Top strategies for promoting balance in the COVID-19 era

Many workers are having to deal with the blurring of their home and work lives as they navigate enforced working from home during the pandemic.  For all employees, the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the lockdown create uncertainty, and likely increased pressure to deliver at work. According to research conducted by Roberta Guerrina, Professor of Political Science at Bristol University, we typically see work-life balance impacted in times of crisis. HR leaders will be acutely aware of this at the current time.

However, the pandemic may actually create a phenomenal opportunity to improve work-life balance and uncover many of the productivity benefits that academic research suggests it fosters. At Achievers, we have seen many clients make efforts to encourage their staff to stick to the work-life balance ethos where it is enshrined in values. It can make a big difference.

Here are some of the key steps we have seen be successful in obtaining productivity gains through encouraging work-life balance:

  1. Do as I do, not as I say – On the pitch David Beckham was often as quiet as he was off it, but his style of leadership as a captain was set by example, not by shouting orders. The C-suite of many companies could learn a lot from this example in modelling behaviour, and a great place to start is in demonstrating a commitment to work-life balance and only communicating out of hours if it is essential or an emergency. You cannot expect healthy practices if you model different behaviour for your team.
  2. Be realistic – Pushing employees to deliver against unrealistic timelines ratchets up stress and results in burn-out and is a detriment to productivity. Encourage line managers to be realistic about what is achievable and use recognition for a job well done as the tool to keep people productive, as opposed to fear of missing deadlines. If it is the latter that drives your business, employees will burn the candles at both ends, especially during the current situation, almost certainly at a detriment to the team’s long-term success.
  3. Differentiate between quantity and quality – Do not reward people for the sheer volume of work produced in a given timeframe, or praise them for working out-of-hours on a project. Instead, prioritise recognising quality work, delivered within agreed hours. Reward people for working smarter, not harder and stop celebrating the long-hours martyrs.
  4. Celebrate people’s successes and endeavours outside of work – Make a virtue of your company’s employees having passions and pursuits that have absolutely nothing to do with the business at hand. This will set the tone that all employees should seek to find meaning outside of work, as well as in the job they are doing.
  5. Allow work-life flexibility – Many companies have had no choice but to accept a more flexible routine for their workers thanks to school and nursery closures. It is worth reflecting on if there have been benefits here. Many studies have shown the benefits of work-life flexibility.

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Even given the many heart-breaking impacts of the global pandemic, people have seen rays of hope and small silver linings: such as cleaner air and the return of wildlife. One that should absolutely be marked down is where people have found an improved work-life balance – free of the commute and with reduced meeting schedules. Harnessing this spirit can be extremely powerful in maintaining wellbeing and productivity, especially as the world reopens and our options for fulfilling activities outside of work increase.

Click here to find out more about Achievers’ employee engagement platform.