Blog: Leading Towards a True Work-Life Balance

By KRaynes

Leading Towards a True Work-life balance

HR in Hospitality blog 03 November 2021- Esther O’Halloran (Chair)

“Leading towards a true work-life balance”

We heard a thought provoking and insightful perspective from Matthew Cameron @Hospro today on happiness at work and if we need to shift our perspective on work-life balance for our teams.

The questions we should be asking ourselves and our business….

What actions can you take to improve work-life balance? (consider things such as ensuring we have mental health first aiders, we enable hybrid working and are more accommodating to flexible working requests)

But what are we missing? Do we need to change our focus on preventing things happening to staff by creating happy work environments to ensure we’re paying equal attention to both the work and the life side of the work-life balance. We need to ensure we do not just take a blanket approach.

Do we really know the most common causes of unhappiness at work? (Lack of appreciation, no development, poor work relations, no clear achievable goals, no authority to make decisions, untrained management etc).

What do we know about common causes of unhappiness in life? (Relationship breakdowns, paying the mortgage, loneliness, having no purpose, lack of identity, not feeling valued, financial problems). Actually, the most common cause is actually work.

It’s extremely difficult to have a healthy work-life balance without a healthy work life.

So here is the challenge for us all…. How much autonomy do we give our people? Are we stuck in our ways and insist on doing it only this way, so we are not listening to maybe better ways of doing things? Does breaking the psychological contract with our teams creating a lack of trust where happiness and performance start to dip over time? Does this then affect other interventions we put in place eg mental health first aid, open door policies? We know, and the research certainly tells us, that younger employees are looking for purpose, mastery or autonomy and without it can feel really alone and without a sense of belonging.  We know our sector means long (or late) hours so this often means less time for life or friends - if we can’t change this, what can we control? Read: Dan Pink’s book “Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us”  So as the mindsets of our employees change, perhaps so do ours.

Matthew shared his own very powerful and personal story and how his journey began. Taking some key points from his story I think HR can learn is to consider the following:

  • Visualisation is an important tool – how can we help our teams visualise their own success as well as that of the organisation?
  • We know we have interventions in place to support people who have gone through trauma, but what about those who have no triggers or mental illness and appear balanced on the surface with nothing seeming wrong in their ‘work-life’ balance? Is it effective to be purely reactive rather than preventative?
  • How would we know if the actual work is making our people unhappy or ‘miserable’ or not?
  • How can we look for a counterbalance for staff to make the ‘life’ side equal or greater than the ‘work’ sense? What if we lightened the emotional weight of work for our teams?

Now here is an interesting thought?? Why is there a dash between work-life balance does this create a disconnect? Would it be more appropriate to write work + life and have a plus between the 2 as each side is equally important.

Consider the demographics of your teams and their average age and shift in mindset of what people want from work. According to a recent survey from Fourth the average age is in our sector is 30 and 20% of ‘front of house’ staff are under the age of 21. So more younger people or GenZ in our industry! We need to understand the motivational mindset of this generation and we need to understand what makes them tick! Are we failing in this?

So, what is the solution? Ave we empowered front line managers and given them the tools to create environments where people can thrive? Yes we may have set up open door policies and a whole range of amazing practices but if staff don’t have any trust in their managers will they ever have faith in things being improved? Trust in leaders has a direct correlation with job satisfaction, productivity and ultimately turnover. PHE (Public Health England) recent report recognised mental wellbeing at work and made recommendations that all employers give mental health training for managers.

So is it down to getting the work balance right for everyone so the life balance can also be achieved?

To view the slide presentation, please click here