Recently, my friend and colleague KAR Global Executive Vice President of Human Resources Lisa Price authored an article about finding balance as a working parent. It had me thinking—what can I do, as a male colleague, a manager and a senior leader, to encourage and promote a healthier work-life balance for all employees? The truth is, as Lisa mentioned, there may never be a perfect balance between our work lives and personal lives, but as the lines become more and more blurred—thanks in large part to always-on technology—how can we get closer?
As I think about my own career, balance means something much different than when I first joined ADESA in 1996. In fact, it looked different in each and every one of my roles and evolved as my family grew, my daughters got older and encountered new milestones. But looking back through it all, I know from my personal experience that I always performed at my best when I made balance a priority.
So, whether you’re a working parent, a people-manager, a senior executive or a new employee trying to climb the ranks, we all need more balance. But it’s not always easy—it’s a culture that’s promoted from within. Here are three simple ways I think we can all promote more work-life balance—and ultimately be happier, healthier and more productive employees.
Take time off—really. It’s there for us to use…all of it! In fact, there’s a massive body of research citing the health benefits of taking some time off—including improvements to mood and productivity when you return. A Society for Human Resource Management study found that most people managers agree vacation improves an employee’s focus (78%) and alleviates burnout (81%). The key here is, we really need to disconnect. There will always be those occasional urgent interruptions that call us back to the job when we’re supposed to be on vacation, and that’s ok. Let your manager and colleagues know how to get in touch with you in case of an emergency, even if that means providing your personal cell phone number so you can step away from your email and relax.
Time off extends to the work week, too. It’s not enough to only take time for ourselves and our families on the weekend or scheduled vacation. I personally committed to having family dinner with my daughters and setting a “sign-off time” for checking email at night. This gives my brain a much-needed break before jumping into the next day, and my team knows they can always reach me by call or text if something urgent comes up.
Be flexible with team members’ personal commitments. To create a culture of balance, there needs to be understanding and flexibility. Whether a coworker needs to take their dog to the vet or their child to the doctor, or leave early for a parent-teacher conference or non-profit board meeting, let them adapt and flex their work hours when possible. The key here is that flexibility is a two-way street and shouldn’t be abused—at the end of the day, work needs to be done in a timely manner.
Make time for yourself with a hobby. I’m a firm believer that having interests and hobbies outside of work make you a more well-rounded person. So, whether it’s spending time with family, reading for fun or volunteering in the community—don’t just bury yourself in work. My happy place and stress relief has always been exercising, so I’ve made it a commitment to find the time, whether early in the morning before the workday begins or late at night after I’ve had quality time with my family.
I said three ways for promoting work-life balance—but for people-managers and leaders, there’s actually a fourth: Lead by example. Practice what you preach. Take time off and truly disconnect—and trust your team and your colleagues to do what needs to be done. And on the flipside, encourage your directs and their directs to use their paid time off. Set the expectation for being flexible with personal commitments—by being flexible, and exercising flexibility for yourself when needed. Lean in hard to whatever non-work interest holds your passion—and create space for others to do the same.
While policies and HR programs can definitely help encourage work-life balance, we won’t get there entirely unless we promote it as a culture from within the organization. Let’s make it a priority to take care of ourselves so we can be the best employees, managers and family members that we can be.