We’ve made it. We’ve finally arrived at that time of year. A time we all look forward to for a variety of reasons. Some of us are looking for more time with family and friends. Others are looking for a getaway. For some solo time. For many, the end of the year triggers us to evaluate our life goals and recalibrate how we’re pursuing them. However you choose to deal with it, we’re all looking for a break, knowing that a new year of work-life balance challenges is just around the corner.
Now, as we look for some relief from the usual hustle—especially in the tech world, is the perfect time to take a hard look at mental health at work. It’s more important than ever to improve balance in our lives. However, not every person and organization is very good at ensuring the breaks necessary for mental health balance.
Our beloved tech industry is especially guilty of replacing those necessary breaks with even more deadlines and overwork. Which, as you can imagine, is not great for work-life balance.
Why this imbalance at work matters
Keep in mind that the WHO recently raised alerts on how work-life imbalance directly leads to the loss of approximately 12 billion working days globally. Depression doesn’t lead to an active, productive workforce. Anxiety does not lead to an active, productive workforce. Work-life balance does not lead to an active, productive workforce. It’s worth repeating.
And it’s worth fixing. In fact, it’s urgent that we fix this.
As in any system, balance has two elements. Both ends need to proactively participate and commit. Efforts and initiatives lose traction when one of the parties doesn’t actively embrace them.
For work-life balance, organizations and their employees as the two elements looking for equilibrium. Here are some conscious actions each party can enact to ignite mental health in their workplace.
12 billion working days per year are lost due to burnout—the depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms resulting from a severe lack of work-life balance.The World Health Organization
How can companies promote healthy work-life balance?
Communication. Facilitate an open and honest conversation about work-life balance between both team members and supervisors. You need to take the taboo away from asking for help, saying no to deadlines, or admitting to burnout. Encourage teams to share their needs and constraints and work together towards solutions.
Task delegation. Promote task delegation and trust among teams. When people know they can count on each other to step up, it’s easier to avoid overworking while maintaining productivity. Avoid micro-management at all costs!
Expectations. Set clear expectations and guidelines from the get-go to help your employees have a full understanding of their responsibilities and expected outcomes for any process or project they’re involved in. This is such an important consideration for them to plan their workloads accordingly.
Flexible work environment. Encourage flexible work arrangements and promote them as a trust-based benefit. Communicate to your employees that you believe their skillset and capabilities are good enough to fulfill their goals and responsibilities well on time.
Put these strategies into action, and your employees will, at a minimum, appreciate it. If done well, you might not notice anything. Because you’re working to prevent burnout. If all goes well, you should see less burnout than before.
As in any balancing act, both parties need to work towards equilibrium.
How can employees do their part to achieve work-life balance?
Trust your team for support. Seek support from your co-workers and supervisors. It is easier to implement improvements in our daily routines when we know there are others we can count on. Avoid solo flights when you have an entire crew aboard.
Do things outside of work. Look for activities and hobbies outside work and stick to them. Fulfillment can’t just come from your work, or you’ll find yourself easily overworking. Having multiple sources of fulfillment, some at work and some outside of it, will give you a sense of self-balance and positively impact your performance.
Pay attention to your mental health. Practice self-care and take steps to improve your mental health. Prioritize activities that reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
Find an organization system that works for you. Stay organized on what you have to do and the deadlines that are coming up. Reduce distractions in the workplace as much as possible so you can follow your organizational plan. This will allow you to plan regular breaks without compromising productivity.
Set clear, reasonable boundaries. Set clear boundaries between your personal life and work activities, and you’ll find yourself enjoying both more consciously.
Work-life imbalance is getting talked about more than ever. It’s a serious issue that’s been right under our noses for years. Decades even. The consequences are far-reaching for both individuals and organizations. We don’t even know the full extent of the damage that’s already been done.
The first step towards remedying this and preventing further damage is consensus. Let’s agree that there is a problem. Let’s agree that we all have to be part of the solution. And let’s start doing that right now.
We’re already reprioritizing goals and optimizing strategies for next year. Wouldn’t it be nice to make solid progress on this issue that affects all of us while we’re all in the same end-of-year frame of mind?