“Work-life balance is easy,” said no one, ever.
The truth is, the mash-up of work and life has already happened. We are always on, always connected, always reachable. But, we don’t have to just live with this new reality. Instead, we can own it and make it as good as possible — and shape our own happiness.
And part of shaping your own happiness in work and life is knowing when you need to hit the pause button.
I try to take a summer vacation every year — time off to travel and reflect. This year in Paris and Berlin, I was able to fully unplug and spend time hanging out with my son, as well as reading, reflecting and rejuvenating — to me, the critical three Rs of a meaningful vacation. Critical, because those three Rs are what allow me to come back to my desk refreshed and ready to lead my team (two more Rs).
The benefits of taking time off — and the risks of not doing so — are well documented. Research shows that work exhaustion without sufficient recovery increases the odds of health and safety issues. Overwork is a detriment to both ourselves and our companies. It can lead to health problems like impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory and heart disease. For companies, that all equates to disengaged or absent employees, high turnover and rising healthcare costs.
And, working more doesn’t actually accomplish more — working more than 50 hours per week cuts deeply into productivity, and productivity drops off completely after 55 hours.
Ultimately, we’ve all felt it: Trying to push forward and ignore exhaustion cuts down on our ability to persevere, to bounce back from difficult days and to feel invested in the work we do.
It’s not surprising, then, that employees overwhelmingly rank work-life balance and flexible companies as a major draw. A Justwork’s survey earlier this year found that 42 percent of employees would take a lower-paying job if it offered a greater degree of workplace flexibility. And according to research conducted with Fortune 500 companies, employees with higher work flexibility “voiced higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress” than those with less flexibility.
While true work-life balance can be hard to achieve, business owners can offer and encourage their teams to unplug in order to boost employee happiness, engagement and productivity. We offer unlimited PTO at Justworks to encourage people to take time off and restore the balance in their lives. We’ve built a culture where staff can feel like their teams are more than capable of covering for them when they take those breaks.
But, even if unlimited vacation policies may not be feasible for your company, encouraging staff to take PTO and recharge is beneficial for both your business and your employees. And, trying to make sure people fully unplug by discouraging “working vacations” and limiting work outside of work hours can go a long way to minimizing employee exhaustion.
You could also consider offering perks like the freedom to work from home or work flexible hours to give employees a little extra freedom and headspace without sacrifice to the company. That kind of flexibility also helps to communicate your appreciation for the hard work they do when they are working. And, by giving your team more say in the actual terms of their commitment to your company, you can both help them feel more empowered and actually strengthen that commitment.
I’m lucky enough to love what I do. I love what we’re building here at Justworks. I love our mission to free entrepreneurs who are serious about taking care of their teams to focus on building their businesses and becoming a great place to work. But, even in love, you need space for yourself. I know that unplugging and taking real time off always helps me come back with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. I encourage my team to do the same, and to make sure their time off is just as meaningful as their time in the office.
But, it’s not just altruism — I know that our company benefits, too, when our employees take the time to recharge.