Some say time is money. I personally think it's worth much, much more than that. Time is the single most valuable resource we all have on this planet.
Therefore, it's incredibly important that we do our best to protect it. If you're a manager with hourly employees, the employee schedule is the core operational tool you can use to manage and protect time for your team.
As you create the work schedule, you're performing a task with the most direct impact on whether your workforce will experience work-life balance.
Did you know 35% of the total hours you awake are spent at work? This is assuming you sleep 8 hours per night. And, 50% of your total waking hours during any given working day are spent at work.
We dedicate a lot of time to work. But, it's not all of our time. Your employees (hopefully) have a life outside of the office. There is another 50% of our lives. You know, those things called friends, hobbies, family, pets, etc.
Life is so much more than what happens while "on-the-clock." A good work-life balance is difficult ones to achieve, but also one of the most important and rewarding.
As you sit down to plan the shifts for your team, you're planning how you will spend the most valuable resource a person has. This is a great privilege and a process that should not be taken lightly. The employee experience begins and ends with their schedule.
Here are five tips to help you create a better work-life balance for you and your team as you prepare your employee schedule.
Make work-life balance a value/policy
Your company most likely has a set of values or beliefs that guide your culture and decisions. Consider making work-life balance one of these values. Add it to the list. Talk about it openly at your company. Let your team know that it is part of the framework for how you make decisions (including decisions related to your schedule).
When new employees join your team, let them know upfront about this value. Tell them you deeply care about finding a good balance and that you have certain rules and policies established in order to support this value.
By making work-life balance part of your core values, you make it a thread that is woven into your organizational fabric. It will be a part of everything you do.
Set overtime rules/limits
Often companies create rules and policies that directly support their core values. It keeps them honest. Saying you have a core value is not enough. You must live it. One way to make sure this happens is to set specific rules to help you and your team live by the values you define.
For example, in order to stick to your value of work-life balance, you can set a rule that no one should work more than a 40-hour workweek. Or, you can make a policy that allows any employee with a family event or emergency to find another team member to cover their shift in order to be there.
Sometimes you can't avoid overtime. Life happens and your team has to pick up the slack. But, it's good to keep in mind that regular, high levels of overtime have many negative side-effects like health problems, safety risks, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and increased turnover. You should consider overtime rules and limits to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Give your employees power over their schedule
Don't make the schedule creating the process a job for one person. Make it something the entire team tackles together. We call this collective scheduling. In order to do this, you will need to provide control and access to your employees when it comes to the schedule.
Provide them with the ability to communicate about the schedule whenever and wherever they are using technology. Without this ability, your team won't be able to create a true collective scheduling experience.
With this approach, a great schedule is one that works for everyone. A bad schedule is one where one or more of your team members has to make a major work-life balance sacrifice for the sake of the schedule.
Make your employee schedule accessible. Ensuring your schedule is somewhere that each of your employees has access to empowers a dynamic, real-time, and constantly improving schedule.
Paper-based scheduling tools can create roadblocks when trying to make changes. Consider using employee scheduling software to establish a hub where all things scheduling will live. Make sure it empowers your employees' communication related to things like:
- Time off requests;
- Availability updates;
- Who has important life-outside-of-work events happening;
- The upcoming schedule;
- Changes to the published schedule;
- Shift swapping;
- Open shifts to be claimed.
Set realistic and manageable goals
When I set goals in my life that are unrealistic, I tend to stretch myself thin, make sacrifices in other areas, and do everything I can in order to reach them. This can be good when I achieve something I wouldn't have if not for the lofty goal. But, it can also have terrible ramifications on my work-life balance and other areas of my life.
If you set unrealistic or un-manageable goals for your team, you're setting them up for failure when it comes to work-life balance. You're indirectly communicating that you expect they sacrifice life for the sake of achieving goals at work. It's not worth it. Set goals that can be achieved with reasonable hours and a healthy work-life balance in place.
Get to know their life outside of work
If you're trying to encourage work-life balance using your schedule, one of the best steps you can take is to get to know your employees' lives outside of work. We recommend taking the time to sit down with each team member and ask them about what motivates them outside of work. Ask them about their dreams, passions, and hopes.
Then directly ask them if there's anything you can do from a scheduling standpoint to help them reach these. Take notes and leverage a roster to track these conversations. If you encourage and support this, you'll be amazed at the productivity, loyalty, and happiness you see from your employees.
Sometimes long hours are required. There are busy times of the year where you and your team have to push hard to reach goals or meet demand. It happens. Life is cyclical. But, make it clear that you want each of your employees to be happy with their schedule and allow it to work with their lives outside of work, so they can be happier at work. Put these tips to work and you will see improved employee engagement and retention. It will even help you attract employees!
Spencer Rule is Head of Growth at ZoomShift.com. ZoomShift provides scheduling and time-tracking software to teams that treasure time, invest in their people, value simplicity, and foster communication. While Spencer is not working to grow ZoomShift, you can find him relaxing with family, throwing plastic at a local disc golf course, fiddling with guitar pedals, or riding a board on a lake.