How to Take Back Your Life in an Always-On World
Absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance coverage are expensive — costing businesses $300 billion per year. Those costs can be reduced dramatically by making employee wellbeing a business priority.
People with thriving wellbeing have 41% lower health-related costs compared with those who scored in the middle of the pack, according to Gallup’s Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Ph.D, in Steelcase’s 360 magazine. They also have a 35% lower turnover rate. Researchers from Steelcase, turnstone’s parent company, define wellbeing as sustaining a healthy physical and mental state over time, in a supportive material and social environment.
Clearly it’s in the company’s best interest to help employees maintain equilibrium, but is balance an achievable goal? Instead, a better way to think about it is “work-life relationships,” so your life doesn’t feel at odds, according to Ellen Kossek, Ph.D, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Labor & Industrial Relations, and an expert on improving relationships between work and personal life in PsychCentral. Similarly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving a healthy relationship between work and personal life.
At the Wall Street Women Forum, Ellen Galinsky and Anne Weisberg of Families and Work Institute (FWI), which studies the changing workforce, family, and community, laid out realistic ways to reclaim your time in a 24/7 world. FWI is also the research partner for When Work Works (WWW), an initiative that studies employee and employer best-practices for companies of all size. WWW conducts a national contest, Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility.
Galinsky’s and Weisberg’s four-part framework for controlling your workplace environment are relevant to men and women as well to corporate types and entrepreneurs. The framework was consistent with what I heard from women I interviewed for my book Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One, commissioned by Dell.
More importantly, they apply to all employees, not just the executive suite or the owner’s office.
Prioritize, not balance
The amount of time you spend on work vs. the time spent on personal issues is not what matters, according to the women I interviewed. What matters is getting the important stuff done. And one of the important things is getting enough rest to be clear-headed and productive, according to Danae Ringelmann of Indiegogo.
Set priorities, advises Mandy Cabot of Dansko, and don’t expect every day to be equal parts work and home. It will vary from day to day, depending on what comes up on any given day. One day may be work-focused, another family-focused. And you will have to make sacrifices, said Lili Hall of KNOCK.
Dual-centric, not work-centric
Don’t make work your only priority. People who value both work and home are less stressed, healthier, feel happier at home, and are more successful at work than people who are all about work, according to research conducted by Family and Work Institute. These people are dual-centric, that is, they are not just all about work.
“My family has to be on an equal plane with work,” said Luan Cox, FinMkt.
How do you become dual-centric? A few tips from Galinsky and Weisberg:
- Be clear about your priorities.
- Create realistic expectations both at work and at home.
- Meet those expectations.
When business is in a crunch, don’t promise to be at your kid’s softball game. Similarly, when you are with your family, leave work behind without feeling guilty about it. “So you need to have your family on board with that, what’s going to happen, and what real life will look like with this new venture in their lives, said Paula Long of DataGravity.
Better, not perfect
“Women have a tendency to want to be perfect,” said Galinsky and Weisberg. “You’ve got to let go of stuff and be okay if things aren’t perfect… Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Things come up at both work and at home, said Kourtney Ratliff of Loop Capital, so it’s easy to be beguiled into doing something not on your priority list. “What I’ve tried to do is get better at managing what it is that I need to do and what I want to do so that I’m being fulfilled both personally and professionally,” Ratliff said.
Team, not individual
Both work and home need a team approach so there’s coverage for what’s important. “It takes a village, really,” said Erika Bliss of Qliance. “There’s no joke about that. We talk about the company as an investment in the family as well.”
Of course, the needs of both family and work will change over time. Priorities will change. The whole team needs to buy into those changes.
Rest and recovery, not flat out
Rest and recovery are essential for high performance. Everyone knows that performance athletes let their bodies recover. Don’t question the need for rest and recovery for you, as the leader of your company.
That may mean actual sleep or just taking a walk, said Cabot.
“I think it’s important to have hobbies and interests, because a lot of us tend to be very engaged in work and have become workaholics to some degree,” said Liz Elting, TransPerfect. Others, like Bliss, found that they were as productive when they worked less.
“The most important thing executives can do is send a very clear message to their employees that they care about each person’s overall wellbeing and that they want to be a part of helping it improve over time,” says Rath.
More and more company leaders are considering the influence of the workplace and how it can be a major contributor to overall employee wellbeing—and how it can boost both personal wellbeing and the bottom line.