How to help employees find balance and enjoyment in their work and home lives in an uncertain economy

Barbara Baldwin, account executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice

Many employers have reduced their work forces, but not their workloads, leading to more hours for the remaining staff.

The additional work, coupled with a still-uncertain economic environment, has placed tremendous personal and professional pressure on employees, and many are having a difficult time finding balance in their lives as a result, says Barbara Baldwin, account executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice.

“Feeling stressed is a normal reaction to the uncertainty,” says Baldwin. “However, your employees’ physical and emotional health can impact productivity and make them more vulnerable to job-related stressors. Even if employees do not have control over their work hours, they should be encouraged to discover ways to bring satisfaction and balance to their work and home life.”

Smart Business spoke with Baldwin about what employers can do to help employees find work/life balance.

Why should employers be concerned about the physical and emotional health of their employees?

When their own needs are taken care of, employees are stronger and more resilient to stresses that they face both in the workplace and in their home lives. And the better your employees feel, both physically and emotionally, the better equipped they will be to manage work and home stress without becoming overwhelmed. A well-balanced work force will be more productive and happier overall.

What can employers do to help employees achieve balance in their lives?

It is important for employers to understand potential job-related stressors and to share techniques with employees on how to handle their professional workloads without becoming overwhelmed. Employers should encourage employees to take the following approaches to their work in order to lessen the stress.

* Prioritize the work and tackle the tasks in order of importance.

* Break large projects into smaller steps so that the scope of the project does not become overwhelming.

* Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once. Doing so allows you to create small successes for yourself on a daily basis.

* Maintain a network of contacts and make a point to connect with them periodically. Build relationships with other people in the company to share positive experiences and create a feeling of camaraderie.

* Develop the capacity to meet everyday challenges with humor.

How can employers impact employees’ home lives and help provide balance?

While the company may not have a direct relationship with employees outside of the work environment, their home-related stressors can impact work attendance and attitude and, as a result, have an impact on overall company morale.

An employer should start by implementing stress management techniques in the workplace. As employees become aware of these techniques and implement them in the workplace, some of them will be motivated to take this information and apply it to other areas of their lives.

For those who need additional assistance, provide written materials that offer suggestions about how to improve the balance in their lives. This type of information is readily available on the Internet.

Second, employers should consider allowing employees to work alternate schedules. Popular trends include allowing employees to work remotely from their homes, or giving them the option of working flex time through shorter work weeks, taking every other Friday off, coming in later or leaving earlier, or some other arrangement that works for both the employer and the employee.

However, these are not viable options for every employer as some, such as manufacturers, would not be able to function without set work hours for their employees.

What else do employers need to consider?

Finding the appropriate balance is a challenge, as both the family and work dynamic have changed. More than ever, today, parents want to be actively involved with their children’s extracurricular activities while maintaining their place among the work force. This is occurring at the same time that employers are looking for their employees to be connected to their jobs 24/7 through mobile devices.

These changes bring uncharted waters, and employers and employees alike are struggling to figure out how to make it all fit.

Both the employer and the employee need to be flexible and willing to work together toward a common goal — work/life balance — that will result in a more productive and happier work environment.

Barbara Baldwin is an account executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7256 or [email protected]