When making a big decision, I always ask myself, “is this something I am going to regret?” For some reason, however, I do not ask myself this question when making smaller decisions, such as whether I am going to skip the gym in the morning, or if I am going to buy those new shoes. It is easy to overlook smaller decisions as you might think that they will have little to no effect on the overall outcome of your life. However, overtime, making the same small decision repeatedly, such as skipping the gym, consolidates to form a larger decision, the decision to be unhealthy, which is something one might regret. According to a survey conducted by Forbes magazine, the number one regret of Americans is working so much at the expense of family and friendships.
Much like the decision to skip the gym in the morning, the choice to stay late at work a few nights a week, or to take a business call during a family dinner, or to travel for work on the weekends seems trivial. However, these seemingly irrelevant decisions will eventually build up to create a work-life balance that can be quite toxic.
What is important to note about a work-life balance is that both the employer as well as the employee are responsible for creating a healthy work-life balance. Often, conversations regarding work-life balance are pointed towards the individual, however an employer is just as responsible for cultivating a healthy harmony between work and home as the individual is.
Employers can create a healthy work-life balance for their employees through a variety of different methods. However, the most effective way that employers can create a healthy work- life balance is to lead by example. For instance, if a manager calls in for unimportant meetings while on vacation with their family, it sends a message to the employees that they should be available 24/7. Setting the expectation that time off is truly time off is extremely important in creating a healthy work-life balance. Another way that employers might cultivate a balanced work and life environment for their employees is by offering a flexible work schedule, where employees can alter their start and end hours or even telecommute one day a week. In turn, employees might have the ability to spend extra time with their children in the morning before dropping them off at school, or even save valuable time not having to commute to work one day a week. All in all, the decisions, values, policies and expectations that a workplace provides will inevitably set the tone for employees as they attempt to make work-life balance choices.
Once the employer sets the standard regarding a healthy work-life balance, it is then up to the employer to make decisions that align with the workplace environment in which they are working. Employees can do this in a variety of different ways, starting with setting priorities as well as making goals that they wish to accomplish. In turn, employees will be able to cut out tasks or projects that are less important and will have more time to focus on key goals. It is also important that employees set boundaries, which can range from not answering their work phone or email after hours, or even refraining from thinking about work projects once leaving the office. Finally, the most important step that employees can take is making sure to take time off, and completely unplug for a while. While taking time off work, it is important that employees spend time with friends and family and use the time to mentally and physically charge up.
In the final chapter of Sumus CEO, Jim Baker’s The Adventure Begins When the Plan Falls Apart, Baker states that despite wanting to be successful in business, it was always important to him to be successful in his home life as well. This meant being able to spend quality time with his wife, as well as his children; whether it was coaching one of their sports teams, or simply being there to offer advice. All in all, a healthy work-life balance is beneficial for both the employer and the employee. While employers will notice more engaged employees, employers will be able to work while still enjoying time spent with friends and family, as well as doing things that they like to do outside of work.