How important is improving work-life balance during a pandemic?

Before the pandemic hit the world severely, nine-to-five work hours were the order of the day. But as the pandemic confined people to their homes, working from home (WFH) became the new norm and traditional work schedules experienced a paradigm shift.

Professionals changed their work hours according to convenience and different work hours for people working in the same team was no longer considered odd. Bosses no longer had control over their employees’ schedules, and it became increasingly difficult for both to stay online throughout the day.

In a nutshell, we can say that ‘business hours’ became ‘all hours’. In current times, such hectic schedules are leading to excessive burnout, resulting in low productivity and poor quality of work.

Such signs can be dangerous for companies. They should take problems like employee burnout, work-life imbalance, and low productivity seriously. With a fresh mind, employees will be in a much better frame of mind to work to their optimum capabilities.

Work-life balance is important

Since work hours are not defined during the pandemic, leaders should make sure that their staff strike a balance between work and life. The simple formula for them is to not keep their staff engaged in office work the entire day and give them time to dabble in some of their hobbies. It will give the staff an opportunity to unwind and recharge their batteries to do quality office work.

What should be a leader’s role in work-life balance?

As a leader, if you think that making your employees work for 50 hours a week will boost productivity considerably, you are wrong. The productivity may be improved for some time, but it will take a dip once fatigue sets in.

Overworked employees become sick, or they fail to utilise their skill sets and abilities to it's full potential. In such a scenario, leaders should give their employees some time to unplug, so that they can get energised to refocus on work and keep their creativity level high.

Don’t let employees become the slave of technology

As a leader, you feel good when your employees give a quick response to an email and official chat during ‘after work hours’. You may find your team members highly responsive, but such promptness eats out at employees’ personal/family time. Being engaged with official correspondence even after their work hours are over, can make employees fatigued and exhausted for social engagements. As a leader, one should make sure that all the office work stays in the office and employees do not engage in official chats and emails after work hours.

Encourage employees to take time off

Employee happiness leads to productivity while burnout kills happiness. As a top leader, one can set an example by unburdening employees from overwork and saving them from burnout.  

Recently, Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser garnered attention when she banned internal Zoom calls on Fridays to give her employees a mental break.                         

Here are some other strategies that can help leaders to keep their employees fresh.

  • Leaders should lead from the front and set themselves as examples of work-life balance. Your employees are most likely to follow your example.
  • Ask your employees to take vacation time and disconnect from official work at that time. Research shows that disengaging from work during vacation time increases productivity.
  • A leader can decide the employees’ communication hours and encourage them to not receive official calls and reply to emails and chats after work hours. Leaders can designate someone else to address those emails while asking employees to reply only when they return to work.

Responsibility should not only fall on leaders

While leaders are the first people who should give some space and time to their employees to not get overloaded, it is equally important for colleagues to respect each other's time and space. 

If you are the one who wants to look busy all the time in the office, it’s not the best idea. You may earn some brownie points from your bosses, but at the end of the day, you will burn yourself out excessively. You should focus on areas where you can work smarter, not harder, increasing your efficiency while getting less exhausted.

Before accepting a job offer, do proper research about the work culture and whether the company gives its employees a chance to strike a work-life balance. By doing this you take matters into your own hands and prevent yourself from getting stuck at an unhealthy workplace. 

Companies and their employees can work to individualise business hours. In the WFH culture, it is possible to set different business hours for different teams and people. It will allow everyone a chance at improving their office work and personal lives.

The modern work culture is a different mechanism where leaders can take initiatives to properly set employees' work-life balance and the latter should be equally responsive to the changes. It will lead to cordial employee relationships and enhanced work productivity.


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