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Being the boss: 10 tips to find work-life balance for managers

September 15, 2022 - 16 min read

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We know you’re in charge, but you deserve some rest

What can you do to improve your own work-life balance as a manager?

What can you do for your employees?

How can personal relationships contribute to work-life balance?

Delegate, delegate, delegate

Setting realistic goals for yourself and your employees

It’s not just about taking time off

When we think of upholding a work-life balance, isn’t it the same for every worker? It’s all about a lifestyle that values professional ambitions and overall well-being without putting one above the other. So does every worker encounter the same obstacles and use the same strategies? Think again.

One study found that 60% of employees place the blame on their bosses for their uneven work-life balance. But what about the work-life balance for managers? Who do they blame when they’re also spending too much time at work? 

Managers face different challenges when they try to maintain their work-life balance compared to employees. And, while they often want to set a healthy precedent, it’s hard. You can only delegate so many tasks to limit your hefty workload.

Everyone deserves a healthy work-life balance, but not everyone knows what it takes to uphold one. Learning how to have a good work-life balance takes dedication, accountability, and hard work. At first, you might think it seems impossible, but it’s doable — even for managers. And we’re going to explain how.

We know you’re in charge, but you deserve some rest

Work-life balance isn’t something we achieve once and never think about again. It’s an ongoing effort to uphold a lifestyle that values our mental health and well-being while allowing us to achieve our professional goals.

And it’s not about spending equal time working as we do on vacation. Some days we need more rest than others, and that’s OK. Our work-life balance means being self-aware and recognizing our needs. 

That’s a tricky task for managers. Managers put in plenty of effort to keep their work environment and the team running smoothly.

According to Gallup, managers are 27% more likely than their employees to feel stress in the workplace, which increases their risk of burnout. They also have more interruptions in the workplace, forcing them to multitask, which is harmful to focus and wastes valuable energy.

Without a good work-life balance, managers risk an unsustainable lifestyle that demands working long hours and minimal rest. They might even be in danger of becoming a workaholic. 

This is especially true for remote workers. Remote work sometimes crosses boundaries and ends up infiltrating our personal lives. That’s why self-care and personal time are even more important. It gives us the chance to kick back and recharge before returning to work. 

Improving your work-life balance isn’t something you have to do alone. At BetterUp, our coaches can provide the guidance you need to have a balanced lifestyle that takes care of your well-being.

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What can you do to improve your own work-life balance as a manager?

Your work-life balance isn’t going to straighten itself out overnight. It requires constant effort to see results, but the benefits are worth it.

Think back to your most recent workweek. How much time did you spend working compared to things that aren’t work-related? If you feel like one area outweighs the other, here are 10 tips to help you improve your work-life balance:

  1. Learn to regulate your emotions when you begin to feel overwhelmed by work
  2. Recognize how long you’re working with better time management skills
  3. Do your best to leave work at work rather than bring it home (or out of the boundaries of your work-from-home setup)
  4. Reflect on your reason for being and what makes life meaningful for you
  5. Aim to create a flexible work schedule that matches your workflow
  6. Find hobbies you enjoy and make time for them 
  7. Listen to feedback from others if they notice you’re overworking
  8. Make time to practice self-care and be in tune with your emotions
  9. Set clear boundaries for yourself as far as when you work 
  10. Unplug from technology and practice living in the moment 

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What can you do for your employees?

A manager has a strong impact on how a team performs and their mental health.

The Harvard Business Review found two areas that a company needs to pay special attention to if they want their employees to have a good work-life balance. First, they found that managers need to be supportive and understanding, and second, uphold a company culture that values people’s personal lives and well-being.

