Working Smarter

How to Do a Work-Life Balance Survey (20 Questions)

Posted by Joe Robinson

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I speak to engineers a lot, and they can tell you, even the strongest materials pull apart, subjected to the right amount of force and load. The same thing can happen to any organization when people and teams get overextended, easy to do in an unbounded world of 24/7 technology.

When we do more than we can do well, it’s a lose-lose for company and individual. The blowback comes in the form of costly dysfunctions—plummeting performance, turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism (there in body, but not in mind), and burnout, which creates the opposite physical and mental states needed for employee engagement.

UNDER THE SURFACE

As burnout scholar Christina Maslach reported in her research, the main dimensions of burnout—exhaustion and cynicism—are the antithesis of engagement’s main characteristics: energy and dedication. For someone in a state of chronic fatigue or overwhelm, there is no capacity or intention to go the extra mile and voluntarily put forth the discretionary effort that defines engagement, which make people 28% more productive (Corporate Executive Board). 

The toll on individuals is harder to see, but it’s there—poor morale, guilt, overwhelm, and frustration that they can’t take care of their responsibilities at work or at home. Feeling effective, or competent, is a core psychological need, and if we chronically feel ineffective, that undercuts motivation and drives a belief that things are out of control, which in turn fuels overwhelm and discontent.

No one wants to admit it when demands go beyond coping ability, so the problems stay under cover. They usually only surface in anonymous employee surveys, on questions asking employees about their work-life balance. My clients often come to me for work-life balance training after discovering on an internal survey that it’s a glaring issue.

CANARY IN THE COAL MINE

Less-than-stellar work-life balance scores are the canary in the coal mine, the signal that something harmful is in the air. If it’s not taken care of, it has the potential to turn the enthused and dedicated into the frustrated and disengaged. That can lead to lost productivity, resentment, cynicism, increased medical costs, and even the loss of top talent.

Giving employees a comprehensive work-life balance survey can surface issues that are critical to employee performance, satisfaction, and retention. People who feel they have good work-life balance are 21% more productive, studies show (Corporate Executive Board).

A work-life balance survey should be done anonymously to insure candid responses. I have my client's employees take the survey before we do our  work-life balance training program, and then I follow-up with another survey after the program to measure progress.

To help you get started, I have provided a list of 20 survey questions that you can use to take the work-life temperature of your team or organization. The first three items are listed here.

WORK-LIFE BALANCE SURVEY 

  1. I feel I have good work-life balance.
  2. I have more work than I can do well.
  3. I feel valued by the organization.

For the complete survey of 20 questions, click the button below for our 22-page "How to Do a Work-Life Balance Survey E-Book."  The survey fleshes out, not just the state of work-life balance, but also its supporting issues, from poor time management, to information overload, to engagement and stress.

Click for Free Work-Life Survey E-Book

For each survey statement, respondees can answer: Not True at All, Rarely True, Somewhat True, Occasionally True, True, Often True, and Very True. Assign points for answers on a 7-point scale: 1 for Not True at All, 2 for Rarely True, 3 for Somewhat True, 4 for Occasionally True, 5 for True, 6 for Often True, 7 for Strongly True. Tally up average point totals per statement to find the hot-button issues. 

A good work-life balance survey can open the door to conversation and solving bottlenecks that get in the way of performance and people’s lives. In my experience, the vast majority of employees want to work hard and go the extra mile—if they feel they have a chance to participate in the process and feel valued. When they are introduced to a battery of tools in my employee trainings to manage work and life better, there is real enthusiasm that can kick-start engagement.

At one of my clients, a work-life initiative at IBM energized one department so much that people from other departments wanted to know what they were doing so they could get in on the act.

THE ROAD TO PROCESS IMPROVEMENT

The survey, though, is just the initial step. It needs to be followed up by course of action, or skepticism sets in and credibility is lost. A work-life balance training or development program takes the initiative to the next step, providing a road map forward.

Our work-life balance programs give your team a chance to zero in on concrete process improvements through discussion, interactive exercises, and evidence-based tools that help people work more effectively and carve out a better work-life.

Work-life balance isn’t pie in the sky. It’s a practical system of adjustments to how we work—from time management, to interruption management, to prioritization, stress management, understanding the most potent motivation, enabling engagement, and refueling and recovery strategies— that create a more sustainable approach on the job, more peceived control over events, and a more gratified life outside work hours.

The work-life balance survey can get it all started, by demonstrating the unspoken needs necessary for employees to be able to navigate the work-life divide in the digital era.

If you have interest in a work-life balance training for your team, just click the button below. Let's start exploring a more productive road to success.

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Tags: work-life balance program, work-life balance training, work-life balance employee survey

What Is Work-Life Balance?

Posted by Joe Robinson

Pay attention to work-life balance

We all know that feeling after stuffing ourselves to the point we can barely move. What was I thinking? The eyes often have it when it comes to making decisions stomachs would veto if they could get a word in edgewise. It’s matter over mind, particularly delicious matter that makes mouths water ravenously.

The same default to reflex also keeps us over-estimating our capacity on the work side. We get stuck in reflex-before-thought, a habit that drives exhaustion and stress. It’s highly counter-productive to anything anyone wants to do well. Without presence of mind and energy, the default is to a retaliatory mode that drains performance and feeds presenteeism.

The remedy is a proactive work-life balance strategy that puts the emphasis back on thinking before we act. That is the home of optimal performance and the foundation of work-life balance.

