As a leader, you probably know how important it is to be fulfilled outside of work. When your employees are happy, productivity improves, and everyone is better off.
While personal happiness is one’s own responsibility, as a leader, your actions and behavior create the conditions for work-life satisfaction within your team. But you might not realize that it can have a broader (and significant impact) on your company as a whole.
Leaders often don’t realize the impact they have. No matter your level in the hierarchy, you can have a positive influence in your company. Here’s how:
1. Challenge the system
Real leadership means always creating change and constructively shaking up the system. Avoid taking your company’s policies and practices at face value and look for ways things can be improved. Challenge the system and suggest new ways of doing things—whether it’s a new policy that allows for taking pets to work, or an updated practice enabling people to spend a portion of their time on projects that they choose. It doesn’t mean going on a crusade against current policies, but it is about looking at how you can make things better for everyone (and the company as a whole.)
2. Make a case for prioritizing work-life fulfillment
When you’re talking with others in your company, you need to make a case for prioritizing work-life fulfillment. Research has demonstrated that when employees have a greater sense of satisfaction with their work and their personal life, they tend to contribute more discretionary effort to their work, and the company benefits from this energy. Giving people greater flexibility also tends to result in positive effects on attraction, retention, and engagement. These are things that every company cares about.
3. Suggest new policies, practices, and places
You need to advocate for family-friendly policies and practices with HR and senior leaders. Make suggestions for greater flexibility and a culture that allows people to bring their whole selves to work—their talents, skills, and unique contributions. Also, remember the power of being a place that allows employees to do their best work. Companies need to think about this if they want to attract the best talent.
4. Be willing to be the guinea pig
If you’re suggesting a new policy or family-friendly practice, offer your team as a pilot site. Give things a try—whether it’s flexible working hours or locations, or freedom of choice for employees to spend time on a project they select. If you can prove new models within your own team, you’ll create momentum for the rest of the organization to implement new ways of working based on your team’s success.
5. Build close relationships with other leaders
Form a community with other leaders within your organization who are also making strides in offering work-life fulfillment. Share ideas and exchange best practices. In addition to building your network, you’ll be establishing critical mass to create change within your organization toward a more people-centered, family-friendly workplace.
6. Bring new ideas
As a leader, you also have a unique opportunity to stay connected with your network outside your organization. So be sure to ask questions and understand what other companies and leaders are doing to support work-life fulfillment. Bring these new ideas into your company regularly.
7. Pay attention to your own choices
Never underestimate the importance of your approach to how you manage your work and your personal life. The choices you make influence others. They see what you do and assume your behaviors are culturally acceptable within the company. After all, the company has put you in a position of leadership, which means people will watch what you do—whether or not that’s your intention.
8. Mentor others
If you’re leading effectively, people will seek you out for advice, counsel, and perspective. Be a resource and a mentor. Make time to connect, support, and build relationships with others who are striving for work-life fulfillment.
You have influence and power as a leader in a company. Embrace it and be an agent for change and an advocate for a company that creates the best possible conditions for work-life fulfillment. You’ll not only get to feel good (and reap the benefits yourself.) But you’ll also be helping your company build an engaged, energized, and passionate team. That’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRw, is a sociologist focused on work, workers, and workplace, working for Steelcase. She is the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations.