Five steps to becoming an effective work-life balance manager

Claire
McCartney of Roffey Park outlines the five steps you need to take to achieve
the right work-life balance in your workplace

Previous
research by Roffey Park has demonstrated the importance of organisational
culture in enabling work-life balance.

For
many employees, the organisational culture is actually embodied in the attitude
and behaviours of their immediate line manager. Therefore, whether an
individual feels able to discuss issues outside of work, request different ways
of working and believes that the organisation genuinely enables balance will
depend largely on the skills of their immediate manager in creating an open
culture of trust and respect.

Follow
the five steps below (based on Roffey Park’s latest phase of research) to
develop and improve your work-life balance managerial skills.

1.
Develop open lines of communication

Create
an environment within your team where employees feel able to approach you, not
only about work-related issues but also personal issues and work-life balance
needs if they arise. Developing open lines of communication is particularly
crucial if you are a manager of employees on flexible or home-based contracts
who could potentially feel very isolated from the organisation. In
circumstances like these you, as their line manager, represent their lifeline
to the organisation, so remember to communicate, communicate, communicate.

2.
Understand the issues faced by each individual employee

It
is important to understand that when it comes to work-life balance there is no
one-size-fits-all model. Employees are unique and have very different needs
that change at different stages of their lives. Take time to learn about your
team members’ personal circumstances – this will enable you to grasp if someone
has a genuine need and to address any problems that arise.

3. Be a role model      

Being
a role model can be a very effective tool for demonstrating an organisation’s
commitment to work-life balance and at the same time if a manager is seen to
have work-life balance values it reinforces the message that individuals can
progress within the organisation even when they make choices that support
balance. However, role modelling is also about exuding a sense of personal
control and calm. A manager who is calm at all times instills in their staff a
sense of confidence and security and as such the staff are more likely to
approach their own work in a measured and controlled way and will feel able to
approach the manager when they feel they need help in maintaining control.

4.
Demonstrate genuine concern, empathy and trust in employees

A
good work-life balance manager will affirm the importance of employees’ balance
needs, and exhibit a sincere attitude of caring towards employees. As a manager
you need to have the capacity to empathise with employees and recognise that
having personal needs does not prohibit an employee from having strong loyalty
to the organisation or from being motivated to perform well. Employees tend to
respond to caring managers with considerable loyalty and a willingness to put
in extra effort and time when required. However, remember employees are quick
to recognise insincerity – an insincere display of caring is likely to do more
harm than good.

5.
Facilitate and empower

Finally,
it is important to recognise that work-life balance is actually a joint
organisation-employee responsibility. It is your responsibility as a manager to
ensure that you put the conditions in place to facilitate work-life balance and
empower individuals. It is then down to the individuals to take responsibility
for their own work-life balance.

Many
of the conditions that you need to put in place are specifically related to
ensuring manageable workloads, such as setting clear and realistic plans,
shifting workloads among team members, pushing back up the chain of command
when necessary, and redefining deadlines as conditions change. It is also
important to keep an open-mind and experiment with different ways of working
that could both maximise the work-life balance of your team and also,
importantly, suit the needs of the business. 

For
more information, read our ‘At a glance guide to flexible working’ in this
week’s Personnel Today.

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