Words: Vanessa Salvia
The popular view of someone enjoying work-life balance is a busy working mom who balances young kids, and grocery store trips then relax with a hot bath and a glass of wine. What does the picture look like for a busy physical laborer who may also be juggling kids, school, work, family life, and now with the pandemic, remote learning, or spouses working from home?
Workers with no work-life balance are prone to burnout, mental health issues, substance abuse, and even physical injury because they just might not pay attention when they are on the jobsite. Overworking takes a toll on any company’s greatest assets: it’s employees. Family conflict, emotional exhaustion, and job dissatisfaction are all prevalent in the construction sector.
As a company owner, improving the work-life balance of your work culture makes sense because when workers have had enough, chances are they just quit. You can lose a lot of good workers for this and have trouble finding good employees. If people are happy and fulfilled, they do a better job and keep coming back to work day after day.
If you are struggling to find some work-life balance, or a business owner trying to figure out how to make your employees happier, try the following suggestions.
- Carve Out Time For The Things You Enjoy
Masonry and related construction fields are among the most physically demanding jobs out there. Work-life balance naturally looks different for those of you with physically demanding jobs. But one facet of work-life balance that does not change, no matter what industry you’re in, is giving yourself time to do things that you enjoy when you are not working. Yes, your spouse and your children need your time and attention, but so do you.
When you get home at the end of the day, chances are everyone in your house (including the dog!) wants your attention. Take a few minutes to give each person (or creature) some undivided attention. Rather than saying, “Let me do this and then I will spend some time with you,” spend the time first. This can reduce the problem behaviors of kids acting out because they want attention, and your family is more likely to let you take the time alone that you need if they have gotten some attention first.
2. Reduce the Work Week But Increase The Working Day
Researchers have found that the construction industry is not known for having flexible working hours. When looking at alternative scheduling, working a shortened work week but increasing the length of the workday was shown to positively influence workers’ work-life balance (Lingard et al., 2007). If you’re in charge of the schedule for your workers for the week, allow people to work four 12-hour days and then take a day off. Let them pick the day off that they want. They are still working long hours, but they can have a sense of control over the time off that they have.
3. Turn Your Phone Off At Home
Chances are, your stated working hours are 8 am to 5 pm. But, companies may pay you a salary and then squeeze every possible hour out of you. Even if you experience pressure from upper management to constantly be available, a little push back can create the healthy boundaries that every employee needs. Once you are home, screen calls and put your phone on silent. Avoid having to answer work-related phone calls after hours unless it is for occasional necessary exceptions. Most problems can wait until the next workday, or until the end of the weekend.
4. Take Those Vacation Days
Research from Achor and the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off initiative has revealed that Americans are using less vacation time today compared to any point in the last 40 years. But skipping vacation time as a way to show that you are working harder can actually backfire. Data demonstrates that employees who take vacation time are more engaged at work and tend to take fewer sick days. Project: Time Off’s study found that employees who use up all of their vacation time are 6.5% more likely to get promoted and get a raise compared with people who leave 11 or more days of paid vacation unused.
5. Take Short Breaks During the Day
Taking short breaks throughout the day helps to stave off burnout. The American Psychological Association says the data is clear: Breaks are refreshing and improve our moods, overall well-being, and performance. Regularly taking a break from work tasks can help restore energy in the short term and prevent burnout in the long term. The psychologists say regularly taking breaks helps people become more resilient when stress increases. Prolonged work increases neural fatigue, which just makes you feel depleted.
Whatever paints the picture of work-life balance may be different for you than for another person. You might want evenings free to coach Little League while someone else might want Saturday mornings free to go fishing. Whatever it is that makes you feel good about how you spend your time off is fair game. Keeping yourself in a good mood and looking forward to going back to work on Monday mornings will help everyone stay happier: you, your family, your clients, and your coworkers.
If you find yourself coming home every day in a bad mood, this will ultimately have a negative effect on you, your physical health, and the people around you. Work and personal life are overwhelming at times for everyone, but when you feel the need to restore a balance, give that as much work and attention as you give your paid day job.
Take the time to relax with your family instead of checking your email night after night. Do something one day of the weekend that is just for you. Whatever it is, it will ultimately help you be the best spouse, parent, friend, and yes, employee, that you can be.