Six strategies for better balance
Communicate that the organisation’s success is based on a marathon, not a sprint.
While there will still be high stakes, time-sensitive issues like beating a competitor to market with a new product, acknowledge that endurance is the goal, and speed is not the best metric for long-term success. You can communicate this to your team, model it and create organisational principles around it. Consistency between what you say and do is essential. Remind your employees they can’t do their best if they don’t take time to decompress.
Hire enough staff, and take turns taking time off. People get sick, need to care for family members or go on vacation. Child care falls through. If your team would be seriously incapacitated by one person’s absence, you have a personnel problem. No one should feel indispensable. Allowing team members to have a breather without feeling as if things will fall apart reinforces trust, collaboration and efficiency.
Remind people that we all have physical limitations. Doing too much can result in sleep deprivation that not only damages our health, but negatively affects our brains’ executive functions like problem-solving, reasoning and organising. This affects work performance, organisational health and financial performance. People who work long hours are more likely to drink excessively and have health issues. Conversely, making time for regular exercise confers a host of mental health benefits that improves on-the-job performance. Encouraging your team to set regular, reasonable hours supports a healthy lifestyle, which in turn supports better teamwork.
Distribute work more evenly.
Managers underestimate how much time it takes to get something done and assign additional work to those who are seen as more competent and responsible. So the only reward for doing good work is more work. High performers have reported feeling unhappy about others’ over reliance on them. Reassigning work to other team members can help prevent burnout
Set and keep your boundaries.
Setting and keeping your own reasonable boundaries will give others permission to do so. One leader I worked with said she did her best thinking outside the office. She’d spend Monday mornings at home or in a café with her e-mail closed. Communicating this option for flexibility gave her team members implicit permission to do what they needed to achieve their best work.
Debunk limiting beliefs and assumptions. You can get in your own way when it comes to setting and keeping boundaries. Sue, a partner at a global professional services firm, desperately wanted to carve out a life for herself outside of work.
She realised her belief was that if she did not work so intensely, she would not be successful.
She conferred with other professionals she viewed as successful about how they set and kept boundaries to have a life outside work. She saw that their boundary-setting behaviours fuelled their success, rather than obstructing it.
This helped her to see the flaws in her underlying assumptions. She recalibrated to have more personal time.