One measure of a great company that is often overlooked in the business world is the ability to create and preserve an environment of work-life balance. Sharply contrasting this ideal, many employees are being paid for 40 hours’ worth of work on a weekly basis, yet a 2014 Gallup Study found that Americans work an average of 47 hours per week—and 40 percent of those polled stated they work 50 hours or more.

According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 53 percent of all working parents (with children under the age of eighteen) say it is difficult for them to balance the responsibilities of their job with the responsibilities of their family. Forty percent of working mothers say they always feel rushed, while nearly half of all working fathers report not spending enough time with their children.

What’s the connection here? Though the American economic mindset tends to tout productivity and efficiency as the by-products of our current business models, a severe lack of work-life balance is actually counterproductive, diminishing performance, creativity and morale for employees across all industries.

Why All the Buzz about a Flexible Working Environment?

The benefits of allowing for workplace flexibility certainly outweigh any costs. If you’re concerned about retaining productivity, enabling an inconsistent work ethic, or failing to meet quotas, think again. A flexible schedule is directly correlated with higher levels of happiness and increased performance, as well as several other positive contributions to a company’s culture:

  • Productivity and creativity are enhanced when employees love their jobs and associate genuine personal achievement with them.

  • With so many staff now working from home it’s also crucial to use monitoring software for remote employees so that you can check on what they are doing.
  • Employees who feel secure and in control both at home and at work perform better while carrying out important tasks.

  • If family or medical situations require more attention and time, flexible hours or working conditions may make for a better employee.

  • To improve employee retention, you want your employees to know they are workingwith you—not for you. Collaborating with team members to create the ideal work-life fit will gain you respect and trust.

  • Studies show that businesses offering workplace flexibility have lower absenteeism and turnover rates as a result of higher morale.

  • By allowing employees to work virtually, you open your company to a broader pool of job applicants. Your business not only raises its attractiveness, but also has the capability to hire talented candidates from other parts of the country, or perhaps even from across the globe.

6 Ways You Can Incorporate Workplace Flexibility into Your Business Model

Even for a small organization that may not have the resources or bandwidth of a larger corporation, it is important to incorporate workplace flexibility to ensure your employees are engaged, productive and happy. Here are six ways you can build workplace flexibility into your business and begin cultivating a healthier corporate culture:

1. Provide the option to work virtually. In a recent study conducted by Staples Advantage, it was discovered that 35 percent of employees would appreciate more flexible schedules, and 46 percent reported that flexibility is the most important factor considered when searching for a new job. In order to meet these demands, consider how your business can implement a flexible work hour policy, as well as how you may be able to offer your employees the freedom to work a portion of their time remotely.

2. Help employees who feel overworked. An employee who feels like they’re working too much may simply have too much to do—plain and simple. On the other hand, this person might also be making his or her job more difficult than it really needs to be. Does the employee understand the desired outcome for a particular task? How much autonomy do they have in order to complete the task?

As a manager or supervisor, it’s important you offer your team the tools they need in order to execute efficiently. Additionally, if a particular task or project truly is too much for one person to handle, find a way to spread the load. An overworked employee simply won’t be able to bring the business value to bear that you’re paying them to deliver.

3. Stop inundating the inboxes. Particularly in industries where high value is placed on responsiveness and around-the-clock customer service, many employees are expected to be “on” at all times, feeling pressured to answer emails within whatever time range is deemed acceptable by their employer or client counterparts. In fact, a whopping 81 percent of U.S. employees regularly check their work email outside of normal business hours, and roughly 75 percent respond within one hour. Talk to just about anybody these days, and they’ll tell you they receive too much email—and email overload is a serious productivity killer.

As an employer, your control over that deluge of messages is fairly limited. However, you can establish guidelines on when and how to employees manage email in order to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity, as well as to guard employees from feeling unable to unplug during their off hours.

4. Promote extra breaks. Allowing employees to have brief periods of downtime peppered throughout the day, helps to sustain energy levels and enables concentration for longer stretches of time. This includes encouraging employees to take a brief lunch break away from their desks. Studies show that only one in five office workers report taking a lunch break away from their desk. While working through lunch may, at face value, appear to be evidence of a productive and committed employee, the facts show that it actually zaps productivity.

Make sure your employees are getting the nutrition they need in order to stay productive by encouraging additional breaks and setting up a break room in which employees can easily access free snacks and stay hydrated. Extra break times also provide a social outlet for employees to connect and to bounce ideas off one another before getting back to the task at hand.

5. Avoid packing employee schedules with meetings. How often do you find yourself sitting in a meeting at work thinking “I’d rather be doing just about anything else…”? This article from Psychology Today surveyed professionals who indicated that at least 25 to 50 percent of time spent during a meeting is completely wasted. Many status updates and check-ins are pointless interruptions of activities that may otherwise have led to greater productivity.  To combat this, schedule fewer team meetings, and ensure that that critical meetings have a consistent structure and a tight agenda. While simultaneously encouraging more frequent breaks, dedicated employees will socialize less in the conference room and spend more time working on creative solutions and deliverables. Moreover, it’s best practice to assign a designated person to record and distribute notes so that any agreed-upon tasks, deadlines, etc. are not forgotten later in the week.

6. Limit overtime work. An abundance of overtime hours is not favorable for the business or the employee. Not only does overtime create added stress on the employee’s personal life, but the performance they’re delivering will significantly decrease—by as much as 25 percent. To incorporate greater workplace flexibility into your company culture, mandate that these extra hours put in at the office should only be required when absolutely necessary in order to meet unavoidable deadlines.

Employees should be encouraged to excel both in the workplace and at home. Ultimately, it’s not the responsibility of the employer to determine how an employee will live his or her life. However, by incorporating work-life balance initiatives into your company culture, you can empower your employees to live balanced, healthy, productive lives, benefiting both your employees and your business in the long run.

Looking to take your business to the next level and power up your own company culture? Download a free copy of The Best Kept Secret to Small Business Success for actionable insights, and learn how a PEO can help you influence positive changes in the your work environment.