When a company constantly honors employees who burn the candle at both ends, the message is loud and clear to everybody else: heroics are worth more than consistent excellence. It’s demoralizing and the perfect recipe for turnover and burnout.
Employees who never unplug can’t keep up the pace. And the dependable workers – the ones who always crush it, no matter what, yet leave everyday at 5 o’clock – they’re less likely to stick around because they don’t feel supported or appreciated.
While every business will require concerted bursts of effort, promoting a healthy work-life balance for all employees, no matter how many extra hours they can work, is key to retaining your best talent and promoting productivity in a sustainable way.
If you feel like your company is suffering from a culture that puts overwork on a pedestal and ignores smart work, it’s okay – you can fix it. Here are five ways to reward consistency over heroics and boost morale:
1. Celebrate all types of wins (not just the big ones)
One of the easiest ways to engage employees and cultivate a culture that promotes a healthy work-life balance is by consciously deciding which types of victories your company wants to recognize.
Celebrating all types of wins, like quarterly goals met or a particularly grueling project gone right, publicly and company-wide, can go a long way in showing your employees that you value smart work more than overwork.
2. Make sure managers reinforce expectations of availability
Direct managers have a huge influence on the day-to-day experience of employees. Which means managers need to really work hard on setting the right expectations of their team that reflect the company’s policies and culture.
A manager’s reassurance that emails needn’t be answered after 7:00 pm and on the weekends is a powerful message that reinforces healthy boundaries between the professional and personal. It also shows employees they’re supported in their choices.
3. Model work-life balance from the top down
When upper management (right up to the CEO) model healthier behaviors like vacation-taking and safeguarding time with their families or nonwork pursuits, it sends a very strong message to the rest of the company that it’s okay to do the same.
There will always be exceptions to the rule, when it’s all hands on deck. Which is why having a good work-life balance in place is so important – so that when things do get frantic, people have the reserves to get through it.
4. Create a PTO-friendly culture
According to a 2016 survey, 41% of Americans said they didn’t take a single vacation day during 2015 and 17% said they took fewer than five vacation days. (1) That’s a lot of unused PTO – and a lot of missed opportunity to take a real break, the benefits of which, including improved focus and creativity, speak for themselves.
So how can you create a PTO-friendly culture? By supporting vacation transparency, starting with managerial support, and making vacation a topic of discussion in 1:1 meetings and performance reviews.
5. Focus on performance, not hours worked
Busyness does not necessarily equal productivity, says author and journalist Brigid Schulte. For many workplaces, she argues, performance should be the benchmark of success, not hours worked.
It doesn’t mean your company has to throw away the timesheet system, though. But what managers can do is to start focusing more on tracking employees’ output instead of the extra hours they’ve logged in after the workday has finished.
Looking to learn more? Discover the secret ingredients of a winning culture in our eBook, Culture Codes of Best Places to Work.
(1) Skift, No Vacation Nation, January 2016