The Circus Act
Management Monday: Managing With Work Life Balance Emphasis
Circus jugglers and tight wire walkers aren’t the only people balancing on a daily basis. In 2012, Americans ages 25 to 54 with children dedicated 8.8 hours a day to work, leaving 15.2 hours to eat, sleep, exercise, clean the house, spend time with family and deal with personal obligations, according to the United States Department of Labor. That number could be improved, especially since it’s an average which means plenty of people work much longer hours every day. But, just as Cirque du Soleil provides the tight wire, costume, and training for the performer, a company provides the policies, work culture and communication with employees that strengthens work life balance. So, how can employers and leaders best help their performers find balance which enables productivity? Below are some tips which apply to Fortune 500 companies as much as they do to small businesses.
3 Tips for Encouraging Work Life Balance:
- Be flexible
Mayanne Downs, Shareholder at Gray Robinson of Orlando, Fl., has three main guidelines for her employees. According to the article Firms Help Women Strike Work Life Balance, her first guideline is that employees are free to work a schedule that that suits their home life. Executives, human resources departments and managers like Mayanne that are offering flex-time options have it right. A 2012 study by the America Psychological Association found that over two thirds of employees surveyed want to stay at their job because the job fits well with other aspects of their lives. From flex-time to telecommute options, companies offering more work life balance opportunities are better retaining their employees.
- Promote awareness
Not all employees are aware of the serious repercussions of neglecting their personal needs. One young woman, Paramita Duran, died after she worked a 30 hour shift during which she relied heavily on Krating Daeng (Red Bull) to keep up energy. Was the company too demanding or was she unaware of the physical risks she took? Either way, organizations can help to prevent these types of tragedies by distributing written work life balance information, establishing policies addressing topics like hours of work permitted per day and even running work life balance workshops.
- Lead by example
Work culture starts at the top and spreads by example. Angela Ahrendts earned recognition for her leadership success at Burberry and is now establishing a legacy at Apple as Retail Chief. Angela and her family carve out a spectacular example of tackling work life balance. While Angela focuses on her career, her husband, Gregg, takes care of the home and kids (Working Mother). In interviews, the couple seems to feel they have found their groove and each of them are happy with their roles. Angela also reports that despite her demanding schedule that involves travel, she manages to be home every weekend. Prioritizing family time is important to her personally, but she also integrates this mentality into company culture. She once said “It is my job to set an example. We have a lot of working women here [at Burberry] and I always tell them they are mothers first” (Mail Online).
Statistics show that organizations with stronger work culture experience 65% less voluntary turnover, they provide two times the stock market returns, and they generally perform two times better than the general market (Great Place to Work). Really, all organizations are a circus, balancing many acts and looking for the best performers. But the secret to being the best circus in town is to never underestimate the importance of nurturing human capital.