Over the years I have noticed a trend growing across the workplace and in the business community in general………’ work-life balance ‘ and people, be they employees or business owners are constantly trying to find the optimal solution.
We all know that we spend most of our waking hours at work and in the modern era people are not happy with this. If you have any outside interests like myself being involved in sports and having children, this becomes increasingly difficult to find especially as having a career also involves a certain level of sacrifice to succeed.
I have read numerous articles recently on what other people view this balance as, and some examples are:
- The ability to work from home in some capacity be it a couple of days a week or just as required.
- Others prefer a shorter more compact day 8:30 to 4 with a reduced lunch being a popular choice amongst polls.
- Then there is the 9-5 week with a 4pm Friday finish
Finding my work-life balance
Having progressed up to management and director level in my career I have seen this from both sides of the coin so to speak, in as much as I was once the fresh faced accountant that sought the balance at all costs and thought that it wasn’t fair when it couldn’t be accommodated. To the less fresh faced, albeit more senior person I am now, where the requests have landed on my desk.
The latter scenario gave me a greater appreciation of the pressures that ‘being at the top’ presents with different employees and different wants, needs and desires. A common question I found I asked myself in my head was ‘if I do that how will the business suffer’. I think this is an attitude employed in many businesses and I would go out on a limb and say it is the wrong approach.
If that is the question you are asking straight away then I do not think the business is set up properly, you have not got the staff, processes or even the resources in place. I think employees that are fully incentivised become loyal to a business and are arguably the greatest asset.
Should it not be ‘How can I facilitate this? from the point of wanting to make it happen. I fully appreciate not all requests can work, but can we compromise in some form.
The disincentivised employee that feels like all we are after is the chargeable hours and increased productivity so that we can charge the client and push for the next profitability milestone. I have worked in companies like this and it becomes a drag, some days I have spent 12 – 15 hours in the office chasing a deadline that from the start everyone knew was not achievable.
Rather than manage client expectations from the start, the easier option was to accept a small increase in fee and then demand more from the staff. Was the small increase worth the large turnover in staff? (I was not the only one to leave citing a need for a better balance) Very quickly firms become associated with high turnover rates and then the search for more staff resource slowly becomes harder. I for one would never want a business I led to have this association. Reputation is hard earned and too easily lost!
This has certainly shaped me for the better I feel, my view now is more geared towards ensuring tasks are completed and that things are planned with sufficient ‘wiggle room’ for unseen occurrences.
So, if someone wants to work from home one day a week why can’t they? Introduce a timesheet system to monitor output, regularly check in with them.
If they want to shorten a day a week is there a way of setting a goal for them, list the tasks you expect completed (within reason) and then the power is in their hands.
It obviously can not be a scatter gun approach, and everyone gets what they want, that is not the point I am alluding to. My point is if you can then why not empower the staff a little bit more, leave their destiny in their own hands. The business of course must ensure it can still run but is the business at its most productive with everyone sat 9 – 5 in the same room. I do not think it is at all.
As I said earlier, an incentivised employee is the biggest asset. So, give them choices and options, their preference may not work but can we not reach an agreement somehow? It must be fair on all involved. But the employees that feel they are getting that little bit back for efforts made for you are more likely to stay and be loyal and in instances where you need a little extra for a one-off deadline will help. Disincentivised will put their hand out and ask how much?
I think employers who support a positive incentivised atmosphere will find that the workforce is loyal, more productive, and ultimately happier. See your employees as the people they are and not just components of the workplace!