These days, the workweek has morphed from a 9-5 proposition to a blur of personal and business needs being attended to simultaneously. Our busy lives move at warp speed, helped (or not) by the ever present gadgets we arm ourselves with to stay connected 24/7 – smart phones, tablets, and even wearable tech like the Apple Watch.
Regarding how our gizmos can prove to be a boon, or a bane – Forbes writer Jacquelyn Smith has a great quote on the topic:
“Technology is a good servant, but a bad master. Remember that BlackBerrys, iPhones and other devices exist to make your life easier, not to rule it.”
One of the ways we at 4Patriots have encouraged our team to lead both fulfilling work and personal lives is to embrace the opportunity to work from home. Our Nashville headquarters crew typically graces our office three days per week, and tackles the rest of the time from their own digs. Our out-of-area remote team members are only seen during video meetings, or once every few months at HQ.
Having both been subject to the antiquated corporate cubicle “non-culture” for years, my wife and I established a new philosophy in creating our own company: if the work being produced is top caliber and delivered on time, location simply doesn’t matter.
We also espouse a liberal vacation and time off policy. Our people may decide to stay loosely connected especially when big projects are due, but we understand and encourage people to really “unplug” to recharge their mental and emotional batteries. Doing so, we believe, makes them more present, productive, and creative in their work – which ultimately helps our bottom line.
Even with the phrase “work-life balance” being bandied about on blogs and social media, it remains a somewhat nebulous term. Different businesses, depending on their model and market served, will need to approach their employees’ needs in this regard differently.
Here are some basic suggestions I’ve seen work to set the tone, when applied in my own fast-growing business:
Encourage “compartmentalization.” This sounds like a mouthful, but the simple idea is to establish healthy boundaries for work and personal life. This could mean setting regular working hours and a protocol for team members to let people know when they will be out of the office. Scheduling regular meetings will also help ensure that important work is getting done, and workers can manage their personal appointments around them.
Foster a culture of empowerment. Trust allows others to feel loyal and valued, which in turn inspires them to give their very best. Employees with integrity are worth their weight in gold. By adhering to sound recruiting and leadership principles based on teamwork rather than hierarchy, you’ll get to that goal faster. People of high moral standards will only schedule personal time as needed, and in the rare occurrence it becomes an issue affecting their performance, you can always address it with one-on-ones or performance reviews.
Stay connected, but don’t connect. With our smart phones and other gadgetry at the ready, we can always connect if needed – but use that privilege judiciously. Be respectful of your team member’s family and personal time, and only connect if it’s truly urgent – by text, email, or less intrusive methods. This will build trust and boost employee morale… essential ingredients to a happy and satisfying work life.
None of us is perfect, but with a little effort and some common sense guidelines, your company can be on its way to forging ahead with employees who are much less stressed and more productive, because they have time to attend to all the parts of their busy lives.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.