The Importance of Balance for Today’s Always-On Workforce

Women standing in a glass office with her hands outstretched

What do you get when you combine a career-driven, always-on society with a global pandemic? A whole new dynamic with competing priorities and unexpected distractions – all of which makes it harder than ever for employees to find balance in their lives.

Recently, I sat down with Kelly Lavin, SVP of Talent at Jobvite, to talk about work, rest, balance, and the importance of supporting these opportunities for everyone. Here are some key takeaways from that conversation.

Balance is part of Jobvite’s foundation

At Jobvite, balance is at the heart of our employer brand. Kelly’s role at Jobvite includes making sure the company’s policies, practices, communication, and behavior work together to help employees live a more balanced life. In fact, two of Jobvite’s core values speak directly to the need for balance:

  • We Care means we care about the entire person – not just what they can do for us.
  • Embrace a Growth Mindset acknowledges that you have to rest in order to grow.

When the Jobvite leadership team talks about rest and balance, they look to create programs that support employees who truly embody our values – those who contribute a lot, have a great work ethic, care about each other, and are helpful to their coworkers. And they recognize that those aren’t always the employees with the longest tenure.

Most policies related to rest and balance allow people to unlock greater benefits the longer they’re with the company. But someone in their first or second year can get just as burned out as someone in their fifth year. Jobvite aims to create policies that provide employees with flexible options for rest and time off when they need it.

Don’t let employees burn out before taking time off

Because some employees tend to take less time off when it’s flexible, companies need to take a thoughtful approach to implementing their policies in order to achieve the intended effect. To counter this tendency, Jobvite provides time off reports to leaders for review to make sure employees are actually taking time off.

It can also be harder to recognize the symptoms of burnout, both in ourselves and in our employees. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all had times where we’ve gone past the point of healthy stress without doing something about it. So, it’s important to think of rest as a preventative measure, similar to exercise and a healthy diet. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take a break!

For leaders, it’s critical to understand that the signs of burnout manifest differently in everyone. Personality assessments can be a great tool for less obvious stress behaviors that may be different from your own. For example, some people become quiet and withdrawn, or unusually irritable; others try to control things or become hyper-focused on a specific task. Kelly’s favorite interview question is, “How will your manager know when you’re stressed and burning out?” Knowing your people at an individual level can help you make sure they’re getting rest when they need it.

Managers should also recognize that they set the tone for their entire team. Employees notice when you don’t take time off – and they’re likely to follow suit.

Celebrate balance – not perpetual sacrifice

Companies tend to celebrate sacrifice – going above and beyond, staying late, coming in on your day off, pitching in to get the job done. And while those things are important, they cannot be an employee’s perpetual existence.

In addition to celebrating a job well done, look for opportunities to celebrate stories of employees finding balance in their lives. Jobvite uses Slack and other channels to highlight employees’ passions outside of work – gardening, video games, animals, movies, etc. These outside interests give your brain a break and help to detach from day-to-day problem solving – and they should be celebrated.

Remember that spending more hours working doesn’t always mean that more (or better) work is getting done. Employees should be encouraged to use breaks, rest, and non-work activities to unlock their best performance and creativity.

Create policies that are resilient and flexible

The COVID pandemic may have changed the way people feel about vacations, but it hasn’t changed the need to create policies that help employees to find balance. Jobvite’s policies are designed to be resilient and flexible enough to work in the current environment – and whatever comes next.

Kelly shared that in recent months, people haven’t taken much time off – often because they’re not able to travel. Through regular survey feedback from Employees, she’s also heard that, without the commute to and from work, people are struggling to figure out how and when to transition between “work time” and “home time.” Partnering with an employee survey tool, like Glint, is an important way Jobvite keeps a regular pulse on what employees need.

This feedback prompted Jobvite’s leadership to implement “bonus holidays” – occasional extra days off that allow everyone to disconnect at the same time, without having to give themselves permission to take a day off. This flexible solution allowed Jobvite to quickly address the potential for pandemic-related burnout.

Make sure people can bring their “whole self” to work

Every employee has their own set of circumstances, challenges, and motivations – from single parents who are now helping with e-learning at home to adults dealing with the health concerns of aging parents. Because of this, Kelly emphasizes the importance of crafting programs with flexibility and humanity, to meet each employee’s individual needs.

There’s still a lot to learn in this area, as employees have traditionally been discouraged from bringing their personal lives to work. Jobvite’s leadership team is focused on going beyond just meeting people where they are, to find new and innovative ways of accommodating people’s personal and professional obligations.

Advice for employees struggling to find balance

While rest and balance may seem like simple ideas, they don’t come naturally for many people. Here are a few ideas for people who are struggling to find balance:

  • Remember that rest isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Take a long weekend, or even an afternoon, rather than a full week of vacation.
  • Recognize that there are many ways to rest. While travel might not be possible right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t take time off! Try spending some down time in other activities, like gardening, baking, playing videos games, working out, reading, or watching movies.
  • Work with your manager to come up with a plan for your time away. Leaders are responsible for managing their team, which includes helping to remove roadblocks and shifting work responsibilities if needed so you can take the time you deserve.
  • Find ways to balance the workday, every day. This could include yoga or meditation, an app like Headspace, a walking meeting, or taking a bike ride in the middle of the day. Rest is all about finding what works for you.
  • Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Work is an extension of yourself and a part of who you are, but make sure it’s not your everything. Take time to relax with your family, reconnect with friends, or attend a child’s play or sporting event.

Finding balance isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky goal. It’s a responsibility that everyone should embrace – for themselves, for their families, for their co-workers, and for their employees. Jobvite is committed to supporting this critical value through its policies and practices, both now and in the future.