A constant work hustle can be draining and put a significant amount of stress on employees. Society is now more connected than ever, and it is not uncommon to feel like you are always “on the clock,” even when you’re not. This can make it inherently difficult to disconnect from work. Depression in the C-suite, and for other higher-ranking positions within a company, can be overlooked, due in part to cultural factors as well as the unique pressures and challenges of leadership roles.
Successful individuals can still be affected by mental health issues. Higher-ups need to be able to decompress, and this starts with creating a healthy balance of their work and their home life. When work-life balance is achieved at the C-suite level, it can work its way down towards fostering a culture of flexibility and balance that extends to all workers.
Why Leadership Struggles with Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance can be difficult for those in leadership positions to achieve. They have worked hard to reach positions of heightened visibility, influence, and accountability, and taking any time away from that could feel like a step backward, or like admitting vulnerability. There can be a large amount of responsibility placed on the shoulders of organizational leaders, since they are often not only responsible for taking care of their employees and the business, but also for managing owner or stockholder expectations.
Addressing mental health for executives and professionals can be challenging because many assume that those who “have it all” are in complete control of every facet of their lives and their careers — this is not always the case. If you are constantly focused on your work, it can be hard to prioritize your life outside of work, and this can lead to CEO burnout and poor managerial decisions. All levels of employees struggle with similar issues, but when you are at the top, it can feel like focusing on yourself is unacceptable, or could subject you to scrutiny.
Benefits of Work-Life Balance for Leaders
There are a number of compelling reasons for leaders to pursue a work-life balance, but the benefits are not mutually exclusive. Creating an organization with a culture that supports and enables work-life balance also confers benefits for its employees and the business as a whole — examples include:
- Fight Burnout: Emphasizing work-life balance helps combat employee burnout. When you mitigate employee burnout, you reduce the costs of employee turnover;
- Improve Productivity: There are physical and cognitive consequences of fatigue. By promoting work-life balance you are addressing issues of fatigue. This can help you can boost performance and productivity;
- Build a Better Brand: Promoting positive work-life balance can create a positive workplace culture and improve brand perception. This can help with retaining employees as mentioned above, but it can also help with recruiting new employees, especially those from generations who greatly value work-life balance;
- Foster Trust: Trusting that your employees will accomplish tasks autonomously, regardless of how conventional their workday is, can help develop a culture of trust. This can enhance job satisfaction, transparency, and success within individual roles.
Tips to Improve Work-Life Balance
It is possible for business leaders to be successful in their role and “have it all.” Promoting work-life balance is important for all levels of workers, and below is a list of tips to consider for improving work-life balance within your organization.
Be a Role Model
Better work-life balance starts with the higher-ups. The business world needs more courageous leaders to set a sustainable, positive example both in their organizations and in the broader cultural landscape. So, set the bar for expectations and lead by example. If an employee sees the boss coming in early and staying late, they may feel inclined to do the same. You want to show gratitude to hard-working employees, but also make it clear that you balance your work and home life — and they should too. Leaders should be sure to avoid working excessive hours and demonstrate personal life priorities.
Set Strict Boundaries
Improving work-life balance should involve boundaries. There should be clear professional boundaries for all levels of employees. This can include things like:
- Limiting work contact (phone calls, texts, emails, etc.) after work hours;
- Creating a limit of hours-per-week;
- Establishing days where working is not allowed;
- Requiring small breaks or a lunch break throughout the workday.
When you are setting boundaries, be sure to include employees in the process. It is up to company leaders to set, adhere to, and enforce boundaries surrounding work. Setting boundaries can help enhance productivity as well.
Build Reliable Teams
Encouraging work-life balance within an organization requires trust, and that starts with recruiting the right employees. When you hire the right team, it can give you peace of mind to improve/focus on your own work-life balance. Define what your organization’s core values are, and recruit employees that align with those values. If your organization struggles with hiring reliable, qualified team members, it may be advantageous to consult with professional recruiting services.
Leaders — and employees — can benefit greatly from task delegation. When you build reliable teams, you are creating employees that you can trust. Avoid waiting to begin leadership development, and if you think that an employee is capable and reliable, delegate tasks to them. This can help remove things off of your plate, while giving employees a sense of accomplishment.
Invest in Yourself
It can be easy for the focus to shift to other employees, but it is important for leaders to still invest time, energy, and resources in themselves outside of work. Take time for yourself, and spend time with your loved ones, strike up new hobbies, or make time for old ones that have been pushed aside.
Be creative outside of work and be intentional with investing in yourself. Your creativity can be turned into a competitive advantage for your organization — and help inspire others to find new solutions to the challenges your organization faces.
Offer Work-Life Balance Benefits
Encouraging work-life balance is a great first step, but without work-life balance benefits, it can be hard to really nurture a true balance. Some examples of work-life balance initiatives include:
- Creating a flexible workweek;
- Offering post-pandemic remote work privileges on a temporary (such as during a pandemic) or even permanent basis;
- Allowing and encourage paid time off, and unpaid time off;
- Providing onsite daycare;
- Offering gym memberships to employees.
Take Time Off
Be sure to take time off. As mentioned above, burnout is real, and if you do not take time away from your work, you are more prone to work burnout. If you feel like you are getting sick, or you simply need a vacation, take time off and be sure to urge other workers to do the same. It could prove useful to create a time off request protocol/process to ensure that not everyone is taking time off at the same time.
When you are taking time off, be sure to fully disconnect. Though it can be tempting to check your emails or make a few calls, aim to truly take this time as a personal break. Allowing yourself the time and space necessary to recharge encourages you to be your best self in all facets of your life.