Remote work is shaping up to be a major trend that will likely keep growing even after the pandemic ends. Remote working has several benefits, including flexibility, better diversity, location independence, no commute time, and more. But what about the drawbacks? Earlier, employees could disconnect from their work when they stepped out of the office. Now, the boundaries between personal and professional lives have blurred. Juggling between professional and personal tasks with no leisure time can stress employees out and affect their mental health. If left unchecked, this stress can, in some cases, also increase an employee's risk for heart diseases. As the stress levels of individual employees increase, it becomes a ripple effect that can lead to an obstructive work environment and weak professional relationships.
Work-life balance is crucial for employee satisfaction and overall business success as well. Organizations that neglect this aspect, will have a hard time attracting and retaining talent. Individuals, especially Millennials and Gen Z, expect companies to respect their time and mental health. They want to be able to balance their family time, health, social life, hobbies, and more. It's even been shown that they prefer work-life balance over any financial incentives when choosing a company to work for.
To stay ahead of expectations, many organizations have begun initiatives to provide remote employees a smooth working experience. According to a recent research conducted by the University of Birmingham and the University of Kent, 73% of the employees surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that their managers cared about the impact of work demands on their personal life during the pandemic. We will continue to see more organizations taking significant measures to improve their employees' work-life balance and enhance employee management.
It starts with creating a more empathetic work environment. Every workforce is unique, and it's up to the management to connect with their employees and hear their perspective before implementing necessary measures. Hybrid work, flexible holiday policies, floating holidays, wellness leaves, mental health days—these are all excellent places to start, but the degree to which an organization adopts them will depend on their employees' preferences. Empathetic leadership practices like these will also help employees adapt to the new normal working conditions and deliver their best.
Here are some easy tips that will help your organization implement more employee-centric initiatives for 2021 and beyond:
Improve one-on-one communication
Communication is the key to many workplace issues. Clear communication fosters an empathetic workplace. Checking in with your employees, even once a month, will enable you to better understand their emotions, learn their concerns at work, and identify any potential signs of burnout or stress. Casual chats and personal interactions also make employees feel heard which automatically puts them at ease and encourages them to share constructive feedback.
Set clear expectations
When employees are unsure of how they are expected to work and what they are expected to achieve, they develop performance anxiety and often end up overworking. This can be avoided by encouraging managers to conduct continuous performance reviews. Clear goals and regular progress reviews will give your employees a boost in motivation and a sense of direction.
Focus on output instead of work hours
As remote work and hybrid work models rise in popularity, work hours will become more flexible. Allow employees to set their own schedules, placing more importance on the quality of the work they do rather than them being at work during strict time frames. Each employee's personal and professional responsibilities will vary. Empowering them to choose their own work hours—with some overlap with the larger team—will improve their motivation, productivity, and overall work-life balance.
Make time for fun
We spend nearly a third of our lives at work. Even with a remote workforce (and perhaps especially so), it's important to foster employee engagement and team building. Try organizing fun activities or events where employees can spend time together. This is a great way to reduce stress amongst your workforce. It also helps improve cooperation, teamwork, and innovation, which boosts business growth. Something as simple as hosting a weekly coffee-hour where everyone checks in and even newcomers feel welcome can be very helpful.
Great employee experience (EX) is a recipe for delivering exceptional customer experience (CX). Your customer satisfaction is set to improve if you allow your employees to have an excellent work-life balance. There will likely be even more shifts in what a "normal" work environment looks like in 2021, but by listening to your employees, setting clear goals, allowing flexible schedules, and making time for a bit of fun, your workplace will be set up for future success.