Now, more than ever, time management and work-life balance are important to maintain top talent and success.
How many times have you heard the phrase, “Do more with less”? This seems to be the mantra for government workers for more than six years. The resulting mentality of the “do more with less” approach creates a serious disparity for employees’ work-life balance. Even worse, employee burnout within agencies is skyrocketing.
Recently, a friend and coworker called me in despair. After spending more than three decades in the armed forces and other government positions, he told me “Andy, I just can’t take anymore and am thinking about leaving.” His statement shocked me, as he always seemed to enjoy his work. I asked him why.
“It’s too much…I work from eight in the morning to eight at night. Then I work on the weekends. 40 hours work weeks haven’t existed for well over two years now,” he told me. I asked if his boss knew how much he was working. He responded with “Yes, and it is expected. When I mention how stressed I am, they tell me that we have to do more with less.”
I was appalled that it was an established workplace norm to expect employees to spend so much of their own time working. I questioned him, “What would happen if you stopped working the extra days and hours?” His response was worse than before, stating “My boss would lower my performance rating.”
Is this the working-world within which we now operate? Is management willing to sacrifice talent by disregarding basic needs for work-life balance?
Work-life balance is not a new topic or fad. There are plenty of studies, books and articles dating back to the late 1970s through the present. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, prior incarnations of work-life balance began in some of the manufacturing laws enacted in the late 1800s through to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. However, an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study (as outlined by Small Biz Trends) showed that 66 percent of American workers strongly believe they do not have a work-life balance.
Furthermore, creating boundaries for work time and family/leisure time is necessary to keep leaders and employees high-performing. Feeling balanced and refreshed, when coming to work, allows folks to be more creative, engaged and interactive. Excessive working is detrimental to overall wellbeing (both at work and at home). In addition, it can lead to individual passive disengagement or, worse, active disengagement.
Striking the balance between work and family/leisure involves efforts from leaders and employees. Effective time management is a significant contributing factor with imbalance. Ways to improve your time management include:
- Prioritize your list of tasks and complete your most important task first.
- Avoid multitasking, focus on the task you are working.
- Respect your time and the time of others (do not let meetings run over allotted time).
- Be honest and say “no” if you can’t take on additional tasks at that moment.
- Set boundaries for worktime and hold yourself accountable to them.
Leaders should be setting an example of what are and are not acceptable hours for working. Even if there are looming deadlines or piles of work that need to be completed, leaders must care and account for their employees. In the end, which is more important – achieving a goal faster or losing a talented employee?
Employees must also heed the call for balancing their time. Some employees willingly choose to work excessive extra hours. Leaders should help educate these employees on the risks associated with a work-life imbalance.
A positive work-life balance is necessary to be at your best. It is also a key driver for organizations retaining top talent. You can have a successful career and private life at the same time. Don’t allow work-life imbalance to be your accepted norm.
Andy Reitmeyer is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is the Associate Director for the Engagement and Retention office, Internal Revenue Service. He is responsible for leading engagement strategies for IRS. He has been part of the IRS Engagement and Retention office since its inception. Andy’s tenure with IRS includes numerous domestic and international senior leadership roles. Andy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Point Park University, a Juris Doctor from Taft University and a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University. In addition, he has a French Language Diploma from the French Government. Andy is a graduate of the IRS Executive Readiness Program. You can read his posts here.