When you’re trying to build a small company, it can seem impossible to curtail work hours, let alone take vacation time. But entrepreneurs who make sure both they and their employees are well-balanced human beings, create workplaces that are not just good for people, they’re good for business too.
For this special summer “Get a Life” series, we have assembled a panel of experts and entrepreneurs to share advice on how to have both a successful business and personal life — and hard data on why it’s so important to find this “work-life fit,” in the preferred terminology of panelist Anne Weisberg. Read on to see how they answered our second question:
Why should business owners want to create work-life balance for themselves and their employees? What does it do for company culture and for results?
Being able fit your work into your life — meaning that you have the flexibility and manager support to meet both your responsibilities at work and beyond — is a key element of an effective workplace that, our research shows, results in higher retention, much higher engagement and better health outcomes.
Employee turnover costs are 1½ times salary in most businesses, since it takes time to find a replacement and it takes time to onboard and fully integrate a new person. The more your business is relationship-driven, the more costly turnover can be. If you don’t track the costs of turnover, you should start. Also track how much of your healthcare spending is from stress-related claims. Stress is on the rise among workers, according to our research, and a major source is work-life conflict, including long hours.
To achieve these outcomes, you have to start by role modeling work-life fit yourself. That means making your priorities outside of work visible to your employees. The heroes at work should not be the ones who put in the longest hours, but the ones who get their work done and have a robust life outside of work. When work works for the people and the business, everyone wins!
Lead by example. When the owners of a company openly display that they value work-life integration, it tends to trickle down to all of the employees. It creates a culture that is accepting and sets a tone that employees are important.
What has been very effective for us is intentionally creating a team culture at our office. When we started MPACT Financial Group, the partners sat down in the board room, and we all answered two important questions before agreeing on our business model. The first question was “How much money do you want to make?” And the second was “What are you willing to sacrifice or not sacrifice to make it?” Everyone gave the salary range they wanted in five years and stressed that it was important they not totally sacrifice their personal or family life. We now have a “family whiteboard” in our popular kitchen area where everyone can pin up pictures of their family, kids and pets.
People with good morale and high job satisfaction are less stressed and produce more superior results. It benefits us all to create an environment where everyone feels like they can thrive.
As a small business owner, it’s important to have work-life balance for employees. At Human Potential Consultants (HPC), we have a work culture where it’s common practice for employees to leave work on time, because we find that working longer than 8 hours a day increases the risk of employees becoming too tired to be effective. We have a family-friendly and gender-neutral work environment where, if there is a need, an employee may attend to family matters during work hours. And we have a “no work outside the office” initiative, because we respect the personal life of our employees.
This culture and our work-life balance initiatives have been very important for the company. They have allowed HPC put its “employees first.” The benefit of putting employees first is that they are well rested and proud of the services they offer to our customers and, in the end, HPC’s customers are happy and employees remain excited and happy. This, in turn, creates a pathway toward repeat and new business.
Work-life balance is in the eye of the beholder. If employees don’t have time for a life outside the office, it’s more likely they will find a new place to work.
When a small company loses a staff member, it’s harder and more expensive to find and hire a replacement. In fact, SHRM estimates the cost at between 90-200 percent of that person’s annual salary. Most small businesses cannot afford that.
It’s really too easy today in our 24/7 connected culture to expect employees to work beyond their office hours. Obviously this puts a crimp in your team’s personal time — and most, especially Millennial workers, who want to work flex hours to begin with, won’t appreciate the intrusion. One solution is to set rules and to make it clear to your staff that, while you appreciate extra efforts, you don’t expect them to always be checking email or answering work calls.
What works for your staff may not work for you. It’s hard for any business owner to have work-life balance, since balance implies you split them evenly. That’s almost impossible for any entrepreneur.
Instead of balance, I think entrepreneurs need to get better at daily prioritizing. Some days your business will get most of your attention, other days you can focus more on your family and personal life. You have to be a good juggler to make that work — but that’s one thing many women are naturally adept at.
With email, text messages and shared docs constantly within arms reach, there is always an opportunity to be working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But some of my best thinking and most creative ideas have come when I’m in a spin class, outside in my backyard or even on a road trip just staring out the window — not when I’m sitting at a desk. Without a work-life balance and that crucial time and space to think, process and recharge, our work product ultimately suffers (not to mention our sanity).
Creating a culture with a healthy work-life balance allows employees and business owners to live at the intersection of creating results in the workplace and living a full life. In addition to a “take the time you need” vacation policy, part of the way we’ve done this at Eventbrite is by giving employees tools to recharge at the office, including gathering around meals and setting up hammocks, a quiet library and private “relax rooms” where you can power pose before a big presentation or take a quick nap.
Burnout can quickly sap any enjoyment from work that was once cherished, which is why work-life balance is especially important for freelancers and small business owners who are responsible for setting their own work hours.
For many Etsy businesses, work-life balance is achieved by doing something you love. Moreover, the commitment to entrepreneurship is a fulfillment of their desire to do something they enjoy, with 74% of Etsy sellers saying that was their precise motivation to start their creative business.
I think this focus on the enjoyment of work has a direct impact on the quality of the work people produce, as well as their quality of life. This is especially important because, time and again, studies show that happier people are more creative, more productive and more committed to their work. Cultivating happiness is good for people, and it’s good for business.
Over the past 13 years, I have learned that having a good “work-life balance” truly means taking care of myself and the people on my team.
Taking good care of me means that the people in my life — my children, my husband, my family and friends — get the best of me, rather than what is left of me. The way I see it, work life and personal life do not have to be mutually exclusive. Having a balanced life isn’t about trading one aspect for another, compromising as we go. It is about finding ways to converge these different aspects of our lives.
At Francis Financial, we work to create a culture that fosters healthy habits. We strive to make a difference for our clients, but also to live a life worth living. So I like to make sure our culture promotes personal as well as professional growth. My team works extremely hard. I find that encouraging healthy habits promotes well-being and overall happiness for everyone on my team, while helping to boost productivity and collaboration.
A lot of business owners don’t realize that there is a very real bottom-line impact from the work-life balance of their employees. In a study about flexible work we conducted last year, 82% of respondents said that they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. Some 20% were willing to take a pay cut, 22% would forgo health benefits and 18% were willing to work more hours if their job was flexible. Study after study shows that people who report good work-life balance are more productive, healthier and more loyal. That means increased output, reduced health-related expenses and reduced employee turnover for companies, all of which help the bottom line.
Work-life balance is the No. 1 reason people look for flexible jobs. In our survey, 88% said they thought telecommuting, instead of working in an office, would reduce their overall stress, and 80% thought it would help them be more healthy overall.
Company efforts to support work-life balance also help create a better company culture. For example, flexible work options reduce the conflict employees experience between work responsibilities and personal responsibilities, which allows them to feel more supported and valued by their company. Those feelings often transfer to their company and colleagues, inspiring a more engaging and positive work environment. Work-life balance helps create a company where people want to work, rather than just have to work.