In the wake of COVID and the Great Resignation, both employers and employees are exploring ways to battle burnout, retain top talent, and help people find their ideal work-life balance. One of these three strategies could help your company keep morale running high and improve the whole team's Return on Life or help you regain the vigor you once had to extend your working years.
Many have elected to resign from the workplace in light of the changes of COVID – somewhat due to experiencing the freedom of not having to go into the office. Instead of pursuing an earlier than planned retirement, perhaps you consider other options to finding the right balance between continuing to work and collect a paycheck and finding more freedom in your days.
If you are the employee and are hoping to convince your employer to take these steps, take this article with you and tell them there is authority for the benefits of these options.
1. A four-day workweek.
According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Americans log more hours than workers in most other affluent countries, particularly Europeans. And though it's doubtful a French-style, 35-hour workweek would ever catch on in the U.S. some companies have been experimenting with a four-day workweek. 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit, ran a pilot program that found companies who shorten the workweek have an easier time attracting and retaining top talent, and that 78% of employees are happier and less stressed.
It might not sound surprising that one less day of work made employees happier. But tease out the implications of having 8-10 less hours to complete tasks during the week. In order to keep hitting their targets, companies have to streamline their operations, fix inefficiencies, and maximize how they use their employee’s time. That could mean less time spent in an endless loop of meetings and more time focused on using top skills to get things done.
2. A hybrid work model.
A less drastic way for employers to provide flexibility is to continue the hybrid work models that gained popularity during the pandemic. The combination of WFH (work from home) employees and traditional in-office teams gives employees more ownership over how they complete their work and how they live their personal lives. Remote work also widens the hiring net for both jobseekers and employers. Taking it a step further, perhaps you go all remote in your current work environment.
Working remote has many advantages, including spending less time in traffic, saving on gas money (ok, now I have your attention), saving on dry cleaning, and spending less time worrying about your appearance (shaving, makeup, etc.).
Combining travel with remote work is certainly appealing. If I had a friend in Montana, being able to work from their back deck would be an attractive option. Or, spending more time with the grandkids across the country – while still allowing you to collect a paycheck – could provide a nice boost in morale in your later years in retirement. Why wait until retirement to further strengthen key relationships?
If you are fortunate enough to be able to work some remotely, take advantage of its benefits. Work outside on a nice day, play your favorite music (lightly) in the background, make awesome but quick meals for lunch, work out more with your free time, etc. As is the case with many of our blessings, we discount them and don’t truly take advantage of them after a certain period of time.
However, as WFH shifts from pandemic necessity to a norm, we're learning more about some downsides to turning your kitchen table into your office. A study published by Statista in 2022 found that 51.4% of workers felt more stressed working from home. WFH employees need to be very intentional about maintaining a schedule so that they don't feel like they're always on call. And employers need to maintain a strong communication rhythm that keeps all employees connected to the company's culture.
3. Taking a sabbatical.
Offering sabbatical benefits gives employees some extra space to recharge, reassess, and return to an organization with a renewed sense of purpose. The company’s best and brightest might even dream up an innovation that could transform the business.
And if a sabbatical leads that employee to a new career path … Well, he probably wasn’t all that invested in the company to begin with. Better that he finds a job that’s going to develop his ROL and the employer finds a top performer who is all-in on achieving the company’s goals.
Sabbaticals also give employers an opportunity to stress test their companies, especially in the absence of a key player. Who steps up and takes on a more active leadership role? Are your systems efficient enough to keep functioning, regardless of who's pulling the levers? Is your missing team member actually doing so much work that she's only devoting some of her time to her top talents and responsibilities? Or is that employee so vital that you need to reassess her comp package and provide her with a clear path to promotion?
4. Don’t forget about the basics
You don’t necessarily have to make a change in the workplace environment to feel reinvigorated about work and life. Even if your work environment cannot change, there are basic things you can do outside of your work environment to strike a better balance and provide moments of respite – or adventure.
Consider going on weekend trips to a nearby town or attraction. You have probably heard the thought that those traveling to an area see more of the attractions than locals. Is there an attraction you have not seen that is right in your backdoor? Are there cool cabins within a short drive that you should be taking advantage of?
You might also consider developing new hobbies or learning new skills as you get closer to retirement. Not only will this help you better prepare for an enjoyable and purposeful retirement, it could help you be less distracted with negative thoughts about work and might even inspire you to be a more creative and productive employee.
Whether you’re learning how to be a better boss, planning for the next stage of your career, or rounding third base and heading for retirement, having a discussion with a life-focused financial planner can help you connect your highest goals to a financial plan that will support every step of your progress. Call us up and let’s talk about what work-life balance means.