Work-life balance for your project team is achievable. Fostering good work-life balance means that, throughout the duration of your project, your team will feel satisfied with how they balance their various roles in their personal and professional lives. Bad days will surely happen but having some simple practices and policies in place can overcome a lot of the major pitfalls that teams face when it comes to balance. Ultimately, it’s about ensuring that your team feels energised and enthusiastic about their work so that you can get the best possible results for your project. Marzena and I have compiled the following five steps to better work-life balance for your team based on our project management experience:
1. Start from day one
Unfortunately, work-life balance rarely emerges as a priority in project management, especially at the beginning when we are usually more focused on operational processes. Moreover, project kick-off is generally the time when our team has the most energy and motivation to take on this new challenge. This makes it easy to overlook the importance of balance. However, as projects progress, more and more instances of poor work-life balance will occur, and you and your team will face the dilemma of how to manage competing priorities. This is especially prevalent around stressful periods in the project timeline and, unfortunately, this is also the worst time to start trying to formulate work-life balance policies for your team. Starting early, when everyone is fresh and in a positive headspace, is the perfect time to think about how you can maintain that state of mind throughout project delivery. Incorporate a session on work-life balance at the very first meeting. Give it the time and attention it needs by dedicated a half day to working together in an open, creative and informal atmosphere to discuss how your team will work together in a way that you can all maintain wellbeing and balance.
2. Practice what you preach
It is important that you set a good example for your team. Make sure to show the various ways that you take care of your physical and emotional health and sense of balance. You can do this by making time to go for a short walk during your workday and inviting others to join you. You can even use these walks as an opportunity to discuss the project. Educate yourself about healthy eating and make it a part of your daily routine. Be mindful of the competing priorities in your life and talk to your team about how you go about managing them. If you need to attend to your family in the middle of the workday or go to an appointment or any of the myriad things that can come up in our personal lives, demonstrate how you make time for them. Know your core values and stay connected with them.
3. Understand the individual
Take the time to get to know what the various members of your team need to feel balanced in their lives. Help them to discover what their most productive time of day is or let them take time to figure it out for themselves. Maybe some of them prefer to work from home in the mornings and allowing them to do that will help them to feel motivated and productive. People work better when they feel good. Emphasise the “life” in work-life balance. Appreciate your team members’ passions and encourage them to pursue them. Create a space where people can come together and share the experiences they have thanks to these passions, for example, travel, books, sports, etc.
4. Create a balanced workspace
If possible, organise a diverse workspace for your team. Allow space for individual work and teamwork. Your teamwork space should be designed to boost creativity by ensuring that there are materials there that can be used during brainstorming, e.g. post-its, crayons, coloured paper, photographs, etc. Furnish it with comfortable sofas, chairs and carpets and ensure that there’s a way to play music. This space can also be used for relaxation. The space for individual work should have rules such as no talking loudly on phones and using headphones for music. Provide easy access to healthy food and snacks and, if possible, provide kitchen space. Encourage people to move or be physically active. If you can give them the opportunity to go to the gym in the morning or around midday, allow them to do that. It will boost their energy!
5. Live by your own rules
Work with your team to design the ideal working week. Create blocks of time that are dedicated to individual work, where everyone must respect that people should not be interrupted by phone, email, or in person. Keep operational meetings as short as possible. You might be surprised at how little time is needed. Schedule creative meetings, if possible once a week. Even if you don’t always have time for them, try and set aside even 15 minutes to work together on some individual and creative exercises. Do not schedule meetings that are longer than 90 minutes. Between meetings, allow time for people to recover. Create clear goals and deliverables for each member of your team. Celebrate achieving goals, not the amount of time people spend at work. Let people work according to their individual clock.
And, last but not least, celebrate successes, even small ones! Whenever possible, give your team the opportunity to spend joyful time together. Let them know how much you value them and their work. Underline their input in each success you have.