Strategies to help individuals optimize their work and life aren't just "nice-to-have optional perks," they are critical to performance.
Terry Welch is the CEO of Maryborough Hospital in Victoria. He has been there for less than 5 months but in that time he has shifted the culture. Health is serious business and in many of the hospitals, it also is clearly an incredibly stressful business. Health professionals will tell you they are working harder than ever before, and many feel like they are getting nowhere, which is odd given that much of their work has a direct bearing on the health and well-being of the people they care for. And this loss of purpose leads to lack of engagement.
Why do they feel like they get nowhere? It is because the targets are taking precedence over factors that are more meaningful to the health professional on the ground. There is no time to celebrate the everyday wins, such as fixing a patient. Everything is OK if the financial indicators are healthy, despite the ill health, absenteeism and stress in the ranks. It often seems that the health and well-being of the health professionals sometimes seems to be the least of a hospital's concerns.
Terry strikes me as a different breed of CEO. He is as focused on the bottom line and targets as the best; he has already made some significant and difficult decisions about organisational structure, roles and positions. But what he is doing that seems quite unique is insisting that his staff find and maintain a healthy and effective work-life balance. And he is modelling this expectation. Of course he has long work days. What CEO doesn't? But this is not his norm. And it is not because he is loading up his direct reports. He challenges his Directors to develop their people to self-manage - he is a leader who builds leaders, who builds leaders....
And the other notable exception about Terry is he is funny and loves a laugh. He is creating a culture where people are expected to manage their work-life balance, look after their well-being and have fun - enjoy work, while delivering great care and service.
But it is not just because he is a nice guy. This approach to leading is absolutely congruent with who he is and what he believes. But it is also strategic. The 2014 Towers Watson Global Workforce study ranks work-life balance third among the top drivers of sustainable engagement.
Quest Diagnostics, a leader in diagnostic information services, piloted a health and well-being program with 40 of their staff with the aim of designing a work-life balance that aligned the individual's needs with the organisation's. The results were astounding:
- 100% of participants reported that their productivity at work either increased (46%) or stayed the same.
- 92% feel they're now better able to prioritise all their responsibilities and goals.
- 88% said the more actively managed their work and life.
- 81% said they're more likely to collaborate and coordinate with others.
- 72% said they're more aware of and had more respect for the differences in people's work and life realities.
When employees are supported to find and maintain a healthy work-life balance, they will deliver more, produce better quality work, turn up more often and give more of themselves to the organisation.
But the most important step is working with your people to distill the meaning that work gives them - make work meaningful and this will result in people seeing work as critical to their life balance. When work is not seen as key to their life's purpose, the less time and energy spent there, the better.
How can you make work more meaningful for you people?
Or, how can you make work more meaningful to you?