Balancing work and life—is that even possible anymore? Experts are saying it has to be. Businesses need to make work-life balance a top priority or risk serious employee burnout. After a year of pandemic survival mode, Steven Odzer is reminding company leadership to focus on restoring a healthier balance within the workplace.
Steven Odzer has spent over 30 years in the distribution business and is CEO of BUYLifeGuard.com. He started his first company at age 18 and was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. He also has seven children and nine grandchildren. So, maintaining balance in life was a key part of achieving true success.
“Always put family first,” is the advice of Steven Odzer in balancing family life with work. “And, don’t neglect your health. When you take care of your health, you will be the best version of yourself.” He also recommends remaining grateful and learning how to work smarter. “Instead of working harder and burning out,” he says. “It’s important to find ways to work smarter. This will increase productivity and decrease the time spent at the office.”
But employees alone shouldn’t be responsible for improving work-life balance. Leadership within the company should make balance part of the culture.
Employees should be encouraged to make smarter decisions that support their personal physical and mental health. Though it may not seem connected, companies will benefit directly from a workforce that is less stressed and more balanced.
And, this change should start with a balanced approach being modeled from the leadership themselves.
“It is easy to get bogged down behind spreadsheets or on ZOOM calls,” says Odzer. “But you have to realize that finding balance in your personal life is just as important (if not more so) than striking the right tone within the organization. Everyone needs downtime for the sake of their mental health. Those who are in leadership must invest some time to decompress, to keep themselves grounded.”
After an unprecedented year of pandemic challenges, the stress is starting to take its toll.
The APA reported 84% of Americans over the age of 18 are experiencing prolonged stress because of COVID-19. Prolonged stress can lead to feelings of anxiety, sadness, and anger. Stress can also lead to burnout, which kills productivity and leads to a number of health problems.
“Nearly a year into the pandemic, prolonged stress persists at elevated levels for many Americans… we can’t ignore the mental health consequences of this globally shared experience,” said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D. “Without addressing stress as part of a national recovery plan, we will be dealing with the mental health fallout from this pandemic for years to come.”
Steven Odzer says this fallout is something businesses need to address now. Getting ahead of the curve by addressing reduced stress now could help mitigate the fallout that is currently taking place. The APA found that a number of unhealthy coping issues are taking place as Americans deal with stress from the past year of the pandemic:
- 61% experienced undesirable weight changes during the pandemic (an average of gaining 29 pounds or losing 26 pounds)
- 67% reported unwanted changes in sleep patterns (oversleeping or insomnia)
- 53% have been less physically active during the pandemic
- 23% reported an increase in drinking alcohol to cope with stress
And, these are just the effects of the pandemic on the adults in America. Children are directly affected by their parents’ stress levels and struggling as well. Nearly a third of all parents (31%) say their mental health has worsened due to the pandemic. There is potential for businesses to see aftermath that reaches into future generations of workers.
Odzer is convinced that businesses need to see the big picture when it comes to promoting a healthier balance for their workers. This starts with opening up an honest conversation about balance, boundaries, and mental health.
“If you want to ensure that your team will come to work during the pandemic and post-pandemic ready and willing to work, you have to make sure that you are shooting straight with them,” he says. “One of the most important elements of stabilization in a work environment is being open and honest with members of your team.”
Steven Odzer says some of the changes that would help reduce stress include:
Explicitly Expect Work-Life Balance – Don’t just allow a balance, expect it. Encourage employees to recharge and be a good model yourself as a leader in work-life balance.
Set Communication Boundaries – Set hard and fast limits for when employees are plugged in and accessible. Stop expecting employees to be available around the clock, and make sure they are taking adequate time off. Working from home can cause those boundaries to be easily crossed.
Promote Productivity with Flexibility – Working for a set amount of time isn’t as important as getting projects done and accomplishing company goals. Allow your employees to have more flexibility in their hours and availability times. Encourage working smarter and not just harder or longer.
Offer Clear Upward Mobility Paths – Workers need to see a promising path forward for a solid career to feel more secure in their job. Create clear job paths to support career development and empower your workforce to grow as professionals within your company.