Is work-life balance old news? Today, another concept is becoming more popular: the idea of work-life integration, writes Susie Logan.
What is work-life integration? Put simply, the view is that if people enjoy what they do, then there isn’t the need to draw strict lines between work and life – because work is a part of life, and vice versa.
As an employer, you’ll already understand the benefits of investing in people, and part of attracting and retaining talent to your business is rewarding them in non-monetary ways. One of those ways is helping employees to achieve a balance, or integration, between work and leisure time.
Getting away from it all
Not only is balance – or integration – vital for the performance and productivity of your employees, it’s crucial for staff happiness and morale. And it’s especially important in the summer months when lots of people want to be away at the same time to coincide with school holidays, creating extra pressure.
Everyone needs a break, even if it’s a ‘staycation’ rather than a vacation. If you encourage your employees to take time off, you’re also cultivating relaxation and self-care – which has a knock-on effect of better employee health. Good management should include being able to manage the workload of your business to make sure everything will get done – even if key staff are away.
Empowering your employees
Another way you can empower your employees to achieve this balance or integration is to set them an example. This can be difficult because, as an employer, you work hard to ensure your business is successful. But part of strong leadership is leading by example – so try and show your staff how important it is to achieve the right balance.
Working long hours, for both you and your employees, can result in exhaustion – and nobody is productive when they’re exhausted. So try and end the day at a reasonable time and encourage your staff to do the same. There will be times when extra work is needed – that’s part of driving a business forward. But make that the exception rather than the rule.
Adapting to survive
Being adaptable is crucial for survival in the fast moving world of business. And being flexible when it comes to schedules is part of that – 9-5 no longer rules. Employees who can work flexibly have fewer worries about family commitments, like who is doing the school run or going to sports day.
Adapting to the pace of technology is important too, as it allows employees to work remotely. As this becomes more popular, employers are realising just how valuable it can be to have employees who balance office work with meetings, working at home or working remotely from either other offices or workspaces.
Embracing wellness trends
Forget the ‘lunch is for wimps’ ethos of the 1980s. Working hard and playing hard has been replaced by a desire to have happy, healthy, chilled-out employees, who are then better able to balance their work and home lives – and get more done. As an employer, you can encourage exercise during the day, by having a company gym membership or even advocating ‘walking meetings’ when discussions take place on foot.
Encourage your staff to take breaks. Not just holidays, but fifteen minutes away from their desk. A coffee with a friend can refocus their mind and help them to solve problems, whereas by continuing with a challenging task, they may start to burn out and feel unable to complete what they’re doing.
Noticing the signs
Part of encouraging a balance is being able to recognise the signs of overwork in your staff. So what are they? Tiredness, errors, taking time off sick and an attitude of apathy are all suggestions that the right balance isn’t there. Start a conversation and reassure employees – many might feel anxious about saying that they can’t manage their workload, fearing that they may lose their job. And it’s well worth getting to know your “Life Balancers” too – for these particular employees, work is still an important part of their lives, but so is spending time with family and friends and pursuing personal interests.
Talented people can help create a competitive advantage, but that doesn’t just mean employing people on a high salary and expecting them to work hard. Ensuring your staff achieve a work-life balance or integration will not only making your business more attractive to talented employees, it will help you retain staff who are happy, healthy and productive.