Happy people are more productive. At least, that is what a 2014 University Warwick study indicates. In the study, economists found that happiness made people approximately 12 percent more productive on average. Business leaders readily admit that 12 percent more productivity represents a professional leadership win.
What does this mean for your business leadership skills? How can you keep employee happiness (and your own) at a high level? Thomas Merton once said, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.”
Thus, happiness is linked with achieving a positive work/life balance.
Leading by Example
As a business leader, you are well aware that your actions set the tone for your department or organization. In the area of life/work balance, are you projecting the right standard?
The answer to that question requires honest self-examination. It entails a careful look at your own priorities and a willingness to realign those priorities where appropriate.
Stewart Friedman, founding director of Wharton’s work/Life Integration Project, asserts that effective leadership entails much more than pursuing excellence at work. Rather, it involves pursuing excellence also at home, in the community, and in one’s inner life.
In HBR’s “Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life”, he notes: “There will always be some tension among the different roles we play. But, contrary to the common wisdom, there’s no reason to assume that it’s a zero-sum game. It makes more sense to pursue excellent performance as a leader in all four domains – achieving what I call “four-way wins” – not trading off one for another but finding mutual value among them.”
Hence, leading by example in the area of life/work balance includes making decisions that support all areas of your life, professionally and personally.
Achieving the desired level of balance between your work and personal life is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition, however. Much like a gymnast on a balance beam makes constant minor adjustments to maintain balance, so too you will achieve balance only by making consistent, minor adjustments in your life.
Daphne Scott, of DS Leadership Life, observes: “Life is about finding the balance with any of our roles and responsibilities. By recognizing that there are seasons in life in which one role or area of responsibility may require more attention than another, we are also able to take responsibility for the choices we make in any moment. That’s the big game.”
Creating a Workplace Culture of Balance
How can you promote a healthy work/life balance in the workplace? In addition to modeling behaviors that show the proper alignment between work and personal responsibilities, there are other steps that you can take to foster an environment of positive life/work balance.
Scott Behson, a national expert in work-family issues, suggests that an excellent way to demonstrate the true value of work/life balance is assessing employee performance, not on the quantity of work hours or work product, but on the quality of the work produced. Thus, performance reviews become truly performance reviews, and compensation and advancement is linked to the inherent value that an employee adds to the company, rather than just the amount of hours logged at the office.
Behson notes in HBR’s “Work-Life Balance is Easier When Your Manager Knows How to Assess Performance”: “A fitness wristband can track how long you sit in your desk chair. It takes a leader to understand how the work really gets done, and by whom. By implementing some of these changes, we allow all employees to construct schedules that work best for their success at work and home. This obviously benefits working parents, but all employees also gain – and so will their companies, in terms of engagement and performance.”
Mentoring and coaching in the area of prioritizing tasks and structuring time is also needed. As a business leader, it devolves upon you to help employees learn to prioritize essential tasks through proper time management. Also, don’t forget as a business leader, that it can be important for you to seek out advice and guidance when you feel as if you’re not sure what the best plan of action could be when it comes to managing your business duties. Take a read into why it could be greatly beneficial at looking into hiring a business coach for bettering you as a leader, as well as improving your business in key areas.
A systematic review of your current business processes will likely reveal areas in which prioritizing tasks correctly can save time and effort, freeing you and your staff from needless complications to life/work balance.
Revisiting your company policies regarding flexible work schedules, family leave and personal days, and child care provisions may reveal areas wherein improvement can be made to enhance and enrich the lives of the employees under your supervision.
The Bottom Line
A positive life/work balance contributes to happiness for you and for those around you. Good leadership involves achieving that balance and leading by example. Additionally, it is important to foster a company culture of balance, as it leads to greater fulfillment professionally and personally for all involved.