December 16, 2020

How Leaders Can Set the Standard for Work-Life Balance

Modeling and understanding work-life balance is the first step to ensuring your employees do the same.

Everyone wants a healthy work-life balance with enough time and energy to focus on what we need, want, and even dream. Achieving this requires constantly setting priorities, weighing outcomes, and realistically understanding what we can (or should) fit into one day. Work-life balance is about discipline and setting boundaries, but this becomes harder as the pace and volume of work increases.

As a leader, figuring out how to improve or get closer to a sustainable work-life balance is important not just for yourself, but for your broader team: you need to cultivate a team that’s engaged, energized, and resilient. To do this, you need to understand and model the behavior you want to see within your organization.

Here are some ways you can set the standard for a sustainable work-life balance:

Look at your hiring numbers. Hiring decisions are some of the most important a leader can make. But no matter how talented and driven your employees may be, if there is too much work and too few people, burnout is inevitable. Consider what your team looks like if you or someone else gets sick, takes a vacation, or needs to care for family members. If you find the team is seriously impacted, no one will be able to maintain a work-life balance. Focus on your personnel and expand if necessary.

Be a work-life advocate. Communicate to your team that you value their time both in and outside of the office. Reiterate—in meetings, over Slack, in your weekly email—that success in the long-run depends on your collective capacity to take breaks and recharge. As you advocate for your employees to prioritize their needs, practice that yourself. Tell the team when you are signing off early for a break or share an idea you may have come up with after a walk. The more you’re vocal and visible about your own work-life practices, the more likely your team will feel empowered to take care of themselves as well.

Assess how you’re working. Taking stock of how you’re using your time will help you uncover your own gaps in productivity and organization. Leverage your executive assistant for help. They can research time management tools, analyze your calendar and correspondence, or simply take work off of your plate. Come up with a few key insights after your assessment and share them with your team. Many assistants are experts in time and calendar management and may be able to formalize those tips.

Gain collective wisdom. Often work-life balance is ruined by our own limiting notions and beliefs about what is expected at work. Are there internal politics, unfounded stories, or implicit behaviors that encourage poor work-life balance? Look at any employee engagement surveys for data that could provide clues. Talk to your team together and in 1:1’s and try to unpack what may be holding them back.

Understanding your own approach to work-life balance is important to instilling a culture that prioritizes personal health. As a leader, you have the influence to showcase sustainable boundary-setting and time management for better outcomes across your organization.

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