To say that today’s employees and job candidates value a company that can provide a strong work-life balance is an understatement. With more flexibility in work schedules and work from home arrangements in greater demand, employers unable or unwilling to meet those expectations will have a hard time keeping their best employees – not to mention, finding new, high-quality talent to replace them. If your company is still behind the curve in providing work-life balance, it should be a top priority for 2014.
In many cases, work-life balance means working remotely. After all, is face time in the office really that important if an employee can feel more comfortable and be more productive working from home? Studies show that telecommuting employees can be 13 percent more productive than their on-site colleagues. Moreover, advancements in technology have made it easier than ever for telecommuting employees to collaborate with their onsite colleagues.
Though enhanced connectivity has improved the way we communicate and spurred demand for greater workplace flexibility, it can also impede on the work-life balance. Employees working remotely or outside traditional business hours may feel compelled to respond to emails or phone calls constantly, even when they have purposely changed their schedules to avoid working at certain times. This isn’t to say that remote employees can just avoid their work commitments whenever they feel like it; it simply means they should have definite boundaries surrounding when they work and when they are turned off.
It should be up to the employer to help its remote workers establish those times where they can be offline and not feel that they have to be on call. If employees feel compelled to be constantly connected and respond to emails right away, not only does this counteract the idea of the work-life balance, but it can also impact their productivity. Working with them to set up service level agreements around what’s expected of them and anticipated turnaround times will help them schedule their day and ensure they can fulfill their responsibilities.
Along the same lines, employees should be encouraged to establish their own time frames for when they will be offline or unavailable and ensure their managers and colleagues are aware of them. For instance, if an employee wants to be totally offline from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. each night to spend time with their family, they should articulate that to their co-workers so they won’t feel ignored if they don’t get a response. This is particularly important for remote employees in different time zones, as those hours might conflict with business hours. Of course, the employee should also be encouraged to stick to those rules – once they start responding during their “off” times, their colleagues will expect them to continue to do so.
The idea of work-life balance is just that – to enable employees to strike a balance between their work lives and their personal lives. Yet, if remote employees feel that they must be available at all times despite not being in the office, that balance can be thrown out of whack. For best results, both parties need to create the right boundaries, with the manager setting expectations about work responsibilities and encouraging the employee to establish times when they are unavailable. By doing so, the company can help its employees find the right balance and lead to a more satisfied and productive remote workforce.