Earlier this week, we released a poll asking whose responsibility an employee’s work-life balance is. Out of our four options, 85% of respondents agreed work-life balance is equally the employer’s and worker’s responsibility. For employees, this means their employers have an equal weight to pull in this effort. But for employers, this means you’re not only responsible for someone else’s, but also your own balance.
This can become overwhelming, especially when managing various departments, deadlines, goals, and projects that all demand require more time than there is in a workweek. And yet, working overtime and on off-days can often lead to burn out for both the employer and employee. Or worse: resignation.
The Dawn of the Corporate Villain Era
Recently, many Gen Zers and Millennials have been sharing their workplace experiences online, and the consensus seems to be relatively consistent across Tik Tok and other reel-based platforms: mental health should never take a backseat to productivity. And to show the satiric extent to which setting personal boundaries, especially when working from home, has become villainized, creators are calling this time in their life their “corporate villain era.”
After all, for many corporations, even though they can prevent burn out, see taking long breaks as time theft. But we all know by now that taking breaks or signing off at 5p.m. is not a sign of villainy. It’s a sign of self-respect and self-preservation. In this way, Gen Zers seem to be the first generation establishing firm boundaries between work and personal time.
So, while many stereotype Gen Z as being “flighty,” it seems they are instead showing that they value their time and mental health over productivity. This also goes beyond their approach to everyday work habits in that the generation seems to have been largely involved in the Great Resignation of 2021. As Business Insider shows, many within Generation Z have changed jobs for better pay, or even better fulfillment from the job itself. Maybe, then, we all have a thing or two to learn from this generation.
How to Help Employees Find Balance
If you’re an employer, it’s your responsibility to foster a work environment that allows employees to maintain healthy work boundaries. But more importantly, it’s your responsibility to offer solutions beyond those within a worker’s control.
Certainly, you should role model your own boundaries by not answering emails or phone calls after hours. You should also actively work against employees overworking themselves by encouraging days off with no questions asked. But you should also assess your team and their unique needs. After all, they may be doing everything they can within their abilities to balance their personal and work responsibilities. They may instead need some additional resources to prevent wear-out that happens even after-hours.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety suggests surveying employees and offering them equitable resources they may need to truly thrive. This may be implementing a program for on-site daycare or wellness programs with on-going seminars or gym membership discounts. Or, it might mean offering raises to ensure workers can fight-off financial stress from inflation that may seep into the workday. Some concerns may even be out of your hands. But even the tiniest steps toward a solution can make all the difference.
Finding Your Own Work-Life Balance
As Lindsay Tjepkema notes in this Entirepreneur article, work-life balance isn’t simply about dividing yourself in half. If you’re a manager or employer, you need to be able to be your whole self at work. This means being your wholly authentic self.
Sometimes, CEOs or managers are also parents or spouses with other, more meaningful responsibilities. And that sometimes means prioritizing family-time or personal duties over work. After all, prioritizing things outside work makes you a more whole, dynamic worker, not a bad one. So, in addition to encouraging others the same dynamic, shifting work-life strategies, offer yourself the same.
And like your employees’, your own work-life practice is not going to be something that is accomplished once and for all. This is a life-long balancing act that demands change and reevaluation regularly. Your home life may impact your work life, and vice versa. So, when you feel yourself lacking in one over the other, take a step back to examine what you’re missing and what you’re needing from one or the other.
Make note of what your current responsibilities are in work and in your personal life. Then, ask yourself how much you want to and can invest yourself in both. What are you willing to sacrifice in one world over the other? And is the current path you’re on where you ultimately want to be with your career and your home life? Remember: this is a process, not a product. Life is full of changes, and adapting to them also means changing where you invest your time and efforts.
Process Makes Perfect
If you leave this blog page with any kind of idea of change in mind to better your own or your employees’ work-life balance you’re already half way there. These changes may need time to fully implement, and they may come with some growing pains, but push through. Eventually, you’ll find yourself both fulfilled by your home life and driven by your work goals. And hopefully in your own journey in finding balance, you also set a good example for your employees to follow, as well!
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