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Why Even The Busiest Startups Should Value Work-Life Balance

work life balance

by Elliot Tomaeno, founder of ASTRSK

You may be located in a city that never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean you and your startup should follow suit.

I know: That’s easier said than done. With smartphones providing around-the-clock access to email, it’s no wonder work-life balance is becoming more and more elusive with every passing year.

Our professional lives literally tag along with us everywhere we go. They’re in our pockets and purses while we’re out to dinner with friends and while we’re catching up on our favorite Netflix series — and it takes superhuman amounts of willpower to resist the urge to drop everything and check our phones when we hear that lovely little “ding.”

Resist the Temptation.

The primary problem with our growing attachment to work is simple: A team that never shuts down is a team that’s going to struggle over the long haul. At first, it may fill you with pride to see your staff working late into the night, sending emails and fulfilling tasks until the sun comes up. But it won’t take long for you to start seeing the warning signs of bigger issues on the horizon.

One of the first symptoms of burnout you’ll see is decision paralysis. Members of your team will feel overwhelmed by what appear to be simple daily decisions, waffling back and forth between options, and either delaying their verdicts or not making any at all. Of course, once enough people across the entire business suffer from this ailment, your productivity will drop drastically, and the ripple effect will hurt your bottom line.

Luckily, the solution to achieving companywide work-life balance isn’t all that tricky — and you, as the leader, play a key role in making it happen.

Promoting the Balance.

At the end of the day, your employees have free will. If it’s in someone’s DNA to overwork himself silly, there really isn’t much you can do about that. However, that doesn’t mean you should sit idly and watch him crash and burn.

Simply showing employees that you care about their well-being can work wonders toward promoting a healthy, happy, and appropriately productive workplace. Here are three ways you can accomplish this:

1. Walk the walk.

According to one survey, 60 percent of employees say their bossesare to blame for their poor work-life balance. More likely than not, this is because their leaders are people who are burning themselves out by working 60-hour weeks, sending emails into the wee hours of the morning, and never taking any days off.

If you want your employees to embrace a healthy work-life balance, lead by example — not just with your words, but also with your actions. Step away from the office once a day to take a walk around the block and clear your head. Stop brown-bagging your lunch and eating at your desk; go out with colleagues and friends a few times a week. And, for goodness’ sake, take a vacation. You’ve earned one.

Showing you’re dedicated to your own well-being is the best way to encourage others to be dedicated to theirs.

2. Allow remote working.

It might not be true for everyone, but there’s pretty strong backing of the idea that working from home boosts happiness and productivity and reduces turnover. I highly recommend you consider letting your employees work remotely on a regular basis — and there are countless ways you can go about this.

For example, you could frame it as a loose recommendation where, one day a week, employees have the option to work from home. Or you can take it a step further, like I did at my company, and create a “work from anywhere week.” Our office was sealed shut for an entire five-day period, and employees were told to tackle their workloads wherever made sense for them: at home, at a café, in a park, or at the library.

“Work from anywhere week” ended up being a big hit, and everyone returned feeling rejuvenated and excited to be back in the office. Don’t underestimate the power of giving your employees space.

3. Bring wellness into the office.

Even if employees are working healthy hours and avoiding mental burnout, it’s still possible that your work environment isn’t doing all it can to protect their physical health. Things like sitting at a desk all day and eating fast food for lunch can combine to cause an uptick in sick days, a lack of productivity, and general unhappiness.

Here’s some good news: Companies that invest in wellness programs tend to see a three-dollar ROI for every dollar they put into them. That means providing yoga classes, massage therapists, standing desks, healthy meals, and other perks at the office is well worth the money. Further, giving employees a taste of these things at work may also lead them to seek them on their own — which would only lead to an even happier and healthier workforce.

Any modern startup is going to be busy; there’s just no escaping the fact that today’s working world is “always on.” However, though technology has evolved like crazy over the past two decades, humans are still humans — and we need rest in order to function on all cylinders.

Don’t forget about how important self-actualization is when it comes to personal and professional growth. Make sure your employees have the space to explore and find themselves — both through work and outside of work.

When leaders promote healthy work-life balance, spirits rise, productivity peaks, and they create the healthy environment every startup craves.

 

Elliot Tomaeno

Elliot Tomaeno is the founder of ASTRSK, a PR agency based in New York City. Since 2012, ASTRSK has helped launch more than 200 startups and tech products and has worked with companies like Squarespace, Frank & Oak, Managed by Q, HelloFresh, Favor, ClassPass, and Havenly, as well as films such as “Ex Machina” and “Steve Jobs.”

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