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What Is Work-Life Harmony?

What Is Work-Life Harmony?

The word “balance” often denotes struggle. Many people think of that feeling they get when they’re about to slip on ice and have to regain composure quickly. “Work-life balance”, typically denotes a struggle to juggle two very important commitments. 

This year, work-life harmony is the new trend. 

 

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What Is Work-Life Harmony? 

Work-life harmony is the idea that your work and your life do not have to be at war, that you can succeed at both simultaneously. 

The U.S.Office of the Surgeon General highlights four major Work-Life Harmony Components. Let’s dive into each one. 

 

1. Provide more autonomy over how work is done. 

At BerniePortal, for example, expectations are set and employees are given autonomy over their responsibilities. When employees are trusted with a task rather than being micromanaged, they are more likely to do well. 

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey defines ‘trust’ in this context. He states, “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people…The steward becomes his own boss, governed by a conscience that contains the commitment to agreed-upon desired results. But it also releases his creative energies toward doing whatever is necessary in harmony with correct principles to achieve those desired results.” Giving your employees more autonomy will ultimately help your organization achieve its desired results, and it will improve your employees’ wellness.

The Harvard Business Review describes autonomy as the encouragement of self-determination. This means that people who have a sense of autonomy over the work they do are ultimately more successful because they are intrinsically versus extrinsically motivated. Employees will see value in the work they do, not only its value to society, but also its value to their personal and psychological growth. 

 

2. Make schedules as flexible and predictable as possible. 

When most people think of flexible schedules, they typically think of hybrid or remote work. However, there are ways to offer flexibility to fully in-office employees. For example, you can implement more flexible work schedules. 

Flextime loosens restrictions on workday start and end times. As long as workers meet their hours every week, they can set their own schedules. Of course, this may not work in all industries and you will likely need to set some parameters, but flextime has been proven to increase employee satisfaction and overall sense of work-life harmony. 

Working more hours does not necessarily equal working more effectively. Another way to make schedules more flexible is to consider implementing a 4 day work week. Some organizations are only open Monday-Thursday, giving employees a longer weekend. While definitely not the best decision for every organization, according to Indeed, benefits of the 4-day work week include: 

  • Higher-quality work
  • Less absenteeism
  • Higher profitability
  • Higher output
  • Fewer missed deadlines
  • Lower employee turnover

There are also industries where people can choose (within reason), the 5 days they work. For instance, Sunday-Thursday, or Tuesday-Saturday. Offering more autonomy over work schedules will ultimately improve employee morale and retention.

You can also work to ensure employee schedules are as predictable as possible. According to The U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well Being, in the leisure and hospitality industries, “three-quarters of all workers receive their schedules less than one-month in advance, with most receiving notice less than two weeks in advance.” This leaves employees little to no time to plan for their lives outside of work. And when schedules look so different week to week, employees will struggle to feel stable. Instability will fuel distress and burnout, which hinder any sense of work-life harmony. 

 

 

3. Increase access to paid leave. 

One way to increase access to paid leave is by implementing an Unlimited PTO plan for your organization. Unlimited PTO plans are structured so that employees can decide when to take paid time off. In this type of plan, there are no set amount of days that can be taken and the employer provides few parameters. As long as employees receive manager approval and accomplish their tasks as expected without causing negative repercussions for the team, they can decide how to use PTO.

There typically is a limit, however, to time off. For example, employees can't reasonably expect to take off half of the year—that is an abuse of the policy. An organization's parameters regarding unlimited PTO should be laid out clearly in its employee handbook or Culture Guide

Another way to increase access to paid leave is by offering paid maternity and paternity leave. 

FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act, provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of an unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical purposes with the continuation of their group health insurance benefits. This act also ensures that employees are able to return to their place of work at the end of the FMLA leave. 

Having a child is already expensive and the financial stress of taking care of a newborn human is only exacerbated if employees have to take unpaid time off. While FMLA does not mandate paid parental leave, offering this benefit to employees can help improve their sense of work-life harmony.

 

4. Respect boundaries between work and non-work time. 

Anne Lamott once said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Let’s be real– no one wants to respond to emails, take work-related phone calls, or receive last-minute tasks on the weekend. Setting and modeling a standard for boundaries at your workplace can help employees remain fully present at work and fully present on their time-off. 

It’s difficult to really have time off if you’re constantly anxious about meeting work demands. Clear boundaries help workers have the time they need to rest which will ultimately optimize their productivity when they’re on the clock. If you are in a particular industry where completely barring digital communication after work isn’t really an option, you can still establish policies that limit communication to certain evening hours. 

A “yes-man”, according to Stephen Covey, is someone who has a “hard time saying No to anything that is urgent or popular” resulting in staying “incredibly busy while getting nothing of importance done." Busyness should not be seen as a badge of honor and boundaries should be prioritized as an essential component to the success of your organization. 

Forbes describes a person with healthy boundaries as someone who knows they are a good person even if they say ‘no’. Many organizations will say they have strong boundaries in place, but when employees try to practice these boundaries, they are met with shame and guilt. Boundaries should not only be expressed between an individual and their direct report, but also should be highlighted as a company-wide policy. 

Take the time to reflect with your team members on the needs of your workforce and on what you as the employer can do to gradually improve work-life harmony this year. For more insight on improving your workforce's mental health and well-being, check out our blog on 2024 Mental Health Trends in the Workplace.

 

Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up to date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • Resource Library—essential guides covering a comprehensive list of HR topics
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics
  • Communitythe HR Party of One Community forum, a place devoted to HR professionals to ask questions, learn more, and help others

 

HR Calendar 2024: Key Dates, Deadlines, and More

 

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