It appears that more professionals are finding better work-life balance these days. More surprising, perhaps, is that many may have their managers — the ones who assign their work — to thank for it.
In a new Robert Half Management Resources survey, more than half (52 percent) of professionals said their work-life balance has improved from three years ago.
Nine in 10 respondents (91 percent) reported that their manager is very or somewhat supportive of their efforts to achieve this balance. And 74 percent of workers said their boss sets a good — or an excellent — example of how to maintain work-life balance.
There were some notable differences in responses from specific demographic groups, however. For example, professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 were more than twice as likely as those 55 or older to cite improved work-life balance: 67 percent versus 31 percent, respectively. Also, 62 percent of younger workers reported that their manager is very supportive of their efforts to achieve work-life balance, compared to 50 percent of professionals 55 and older and 47 percent of those 35 to 54.
Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, offers a word of caution to employers who may not be paying enough attention to the work-life balance needs of all their staff members. “Many companies view work-life balance as being particularly relevant to millennials, but employees of all generations are under pressure to meet both work and personal obligations," he says. "Businesses should promote work-life balance initiatives broadly and make sure all staff have the opportunity to weigh in on perks that will best help them meet their goals.”
So, how can business leaders help their teams to achieve better work-life balance? And how can both they, and their employees, find more balance between their professional and personal lives, in general? Here are seven tips, with key takeaways for both managers and workers:
1. Define what work-life balance means on an individual level
Takeaway for managers: Recognize that each of your employees has different needs. As much as possible, avoid holding every team member to the same expectation, and offer a menu of benefits and perks employees can choose from to help them better balance work and personal demands. Talk to your staff about their goals and what you can do to help, and remain flexible and open-minded when discussing options.
Takeaway for workers: Consider your career and personal objectives to determine what work-life balance means to you. You won’t be able to achieve the right level of balance for your individual needs — or find job satisfaction — without completing this basic but important step.
Takeaway for managers: Let your team know you support their efforts to find balance, both in words and by fostering an environment where people feel comfortable discussing their needs. But don’t stop there: Promote the programs available to help employees. Make sure you’re actively communicating options for flexible schedules or remote work arrangements, for instance. Also, don’t just highlight these offerings to potential hires. Continue selling your company’s program to current staff.
Takeaway for workers: Talk to your manager about your goals. As part of the discussion, show how any changes you seek will also benefit the company. For example, by working an earlier schedule, you can help your department expand its service hours.
3. Establish benchmarks
Takeaway for managers: Work with staff to identify parameters that are both realistic for their position and measurable. Helping employees achieve work-life balance is challenging enough when it means something different for everyone, but it’s almost impossible if there are no set boundaries.
Takeaway for workers: Like any goal,work-life balance needs to be tracked. Whether it’s scheduled times, weekend hours logged or unused vacation days, find a way to measure your progress.
4. Make changes as necessary
Takeaway for managers: Make work-life balance a regular agenda item in meetings with staff. If things aren’t working out — either for you or your employee — address the situation promptly. Don’t simply command from on high, though; find a solution that will work for both of you.
Takeaway for workers: If your current plan isn’t working, talk to your manager about changes you can make. He or she may have additional options you can consider.
5. Lead by example
Takeaway for managers: Try leaving the office at a decent hour as often as possible. If employees see you don’t always burn the midnight oil, they’ll follow suit. Similarly, avoid flooding them with messages outside of normal business hours.
Takeaway for workers: Everyone has the power — and responsibility — to lead by example. If you have strategies or tools that help you meet your goals more efficiently, share them with your colleagues.
Takeaway for managers: Recognize it’s OK for you to take a break, too. When you’re on vacation, set specific times for checking in if you can’t check out completely.
Takeaway for workers: When away from work, avoid the temptation to check email simply for the sake of feeling like you’re better tied to the office. This busywork only distracts you from your personal pursuits and, ultimately, saps your work productivity.
7. Tap help
Takeaway for managers: Monitor your team’s workload, and bring in interim and full-time personnel when needed. For example, for peak activity periods such as tax season and year-end, financial consultants can provide subject-matter expertise and help alleviate the demands on your team.
Takeaway for workers: Keep your manager up to date on your workload and ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Your supervisor would rather reprioritize projects or bring in extra support than see initiatives fall through the cracks or work quality decline.
There isn’t a single, simple trick to achieve work-life balance. But business leaders have a better chance of attaining it — and helping their teams to do the same — by making it a top priority for themselves and actively fostering a workplace culture that promotes balance. Employers should also make a point to stay on top of emerging trends in work-life balance programs to keep their own offerings fresh and ensure the company is providing in-demand benefits.
We can help you and your team maintain better work-life balance by providing expert support when you need it most. Contact Robert Half Management Resources for more information about our full range of interim management staffing, financial staffing and project consultant solutions.
This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated to reflect more current information.