It’s something no leader wants to admit, but leadership responsibility sometimes hits like a ton of bricks. Work-life balance can be difficult for those in a leadership position because of the hard work done over the years to achieve that heightened position of visibility and influence. Taking a step back to enjoy ‘me time’ can lead to a feeling of guilt in this world of constant hustle. Employees are more connected now than ever, and it may always feel like you’re “on the clock” even when you’re not.
As a leader, it is easy to be swept away by the thrill of building the next big thing or the urgency of completing that project. You think it’s okay to work long hours for a few days to get things done sooner, and your team follows your lead. Everyone around you is stressed, and productivity reaches its tipping point until you and your team burn out from that stress. If you are constantly focused on your work, it can be hard to prioritize your life outside of work, and this can lead to burnout and poor managerial decisions. All levels of employees struggle with similar issues, but when you are at the top, it can feel like focusing on yourself is unacceptable, or could subject you to scrutiny.
There are a number of convincing reasons for leaders to pursue a work-life balance:
- Emphasizing work-life balance helps combat employee burnout. When you attenuate employee burnout, you reduce the costs of employee turnover;
- By promoting work-life balance you are addressing issues of fatigue. This can help you boost performance and productivity at the workplace which might give you higher ROI;
- Promoting work-life balance can create a positive workplace culture and improve brand perception. This can help with retaining employees, but it can also help with recruiting new employees;
- Trusting that your employees will accomplish tasks autonomously, regardless of how typical their workday is, can help develop a culture of trust. This can enhance job satisfaction, transparency, and success within individual roles.
It is feasible for leaders to be happy in their role and “have it all”. Below are a few ways in which leaders can promote work-life balance in their organization for all levels of workers.
- Be a role model– The business and the corporate world need more courageous leaders to set a sustainable, positive example both in their organizations and in the broader cultural landscape. If an employee sees the boss coming in early and staying late, they may feel inclined to do the same. If they see that you prioritize your mental health by taking a break and going on a vacation without guilt, they may be encouraged to do the same.
- Set strict boundaries: By setting clear professional boundaries will encourage work-life balance. This could be: No work calls after office hours; Limiting hours of work; Supportive of small breaks apart from lunch breaks etc.
- Build Reliable Teams: Encouraging work-life balance within an organization requires trust, and that starts with recruiting the right employees. When you hire the right team, it can give you peace of mind to improve/focus on your work-life balance.
- Delegate: When you build reliable teams, you generate trust among your employees. When you trust your employee you think that the employee is reliable for the work and you assign them with the work. This helps remove things off your plate, whilst giving you some extra time.
- Invest in yourself: Take up those activities which you left years ago due to work. Invest energy, resources, and time to learn new hobbies outside of work. This will inspire your team to invest in their personal development outside of the work-life which may prove to be of competitive advantage for your organization.
Work-life balance benefits: Lastly without work-life benefits, it would be difficult to adopt the balance. Some examples of work-life balance could be: Creating flexible work arrangements; Employee Resource Groups; Wellness Programmes; Providing Onsite Day Care; Paid Mental Health Leaves etc.
The first step towards promoting and encouraging work-life balance starts at an individual level. When leaders start believing that they have identities beyond professional space and that includes family, friends, and community. When they start considering free time as a time to recharge, rejuvenate, learn new skills, hobbies and not as a time to start new projects and work more. Once we start making these changes, the actual productivity will kick in and not the forced one. This will accelerate the impact of all the resources and steps taken to improve work-life balance.
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3- Better work-life balance starts with managers. (2019, August 9). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/08/better-work-life-balance-starts-with-managers
5- Leadership fatigue: The struggle to maintain work-life balance. (2021, August 19). MAP | Management Consulting, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development. https://www.mapconsulting.com/leadership-fatigue-the-struggle-to-maintain-work-life-balance/
6- Mandiga, K. (n.d.). Why leaders should walk the talk on work-life balance. Flock Talk | Helping teams work better together. https://blog.flock.com/walk-the-talk-on-work-life-balance
7- Why work life balance is important for leaders. (2018, June 15). LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-work-life-balance-important-leaders-jo-howard
About the Author.
Sejaal Bonny Tilwani, is a MSc Psychology (HRDM) graduate. When she is not overthinking, she loves reading nonfictions, learning new skills and being creative. An aspirational psychologist who wants to work in the area of leadership, L&D, employee engagement, and overall organizational effectiveness.