By Larry Alton

When it comes to work-life balance for business owners and executives, there’s a lot of chatter. But isn’t this equilibrium something everyone deserves to have in their lives – including your employees? As a small business owner, one of the best ways to keep your employees happy and committed is to help them achieve balance.

Set the Example and Help Employees Follow

According to an article by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath in the Harvard Business Review, work-life balance is just as important for employees as it is for company executives and managers. They point to a study that says employees are 1.1-times more likely to stay with an organization if they have a boss who actively encourages balanced behaviors – such as taking breaks and actually using vacation days.

Specifically, they believe that companies should help employees meet four core needs: physical renewal, emotional value, mental focus, and spiritual meaning and purpose.

“When leaders actively support more sustainable ways of working in these four dimensions, the result is a significant positive impact on employees’ engagement, stress levels, retention, and job satisfaction,” Schwartz and Porath note. “When leaders model in their own behavior sustainable ways of working, the effect on those they lead is far bigger.”

Three Ways to Encourage Balance

While you can spend a lot of time strategizing and developing programs that encourage balance, it’s better to just dive in headfirst. Here are a few simple and tangible ways to encourage better work-life harmony in your employees.

1. Suggest Calendar Consolidation

One of the biggest challenges for employees is scheduling. Between regular work hours, meetings, networking events, business travel, personal appointments, parenting responsibilities, date nights, and vacations, an employee’s calendar can fill up pretty quickly. It can also get confusing when they have one calendar for work and another for their personal life. 

“A highly practical tip is to consolidate your calendar,” suggests Green Residential. “Don’t keep a business calendar and a family calendar. You’ll end up overbooking yourself and encountering with conflicts. Create a single calendar that everyone in the family has access to.” 

2. Allow for Flex Time

Have you ever paused to consider why you maintain a nine-to-five schedule (or whatever it may be)? In most cases, businesses are simply mimicking what everyone else is doing. Unfortunately, standard business hours aren’t always the most convenient.

One simple way to give your employees more balance is to allow for flexible start and stop times. If one employee wants to work from seven to three, let them. If another would prefer a ten to six schedule, be okay with that too. This gives employees a chance to work around personal obligations, like picking kids up from school or caring for an elderly parent.

3. Limit PTO Carry Over

Americans are terrible at using their paid time off (PTO). Part of the problem is that most businesses allow for unlimited carryover, which encourages employees to build up their PTO days. While this may seem ideal, it actually hurts your employees.

By limiting PTO carry over, you can force people to use their days off in a more balanced fashion. This allows them to return to work refreshed and energized. If you want to take things a step further, you can penalize people for carrying days over. For example, if someone gets 10 paid days off, but only uses seven of them, you can make a rule where they only get seven the next year. This will solve the problem fairly quickly.

Commit to the Process

Balance isn’t something that you’re going to achieve overnight. It requires months and years of commitment from the upper levels of management all the way down to the mail room.

Make it a priority and your employees will reward you with more loyalty and greater satisfaction.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.