Managers aren’t the only ones who need work-life balance. Every team member deserves a balance between work and their home life. We’ve compiled eight tips for managers to use to help create a work environment that values employee work-life balance:

  1. Look ahead to future workweeks: Be mindful of employees’ workloads in the present and near future. Try to identify any upcoming issues that might throw off someone’s work-life balance and offer to problem-solve.
  2. Give your employees options: A flexible work schedule allows employees to work when they're most productive. Try asking your team members if certain work times work better for meetings and deadlines.
  3. Set a good example: You need to model a healthy work-life balance. Show your employees how you take vacation time and prioritize your well-being.
  4. Understand your employee’s goals: Take the time to ask each of your team members what they want to improve, and make sure they’re reaching their goals sustainably while valuing their personal time. 
  5. Give your employees autonomy: Set time aside and practice attentive listening as your employees explain what kind of control they’d like to have. Perhaps it’s more control over their working hours or how they use their voices. Either way, it’s your job to help them.
  6. Be compassionate when life happens: Things out of our control happen daily. Being a manager who understands that life happens means you’re more approachable for other issues, strengthening your relationship with your team.
  7. Keep employee engagement up: You want your employees to be challenged and stimulated but not overworked. Make an effort to keep your employees engaged, but don’t overwork them.
  8. Provide the proper resources: Sometimes, you can’t support your employees and their needs. But you can provide access and information to professional mental health services or support resources and encourage them to take care of their well-being.

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How can personal relationships contribute to work-life balance?

Knowing how to manage our work-life balance and the challenges we encounter outside of our workplaces will help us be better managers.

Our workplace could have plenty of perks and aim to combat burnout, but our support system outside of work is just as special. Research has shown that social support helps with moderating workplace stress, building resilience, and boosting life satisfaction

A social support system is more than simply the people we call if we have a flat tire. They’re the people we talk to when we’re upset, stressed, or excited about something. Having people who share our enthusiasm about work or help us problem solve makes a huge difference in our personal lives. 

Delegate, delegate, delegate

Check your to-do list. Is it long? 

Delegating is a way to work toward having a better work-life balance. It helps lighten up your workload and work more efficiently on tasks that need your specific attention. Plus, it allows other team members to strengthen their skills or learn something new. Consider it part of the work-life balance training for managers. 

But giving the reigns to someone else isn’t easy for every manager. If you’re a perfectionist, you might have trouble delegating your work. You don’t need to give away your most important or favorite tasks, but find a healthy balance between what you can delegate and what you need to do yourself.

Studies have shown that most managers are aware that they have long work hours and want a good work-life balance, but they believe it’s complicated because their workload is full of important tasks. This is when delegating comes in handy.

Taking on too much work isn’t good for your mental or physical health, no matter how important you think your tasks are. Delegating is a way to give yourself a chance to have more breathing room but still have the work completed. 

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Setting realistic goals for yourself and your employees

Setting goals is something we should do throughout every stage of our lives. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable 
  • Attainable 
  • Timely
  • Relevant 

They help us plan our life by outlining how we’ll achieve what we want. That’s especially the case for developing a healthy work-life balance. 

Not every employee sets regular goals for themselves, but they should. A study done by Gallup found that setting realistic and attainable performance goals is a better predictor of a healthy work-life balance than those who have a flexible work schedule. (And people love having a flexible schedule: 32% of remote workers say that flexibility is the top perk.)

But our performance goals aren’t just for productivity. They’re about our collaborative skills and mindsets.

Goal setting is no easy task. If you need help setting realistic and attainable goals, consider meeting with a BetterUp coach. They’ll hold you accountable as you set goals you know are challenging but attainable.

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It’s not just about taking time off

One common misconception about work-life balance is that it’s simply taking time off after working a lot. When you talk about how you handle your work-life balance, it’s better to think of it as a cycle. Each day, you should be making choices that allow a healthy work-life balance rather than living in extremes.

Recovering from burnout doesn’t happen overnight, but neither does reaching burnout. Finding the balance each day will help keep you healthy. 

A healthy work-life balance for managers should be at the top of their priority list. Overworking prevents people from enjoying their lives outside of work with their friends, family members, and loved ones. But a support system, self-awareness, and boundaries help people achieve a good work-life balance.

We understand how difficult it is for managers to achieve this, and finding a superb work-life balance for executives is a challenge. They can’t unplug and leave all their responsibilities behind at the drop of a hat.

Just because it’s a challenge doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. By setting realistic goals and putting in sustained effort, everyone can work toward a healthy work-life balance. Let BetterUp help you set realistic goals to help you be your most balanced self.

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Published September 15, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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