The Importance of Work Life Balance
I think we’ve all worked for a company that had a poor work life balance. I know I’ve had a few in my career. With one of my previous employers, it seemed like every talented, brilliant team member that taught me something of value started to disappear, vanish, poof! Likewise, year over year, there was decline in the company’s revenue. It wasn’t that these people couldn’t cut it, it’s that they didn’t have to, which is something that took me a while to learn. Despite what people think, when talented people leave, it’s the company that suffers.
This previous company, let’s call it “Company X” was setup like this: you would come in, sit at your computer, work four hours, take an hour lunch, then work another four hours, then go home. I would do this Monday through Friday every day, no breaks, no exceptions. There would be days when multiple people, who finished their work early, would agonize over the 1 or even 2 hours left in the day where they had absolutely nothing on their plate. No one wants to do nothing. I think we all know the feeling of having nothing to do and just watching the clock. TIME STANDS STILL and it can be excruciating.
So between the scheduled 9 hours in the office and my commute, I was away from home 10-11 hours every day. I would get home, eat dinner, then have enough time to watch a show before bed and then start the day all over again. I’d wake up tired, unmotivated, and left with a feeling that I accomplished nothing. Not a great way to start the day, week, month, year . . .
Why this Matters from a Business Perspective
Business owners tend to look at two things, cost and performance. How much are you spending on your employees and how well are they performing at that cost. The fact remains that when you set up a “block structure” like Company X, your people WILL get tired, eventually. That feeling of exhaustion will bleed into their work and only get worse over time. By the end of one of my coworker’s 4-year career with Company X, he was maybe putting in three productive hours a day.
The reality is that no one will put in the full eight (productive) hours, every day, for years and years. People aren’t machines. Some days they’ll put in 12 hours, some days they’ll go home sick. However, companies can make their work environment flow better with their employees home lives, increasing productivity over time.
Why Companies Can Learn from Trelevate
Now, let’s look at what a good work life balance looks like. I know, it may sound like a shameless plug (and it is) but they made work life balance a main tenant of their culture. It’s hard to put into words the value of this mentality and how it impacts every employee. Not only do people love coming in, but it all seems to flow together naturally. There are no manager meetings about how to “use” work life balance, it’s just a natural part of the company and it permeates through everyone in a positive way.
When I started working for here, it was like a whole new world compared to Company X. I got to choose my hours and scheduled them around traffic for an easier commute. I could hear parents taking off early to take their kids to appointments, volleyball games, and generally not being afraid to say “I’m sick, I’m going home.” These simple and basic freedoms had a huge influence on people.
And was there utter chaos like some business owners imagine? No. Not at all. What I saw was more people willing to donate their time when the company REALLY needed it, instead of coming up with the worst excuse ever conceived. People weren’t just going through the motions day in and day out. More often than not, I find myself saying, “Oh man, it’s already time to go home!”
At this point, I would gladly work on a major holiday for Trelevate because I know the rest of the year is simply great (though they probably would never ask for that).
Work Life Balance and Culture
With Company X, it wasn’t just the block hours that did me in. It was also the atmosphere. Even though my job was five minutes away from home and we got a long lunch hour, the atmosphere was so foreign and strict, these facts didn’t seem to make a difference. I tried to look at it from the employer’s point of view, but there was no concrete reason not to make simple changes to help with positivity (short breaks with activity rooms to encourage team-building, flexible hours for proper rest, and open-table discussions to tell your employees that you care about their opinion).
The funny thing is that Company X had the equipment (pool tables, TVs, gamerooms, a gym) but no one used them because of the atmosphere of the company set an expectation that these things were NOT okay to use.
If you’re a business owner, you don’t have to break the bank by giving unlimited PTO or installing a keg in the breakroom. These simple freedoms (flexible schedules, leaving early for important events, creating spaces to encourage team-building, listening to employees about ways to improve your existing culture and work life balance) can really make a difference and help you maintain a talented team.
Now, I come into work rested, completing tasks efficiently, generating quality ideas, developing new skills that open up exciting new channels for my company every day. The funny thing is, I find myself at home (in my spare time) learning something new for work or simply doing work, completely unprompted.