Mental Health Awareness Week: how to promote a work-life balance
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With stigmas around mental health starting to evaporate over the past few years, more employees are opening up about it to their employers. While this is a major step forward in tackling mental health in the workplace, there is still a long way to go.

If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that having a solid work-life balance can be key, not just for employee performance, but mental health and wellbeing too. A report from Champion Health, which polled 2,200 UK employees, found more than a quarter (28 per cent) had seen their productivity negatively impacted within the last two years.

However, even as the pandemic’s end appears to be upon us and we understand more about how to work in a new environment, some employees continue to struggle, with many feeling there are gaps in support.

As your business, team and workload grows, it may come to light that longer hours, tighter deadlines and higher demand can leave your employees neglecting their lives outside of work.

Increased stress and burnout can then result in extended leave or sickness, and sometimes even high turnover. Therefore, as a small business, it can be really important to encourage a work-life balance not only for your people, but for your business too.

Here are some ways that you can help your employees get that work-life balance back on track:

Offer flexible working

Working from home, hybrid working, and flexible working have become completely normal to many businesses. However, some small businesses are keen to get as many of their team back into the office as possible. While this is great for building team spirit and increasing ‘normality’ and structure, 9-5 office working can be difficult for some of your employees.

Maybe they have childcare pressures? Do some of your employees volunteer? Is a team member also a carer at home?

If so, can you offer flexible working to help accommodate to your employees’ situations? This is a great way to help them balance their other responsibilities while still working the hours they need to. You may also find that, by doing this, their performance and engagement increases as they aren’t trying to juggle everything during the working day.

Encourage managers to be role models for a work-life balance

You’ll probably be familiar with the phrase ‘lead by example’ and that couldn’t be more appropriate for creating company wide work-life balance. Managers and leaders have lots of responsibilities and may feel pressure to deliver, however they are not immune to mental health issues.

Encouraging people at the top to show how they are improving that balance can be a great step in encouraging the rest of the team to reflect and understand what works best for them.

Set expectations that time off means time off

Try and remind your team that they deserve time off and encourage them to enjoy it away from work-related scrolling and emailing.

Perhaps you could send them reminders when they have holiday coming up, reminding them to set their out of office or to turn off notifications while they are away?

Discourage checking of work-related messages on evenings and weekends

We can all be guilty of checking emails and Teams or Slack messages out of hours, however, this can be detrimental to mental health.

A good place to start can be in your company policies, outlining expectations from the get-go, and even setting an example yourself by switching off in the evenings and weekends and not sending messages or emails to your employees during these times. This way they won’t have anything to check anyway!

We know this can be challenging when running a small business, so another option is to draft emails but not send them until the morning. Alternatively, you could let your team know in your emails that a response is not required until the next working day.

Try to focus on productivity and outcomes, rather than hours

Time doesn’t always equal productivity. That’s why we’re seeing a huge increase in businesses implementing a four-day work week (it’s tempting, we know!).

Instead of focus being put on the hours your employees are working, try putting it on how an employee is meeting expectations and performing. Building a positive culture requires trust, flexibility, and the idea of work based on results and not desk time.

Encourage breaks

Whether you’re working in the office, WFH or hot desking, encourage your people to take regular breaks. Perhaps they can grab a coffee from the staff kitchen, go and make sure their dog isn’t up to mischief downstairs, or even do a couple laps around the block if they need to.

Set an example by taking your lunch away from your desk. It sounds simple but is something that many people fall foul to, especially with busy schedules.

Regularly review workloads

Do you have people that keep adding to their to-do list? Or maybe work seems be unfairly distributed sometimes?

It can be a good idea to schedule regular one-to-ones with your team to find out how they’re getting on, especially if you are a growing business. This way you can check-in to see how targets, deadlines, and work distribution is going, and find out if things need to be swapped around a bit.

Ask employees for feedback on any improvements that could be made

Your staff keep your business going, so give them the opportunity and the time to give you feedback. Maybe there is something that you don’t do that could help with mental health? Or maybe something isn’t helping in the way you were expecting?

You can get the information from those experiencing it and understand what you can improve for your people.

Acknowledge that every employee is different and therefore their work-life balance needs will vary

This circles us back to the start of this blog, that while some people are feeling encouraged to discuss any issues they are facing, others may not be quite there yet. Remembering that not all your employees react to scenarios, in and outside of work, in the same way and therefore they can be affected differently.

Unfortunately, there isn’t, and most likely never will be, a one fix all rule for dealing with mental health and how to overcome certain issues. However, getting to know your employees personally and finding what works best for them will help you have a good chance understanding how to help them long term.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch.

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