Did you know that according to a 2013 Gallup report only 30 percent of American workers, and 13 percent of employees worldwide, feel engaged at work? These are pretty small numbers, don’t you think?
Burnout is on the rise. According to the article Why You Hate Work (NY Times), this burnout is happening because of the demand on our time, and the ever-presence of technology giving us 24/7 access to email (how many people are still on work email at home well until bedtime?)
What the research shows is that when employees are not having their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs met, they are getting burnt out. Makes sense, right?
The way people feel on the job directly impacts the company’s bottom line (profits). Having a sea of drained, under-performing employees is causing waves.
Research shows employers are taking notice and are more open to making changes.
That’s why I say this burnout problem is good news!
It’s been more common in the past decade that workplaces offer concierge-like benefits to make the workplace more inviting (free, healthy food, game rooms, afternoon cookies and coffee, etc.) While it’s great to see employers making efforts to create a better workplace environment, these amenities are steps towards integrating our work / personal / leisure lives but don’t directly address the problem or offer actual work-life balance.
One idea in the article that stuck out to me was the idea of providing nap rooms. To me, if employers are feeling that nap rooms are a solution to helping us feeling more engaged in the workplace, we are in serious trouble!
Further, this is not what I want to see in my co-workers every day:
Here’s what we might want to say to our employer:
We want workplace flexibility.
We want to be able to create some boundaries so we can go home at reasonable times, enjoy time with our friends and family without work distractions, share a meal, do a variety of other fun activities, and then get rest before the next work day.
We’re ready to talk with you about ways you can help us feel less burned out on the job so we can be happy, healthy, perform at our best and together help the company make lots of money.”
P.S. Hold the Nap Room!”
Lots of companies have written policies which seem to support workplace flexibility (such as working from home occasionally, or working an alternate shift to accommodate a child care schedule) but often there’s not support to effect this flexibility.
Working beyond 40 hours a week and with limited opportunity to take breaks is also reported as wreaking havoc on the well-being of workers. (I know I feel spent when this has happened to me. Don’t you?) Pushing out work emails no matter when or where you are doesn’t help us be healthy employees.
Work hours bleeding into our mornings before we start work (perhaps interrupting a shared-meal with our kids before they start their day), through lunchtime (another time to bond with a co-worker over a healthy lunch) and in the evenings and weekends prevent us from having a meaningful break (not to mention miss having dinner with our families or friends).
The amount of time (the opportunity to be present) and the quality of that time at home (not being distracted by work/technology) offers us the chance to reclaim ourselves, to feel refreshed, renewed, relaxed. When people don’t have the chance to have this time (truly) away from the office activities it creates resentment, too.
As you know, I’m a strong advocate of the need to preserve interpersonal connection and reclaiming life balance through sharing meals with others — with the goal of 1 shared-meal a day.
To achieve this, we need to address obstacles, including work ones, that are keeping us from being able to share meals.
Some might think it’s radical to suggest that we take the lead and talk with our employers about our need to create some boundaries at work. I suggest to you that employers are wanting to hear from us! Research is showing them that it makes good business sense (dollars and cents) to listen and to work with us towards a win-win solution.
If your work hours and schedule have prevented you from taking care of your basic needs, consider meeting with your manager about your need to reduce burnout and better balance your work and home life.
Here are a few actions you might want to take before you meet, and a few things to consider:
1. Check to see if your company has a written policy regarding work hours. Know going into the meeting what the policies are and ask for a work schedule that might be better for your lifestyle and well-being.
2. Ask your supervisor to support you in creating a boundary for the end of the workday, and then stick to it. Also, don’t put undue pressure on yourself — promise yourself you’ll resist the temptation to ‘finish just one more thing’ before you leave. Acknowledge there may be necessary exceptions, but have a plan.
3. Program a reminder to sound fifteen minutes before you plan to leave and begin wrapping up on time. To keep yourself committed, ask those waiting for you at home to start preparing dinner, or establish a time and place for standing restaurant reservations with a friend.
4. Prepare (and then bring to the meeting with your supervisor) a wish list on a piece of paper that you’ll refer to during your meeting. Start with the minimum requirements in your pursuit of work-life balance–for example, to arrive to work at 8:30am instead of 8:00am so you can enjoy a shared breakfast with your toddler, or to have the freedom to defer work email responses received after 7pm until the next work day, or to enjoy paid time off without any work interruptions.
5. Include any considerations that will help you to stay committed to your employer, such as earning a one-month paid sabbatical after 10 years of service. Remember, this is a wish list…be creative!
6. Research companies who have active policies that support the work-life balance of their employees. A good employer will have a vested interest in the well-being of their employees and will stay progressive in their policies so they don’t lose you to a competitor.
Keep in mind that your wishes must be reasonable. Your employer cannot consider requests which interfere with business operations or your ability to do your job with the excellence for which you are paid. I’m not suggesting you approach your supervisor like a bull in a china shop but rather identify what flexible work arrangements might be available to you and have a respectful conversation with your supervisor to gain his/her support. Some workplaces are more open to a dialogue than others, so make your suggestions accordingly.
If all of this sounds too scary (and with some employers, it might be) at a minimum, research the work-life balance and flexibility options your company offers and identify the ones of personal value. Keep those in mind for the next opportunity to talk with your supervisor, and don’t give up!
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Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions related to work-life balance suggestions, or any questions about shared meals in general! I’d love to hear from you and am always happy to help.