In the recent article by Gallup, How to Eliminate Burnout and Retain Top Talent, by Ben Wigert, burnout is perceived to be a reality in over 70% of today’s workforce. That’s an astounding number!
Wherever you may find yourself in digesting that statistic, the author suggests that organizations create “burnout free” environments that are focused on improving employee engagement, supporting the well being of employees, and cultivating an environment that celebrates each person’s individual strengths. This is not new information. However, it’s not easy to do.
The second antidote to burnout was the one that captured my attention. In the discussion about supporting the wellbeing of employees, Mr. Wigert used a phrase that seems relevant to me. The concept is to help employees foster work-life integration. Not work-life balance, rather work-life integration.
The idea is to help employees bring their best selves to work, AND their best self to home, integrating their responsibilities in either place with each other to achieve greater life satisfaction. This is nothing new; in fact, you might say this has always been the ideal. But, we have been languishing in the reality of COVID restrictions and been challenged to adjust to new realities in our lives for quite awhile. This concept has taken on new meaning. Perhaps it has a more urgent and important meaning today.
As leaders, it has become more urgent to support our employees in making their work fit their current life situations and adjusting whenever possible when challenges arise. Wherever flexibility can be granted without affecting team results, it is important to look for ways to make that happen. It could be as simple as offering the next afternoon off after an unexpected late-night phone call the evening before. Flex hours are more commonplace, as is working from home whenever possible. This is especially true for roles that require on-site work hours. Providing flexibility wherever possible translates to empathy in the employee’s workplace experience. Increasing the frequency of check-ins that are authentic and caring while collaborating on new, perhaps more flexible ways to get the work done is critical in engaging employees. Encouraging and helping remote employees feel connected to their teammates is important in managing both people and process. Authentic, transparent relationships that provide safety and flexibility is a new challenge for most of us as we approach each other with a balance of both honest empathy and clear expectations to get work done with good results.
There is no playbook for supporting work-life integration, but there IS an opportunity to ask employees what can be done to help their home life improve at the same time they are creating value in the workplace. When employees are asked with genuine interest and concern, they often ask for less that we think they will. Matching clear expectations with a flexible approach to giving the employee freedom to get the work done is the essence of work life integration. It may also be a backdrop for employee retention and enjoyment of their work. It appears that there is much potential in pursuing conversations that foster better experiences at both home and work in the future. I believe the leaders who genuinely attempt to do this will create environments where burnout is less frequent and employees feel empowered to do great work with less stress on their home life.
To learn more about fostering work life integration and developing your leadership skills, contact Fran for a consultation.