In truth, everyone wants a great work-life balance. Everyone likes to spend time with their families. They like to pursue hobbies, or at the very least, “stare at the ceiling and make plans for world domination while scratching my cat’s ears,” as Swati Bhattacharya put it in her Ladies Finger essay about work-life balance in advertising.
For a generation that was hard pressed for opportunity, making work the focal point of one’s life made sense in some ways. But if you are overworked and underpaid even in 2017, chances are that there are inefficiencies in your employer’s systems that are causing it. That being said, sometimes it could have a lot to do with inefficiencies within your own team or the team leader’s working style too. If you are the manager, you might want to introspect why your team’s work-life balance is not in top order.
As a manager, you can make many small behavioural changes to encourage better work-life balance within your team. This leads to happier, more engaged employees with well-rounded lives, and has also been proven to raise retention rates. That is a win-win scenario for all involved.
Chances are that if the manager is sticking around at work for unreasonably long hours, his/her team will feel the pressure to do the same. Like all things at work, setting the right work-life balance example will encourage your team to do the same.
But does that mean you leave your deliverables undone just to get home on time because the team needs you to? Not by a long shot. But what you can do is figure out the exact reason why you are working unnecessarily long hours. If it is because you haven’t learned how to delegate, pick up the skill. Are you spending too much time in meetings? Are you taking on more than your share of the work? Finding out the exact reason will help you resolve the situation. At the very least, you can be transparent to your team about the reasons you are working additional hours, and that it is not a standard you necessarily want your team to live by.
Another way in which leaders and managers deter work-life balance is through far too many “sync ups” and status checks. Not only does it show lack of trust in your employees, there are also much more productive ways to use your own as well as your employees’ time.
Often, unreasonably long hours are also used as an antidote to low performance. As a manager, you must be clued in to whether your employees are sticking around for long hours for work or just for the optics of being hardworking. Time management is a crucial skill, and an employee who aces this skill brings great value to the team. Reward and appreciate your teammates accordingly, so your priorities are forthright and crystal clear.
Often, managers are more concerned with the outcome of work than the means to achieve it. Good managers on the other hand are concerned with their employees’ overall well-being. If a teammate is working late regularly, you might want to check in on the reasons. They might need your experienced advice on managing their time. Their delegation skill might need more work, or they could just plain be overworked. Whatever the reasons might be, it is important that you are aware of and willing to work through them. In the end, your job is not only to make sure work gets done within deadlines. It is also important to look into apt resourcing and distribution of work within your team.
Eventually, it is about building and encouraging a performance-centric culture in your team, not one that uses number of hours to differentiate high performers from mediocre ones. It is often just a matter of common sense.