ways, like promoting regular, short breaks throughout the day, designating quiet spaces for employees to decompress (especially in loud offices) or hosting team-building events to help employees build trust and respect for each other. Other businesses offer larger benefits, such as faster vacation accrual, the ability to telecommute from home when desired, onsite fitness and child care facilities, tuition reimbursement and more.
As an employee, you can also help yourself achieve better work-life balance by following a few tips:
- Unplug when the day is done: We’re pretty plugged into our work environment. Email is accessible right on our phone. Remote log-in is available 24 hours a day. So, learn to leave the office behind when you drive away. Do not check your emails. Leave your work phone on the charger in another room. If you work from home, turn off the computer and close the office door when your work day is complete.
- Use your work day wisely. Distractions add up to multiple lost minutes every day. Manage your tasks by using the GTD or another organizational method to keep track of your to-do list. Turn off email notifications and check your email in batches once or twice a day. Take breaks, but excuse yourself from extended watercooler chats which eat up your valuable time. Avoid social media or other internet sites that can send you “down the rabbit hole.”
- Keep active. It seems like exercise is the go-to answer for all our ailments, but in this case, it helps reduce stress and depression, keeps you healthier, and gives you better coping skills when obstacles arise.
- Practice saying no! There’s nothing wrong with having some blank days on your calendar. Don’t overcommit yourself to projects and events, whether they are at the office or at home. Don’t agree to additional work projects unless it’s critical for you to have input. Take a night off to relax now and then – it can contribute to your happiness as much as a night mingling with friends or co-workers.
- Take your vacations. Even if you don’t travel, the time away from the office recharges you.
Of course, if you work for a company who is invested in your well-being and committed to providing their staff with a work-life balance, that is the best scenario of all. Happy employees are more productive, more loyal, have less stress and miss less work due to illness. A company that recognizes this will reap the rewards.