Americans rank in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the world when it comes to how many hours we work in a week. So why does it feel like so many Americans are stressed and overworked?
It might have something to do with the unofficial hours worked due to the advances and freedoms of technology. In a world where employees are always available, it can feel as if there’s no disconnection between personal and professional life anymore.
Here are the numbers: The average number of hours Americans work in a week — 34.2 — ranked 16th globally, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics and The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In comparison, Mexico ranked No. 1 with the most hours worked on average at 42.85. Germany was at the bottom of the 36-country list with 26.37.
But perception is everything and, as you know, many American simply feel overworked — despite what the numbers say.
As a result, people are clamoring for more of a work-life balance.
Striking balance gold
Sometimes what’s needed isn’t more time off, but the right time of day off. In most instances, employees want to find a way to juggle both work and their personal lives.
Here are 10 ideas that could help your company create that balance:
- Make sure management is promoting the right image. Each employee has a different work style. But some managers may be workhorses. And guess who’s setting the expectations and culture for the workplace? Your managers — and not every employee can match a feverish pace set by a manager without risking burnout. Solution: Consider having managers promote more short breaks throughout the work day.
- Draw a hard line on work hours. Especially with the shift in overtime rules coming December 1, now’s as good a time as any to take a hard-line stand on how many hours employees can work in a week. Reason: Currently, exempt employees who are about to become non-exempt might not be in the mindset of working a set amount of hours. Some employees take work home with them or answer emails at night or during the weekend, making their actual work hours harder to track — and setting yourself up for overtime liability. Establishing defined boundaries can help prevent burnout and overtime headaches
- Offer flexible scheduling or a work-from-home option. This is always a good option to help people manage their various responsibilities, if it’s the right call for your workplace.
- Promote vacation time. Some employees need convincing to take their vacation time. Make sure they know it’s not only OK to do so, but it’s also encouraged.
- Allow pet (or kid) visit days. One way to help people balance their working and personal life is to occasionally allow the two to mix. Twenty percent of employers in the U.S. allow pets to visit the work site for specific days, according to CareerBuilder. It helps boost morale around the office by giving people a much needed quick mental break.
- Ban tech from face-to-face meetings or corporate outings. The idea behind office lunches or personal meetings is to connect with co-workers, not check email or take phone calls. Sometimes emergencies do spring up, but chances are it’s going to do more good to completely disconnect from the digital world.
- Remind people hours aren’t a competition. Promote quality over quantity. An efficient employee may not need a full eight hours to finish his/her work for the day, while another may have a more relaxed working style and need more time to complete his/her tasks.
- Allow specific time off to contribute to a charity. Giving people some time off or incentives to go out and pursue a cause they find meaningful boosts their sense of fulfillment. The fact that your company will back employees looking to volunteer also boosts its image and propels it into the spotlight when trying to attract top talent.
- Help employees accomplish their everyday tasks. This could be as simple as providing on-site coffee so people don’t have to go out for their own, or offering dry cleaning services once a month.
- Finally, educate employees. Providing time-management training to employees can help them help themselves achieve the work-life balance they seek.