What is work-life balance? It’s a process of constantly checking in with how we are working, bringing informed performance to the table, not simply reacting to things all day. It’s about how more effective work creates better performance and richer lives by eliminating time sinks and bringing more attention to everything we do. The data shows that organizations with the highest employee engagement get big-time results—almost triple the shareholder returns in report by Hewitt Assoc. I have more on the success tool of work-life balance here

Quality work-life balance programs are an insurance policy, making sure that the best practices rule, instead of autopilot commotion. They insure that what we do is effective, not knee-jerk, and that we acknowledge that excellent work comes from minds that are refreshed and engaged, which is what employee engagement programs are all about. The more we focus on how we can work more effectively, and operate consciously, not on autopilot, the more it opens up a richer experience on the job and off.

Work-life balance promotes maximum functioning of the key productivity tool, attention. Without that, we are unbalanced characters. 

Here's a tool to manage one of the biggest threats to effective work: stress

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Tags: work life balance programs, work-life balance trainings, work-life balance program, stress management, work life balance, presenteeism, optimal performance, improve employee engagement, increase productivity

Contest the Stress for Work-Life Balance

Posted by Joe Robinson

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Stress, we’re led to believe, is something we just have to take. It’s merely a nuisance. The reality is that our bodies are no match for chronic stress.

Nor are our minds. Anxiety subverts the intellect, and, as a result, performance too. By constricting the brain to perceived emergencies (that are false alarms almost all the time), stress reduces complex decision-making and puts emotions on a hair-trigger. That’s not a good basis for informed decisions or rapport with colleagues or clients.

Denial is the usual way we treat stress, but that is precisely what fuels it. When we don't deal with stressors, we think about them. Ruminating on the exaggerated beliefs set off by stress drives the process. The stress response is fed by distorted thoughts that spiral into false beliefs if left uncontested.

Instead of allowing stress to spiral and fester by ignoring it, it's critical to contest the irrational thoughts it kicks up and resolve them. Or your health and performance pay the price.

The smarter policy for every organization is to slash stress, since it undercuts the work of everyone affected by it, is highly contagious, and increases presenteeism, retention problems (40% of employees who leave companies cite stress as the cause), and medical costs.

“Stress isn’t just a nuisance. It’s as much of a risk factor for heart attacks, stroke, and cancer as any of the other known carcinogens,” says Dr. Steven Lamm, of New York University Mount Sinai Medical School.

Few of us are trained to understand the stress-burnout cycle, which is a byproduct of something we can all change, how we frame the stress. Stress management programs have been shown to dramatically cut stress and the problems that come with its irrational thinking.

A stress prevention program in a study by St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance reduced medication errors at one hospital by 50%, and in a separate study cut malpractice claims by 70%.

Think of it this way. Those in chronic stress mode are in a fight-or-flight state. They’re ready to fight or run. Neither lends itself to gold-medal performance on the job or off.

Arm yourself with the tools to defeat stress with a "Managing Crazy Busy Work" productivity training or a Stress Management workshop. Get started with our report on the best case for stress management for your team or organization. 

"Best Business Case for Stress Management"

Tags: work life balance, job stress, productivity, stress at work, work-life balance program, stress management, chronic stress, effect of stress on productivity

Boost Work-Life Balance with the Strategic Pause

Posted by Joe Robinson

Stressed woman needs work-life balance

Growing advances in brain research are giving us a much better picture, literally, of when our command center works and when it doesn’t. Those who peer into the brain through magnetic resonance images say MRI scans of fatigued brains look exactly like ones that are sound asleep.

I’m sure you know that feeling around 4 p.m., when you have to expend double the effort to get something accomplished that you need when you’re fresh. There’s a limited amount of time that the brain can stay focused without fatiguing, spacing, or going into brownout mode.

The traditional approach to fighting mental fatigue has been to press harder and pop those blood vessels to the finish line. Like many of you, I was raised to keep on going till I needed an ambulance. But the evidence shows that brains, and bodies, don’t respond well to the battering-ram approach. Like iPods and cell phones, minds need recharging. And we can get that with a bit more attention to the refueling principle of work-life balance.

Download "Email & Attention Deficit"

One study (Boksem, 2005) found that mental fatigue took hold after three hours of continuous attention. Mistakes and false alarms increased with time on task, and goal-oriented planning decreased. Other studies show that too much time on task reduces the ability to prepare future actions.

As logic would have it, the way around the fatigue factor is to step back and recharge the spent mind, which is the chief productivity tool after all. A survey by the McKinsey Group offers a hint at why refueling works. The company wanted to find out where managers got their best ideas. It turned out the best brainstorms happened, not straining at the desk, but, instead, when people were out running, playing tennis, times when their minds were at rest.

There’s a good reason for this. Most of the time the right side of the brain, which is associated with creative thought, is drowned out by the logical, rational left side. But when we are physically in motion, the left side of the brain has to stay preoccupied with controlling our movement, leaving the right side free to wander into the theta state, where ideas are born.

Give the brain regular breaks throughout the day to reset, process, and get refueled on a strategic pause. Take at least one 10-15-minute strategic pause in the morning and one in the afternoon on which you step away from the desk and the to-do list. Listen to some music you like, take a stroll, look out at the horizon and take a few deep breaths, plan your weekend. Do not be alarmed. It’s only a pause. You will be returning to action shortly, only with an engaged brain. 

Tags: stress at work, work-life balance program, stress management, work life balance

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