Finding work-life balance has always been a challenge but remote work has created a new set of difficulties. Without separation between work and home, many employees feel even greater pressure to be available 24/7 and burnout is setting in.
I know the feeling. Several years ago, I was a workaholic in terrible health. The pressure I put on myself to achieve led me to sacrifice taking care of myself and my family in the way that I wanted to. So, I dramatically changed the way I approach work by setting boundaries.
I block out my calendar for an hour and a half in the mornings and evenings and dedicate that time to my family. I take an hour to exercise, often midday. I will work early in the morning, late at night and over the weekends if I need to, to carve out time for my family and myself. As a result, I am happier, healthier, and more productive.
Changing my life also changed the way I manage teams. I have come to believe that being happier makes people better at life, including their work, so I intentionally foster a culture of balance on my team. Several principles underpin the culture I create.
Assume Good Intent
No one sets out to do a bad job. I believe that everyone wants to succeed, do good work, provide value, and be valued. If someone is having trouble, look for an underlying reason to address.
Trust Your Team
I hire self-motivated people and then trust my team to get their work done and be responsible. That might mean working less one week and more the next and that’s okay.
You can’t provide flexibility without accountability. Set deadlines and hold people to them. Explain the reason for the deadline and how each person is contributing to the project or company more broadly. Providing purpose creates motivation to meet and exceed expectations.
Check in With People
Ask how your team is doing personally. I have always done this, but it has become even more important during the pandemic. Understanding what is happening in people’s lives generates empathy and helps you address performance issues with compassion.
I not only take time for myself, but I also broadcast that I’m doing it, posting to social media on my runs and being transparent about blocking out family time. That implicitly gives my team the permission to do the same.
I coach my team to be flexible. The flexibility my teams operate with may be different than those we collaborate with. We kick off joint projects by setting up project principles that help everyone understand expectations and assure other teams that being flexible does not translate into lack of urgency or accountability.
Engage in Constructive Criticism
Everyone makes mistakes so I remind my team them that no one is intentionally trying to do anyone else harm. Everyone must treat one another with respect and deliver constructive criticism as needed without judgement.
The culture I foster on my team may not be for everyone and it may not be practical for all types of work. However, every manager can approach their team from a place of empathy and implement practices that allow their team to find greater balance.
What are some of the ways you help your team create balance? Share in the comments.