By: Tobi Crosbie- founder of Shoreditch-based commercial property consultancy Making Moves.
In the wake of the pandemic, our working lives appear forever changed – and the same can be said for our personal lives. With the emergence of hybrid-working, video conferencing, top-dressing and virtual happy hours, professional and personal boundaries have inevitably blurred beyond distinction.
So, how do we redress the work-life balance? And, as some may ask, why bother?
Put simply, good work-life balance means happy and healthy employees, which leads to reduced staff absence and turnover, increased employee engagement, improved productivity and heightened competitive advantage in retaining top talent. Plus, organisations that value work-life balance also foster more inclusive workplace cultures, thereby attracting a greater diversity of talent. Win-win.
Here are our four top tips for ensuring a healthy work-life balance at your workplace:
- Change the focus from presenteeism to productivity
A primary concern of employees taking their first tentative steps out into the post-pandemic working world is that the so-called “new normal” is, in fact, a return to the old normal; that is, an expectation of employees to be “seen” in the office and “always-on” while away from the office.
This preoccupation with “face-time” and responsiveness – whether in-office or online – overshadows the value of employees’ contributions and instead serves to reduce engagement and productivity. However, if managed correctly, flexible and remote working can support, rather than hinder, a healthy work-life balance.
The key here is to re-establish boundaries and realign expectations. For example, the physical office provides the perfect place for collaboration, conversation and creativity where physical output is minimal. The home office, in contrast, is where stuff gets done. It offers the optimum environment to complete high-focus tasks without interruption, so don’t expect employees to be responsive to calls and emails.
- Give employees autonomy and control over how they work
By turning the working world on its head, Covid-19 challenged the professional status quo; indeed, it exposed systemic injustices as a result of poor work-life balance, infrequent flexible working opportunities, lack of shared parental leave and excessive gender pay gaps.
Therefore, the organisations who will thrive are those who learn from the lessons of the pandemic. One such lesson is that a one-size-fits-all approach to work is not conducive to employee wellbeing nor productivity, so why not allow employees to choose how they work, where they work and when they work?
For example, as well as embracing the hybrid working model, consider offering flexibility in working patterns; that is, the opportunity to work condensed hours or only during projects, or adjusting hours to accommodate the school run or avoid travel during rush hour. Plus, discarding the one-size-fits-all approach also extends to office real estate. To accommodate the ever-changing working world, organisations need agile space solutions that flex with the business – from long-term conventional leases to managed offices, flexible licences and co-working spaces.
- Prioritise employee experience at the office
A recent survey commissioned by Lime Insurance revealed 51% workers feel under pressure to put on a brave face at work, despite feeling less confident and resilient after lockdown. Survey respondents also called for employers to pay more attention to work-life balance to ease this anxiety.
Improving the employee experience is integral to work-life balance, so when your people finally pull on their trousers and return to the workplace, they no longer view the office as a place of “work” but a space to collaborate, to learn and to socialise. The key here is well-designed, fit-for-purposes workspaces that:
- facilitate collaboration, including utilising technology to enable remote collaboration
- foster supportive working relationships for innovation, idea sharing and wellbeing
- make time and space for relaxation and exercise so “taking a break” is seen as a healthy habit
- provide spaces for entertainment and networking with industry experts, coaches, colleagues and clients
- allow for seamless transitioning from at-home to in-office working.
- Think outside the box when it comes to work perks
Traditional office perks have got a bad rap recently. Onsite barber shops, dry cleaners and beer taps have been viewed with renewed suspicion as a way to not just lure employees back to the office but keep them there for longer. Similarly, the Fast Company recently released a report revealing that young workers value employee wellbeing and respect from managers for the employee experience over ping pong tables and video games.
In this new era of work, it’s time to think outside the box when it comes to office perks and invest in those that facilitate healthy work-life balance. Crucially, it is important to offer benefits that engage your employees – give your people what they want.
As well as flexible working opportunities and fit-for-purpose workspaces, consider benefits that value people’s time – for example, Bumble recently announced their introduction of unlimited paid leave for employees – or mental and physical health; that is, cycle to work schemes, free healthy meals, rewards for physical activity, guided meditation or breath work sessions to name a few! And don’t forget about rewards for remote teams too, such as subscriptions to health and fitness apps, streaming services, audiobooks or food delivery services.
Improving work-life balance is not a “one and done” thing. It requires continual review and feedback from employees to ensure real and lasting change in the post-pandemic world. If you’re ready to rethink your office space in order to better manage work-life balance, our team are ready to help; visit www.makingmoveslondon.co.uk for more.