Work/life balance, or lack-of, is one of the main reasons, alongside management, people leave their jobs or even switch industries.
Over the years, 9 to 5 has stretched to 8 to 6, and now with mobiles and the cloud, working days are starting to feel 24/7.
But balance is important — a healthy and happy staff member is more focused, more productive and more valuable to your business.
In this management series article, we look at simple ways you can support REAL work/life balance in your agency and reap the rewards of doing so!
When scrolling through job ads, it is now more common than not to see the words ‘flexible’ or ‘work/life balance’ nestled among the other descriptive phrases for the role.
But often, when a person accepts a role advertised with this description, they find the ‘flexibility’ actually isn’t so flexible, and the work/life balance doesn’t really exist any more in their new workplace, than it did in their old workplace.
Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, and some organisations are really getting it right.
Anecdotally, there seem to be many that are still getting it wrong.
By advertising a job in this manner, a company is showing it understands the importance of flexibility and it knows it is a major draw card for potential employees. So why not follow through with the promise when the person is in the role?
Your business can be both profitable and supportive of your employees’ needs to have a life, maintain a family, enjoy some level of social interaction outside of the confines of the office.
Here are 5 ways you can ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to work/life balance for employees (employees, we suggest you share these with your managers!):
1. Create a culture of balance that starts at the top
Have you ever, in your more junior years perhaps, been in a job where your boss made you feel bad for leaving on time? Not early, on time.
Maybe they didn’t actually say anything or you weren’t ‘spoken to about it’, but looks, conversations and the response to the sounds of your packing up were enough to give away your boss’s disdain.
Though you talk the talk, is it possible, you are now one of those bosses?
Work/life balance can only be successfully achieved in a workplace if management is behind it. That means leading from the front by setting a good example.
Make sure employees don’t see you staying back late every night, or they will think they are expected to do the same. Make sure your responses, conversations and body language don’t convey a problem with those people who stick to their hours. Make sure people understand how important balance is, why you encourage it and that it is actually beneficial to the business
By ensuring this, you start to create a culture of balance.
2. Don’t make people explain why they want balance
An employee who is good at what they do, productive and always goes above and beyond, needs to re-arrange their hours. They want to do four long days that will cover the same agreed hours as the standard five-day week. They come to you to ask if they can change their hours.
As a manager, you have two options.
Firstly, you can question the employee and make them justify their request… which may be something as reasonable as they can’t get child care. It might also be more personal, like their marriage is struggling because they spend no time at home, or they are just so tired and can’t find balance any other way.
Your second option is simply to trust them and to agree at least to a trial period, with the understanding their work continues to be done on time and to a high standard.
By forcing an employee to explain something that is personal, you are making them feel like their request is wrong or needs to be justified. This undermines a culture of balance and can make your employee uncomfortable approaching you in future.
3. Enforce an ‘end of day deadline’
Sometimes, everyone has to work back, but in a lot of cases, we are putting pressure on ourselves to achieve something or finish a task that could easily be finished in the morning.
Your staff are no good to you if they are running home late, squeezing in dinner, getting to bed and then waking up just to repeat the same again.
Set a deadline, perhaps an hour after closing time, by which all staff must leave the office.
In real estate, your team will need to make calls after hours to accommodate buyers and sellers — work with them to get them out of the office an hour early so they can spend that time on their personal life, and pick up that extra of hour later in the evening when it is needed.
It’s give and take — if work is taking an hour of personal time, give them an hour back.
4. Customise work hours to improve balance
While core hours need to be adhered to, especially in customer-facing roles, if you have a staff member who just can’t seem to get out of the office, it is your job to help them get some balance back.
For staff who consistently stay in the office for hours after they should be, consider the total hours they are putting in. Do they achieve that standard 40 hours over the first few days of the week? If so, why not let them keep doing that if that’s what works for them, and give them the remaining days of the week off?
You’re getting your agreed time and more from them, and by not even coming into the office on those remaining days, they won’t be stuck completing tasks all night!
5. Encourage holidays
In real estate especially, while properties are bought and sold all the time, and there is always a tenant or landlord who needs something, there are also peaks and troughs throughout the year.
During the quiet times, encourage your staff to use their leave and actually take holidays! We see so many real estate professionals who are ‘too busy’ and simply accrue their leave over years, never ‘getting time’ to take it.
Enforce a rule that everyone must take at least a short break once a year, and that all holidays should be used in a two-year period.
As a manager who really builds in work/life balance and flexibility to your workplace, you stand to gain a lot of reward.
Staff who are rested and feel balanced are more likely to be happy, approachable and friendly. This creates less politics and tension in the office, a better ability to cope with stress and pressure and allows your team to build better internal relationships.
A more positive attitude, resulting from balance, will also be really clear to clients, who experience more approachable, energetic staff who have more inclination to over-service and help make others happy.
Finally, and perhaps most important, happy staff are loyal staff — they enjoy their work more, they enjoy the workplace more and you hold onto them longer, reducing costs in staff replacement and retraining.