Work-life balance. Someone broached the topic at an NTMA chapter’s Leadership Summit in January. Younger workers are drawn to the term’s promise; older workers tend to roll their eyes and assume that their “balance-obsessed” colleagues just don’t want to work hard.
The truth is something else entirely.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t so long ago that people consciously avoided discussing their children at work. Companies didn’t leave space for employees to have careers and families. But values are shifting, and almost everyone, from the shop floor to the boardroom, wants the freedom to show up as a whole person: a partner, a parent, a professional, and however else they define themselves.
While the demand for work-life balance may have arrived with the younger workforce, the truth is that the practice benefits everyone regardless of age, family structure, or career experience.
Long Work Hours: Necessity or Bad Habit?
For many years, I was one of those people who worked a lot of late nights and the occasional weekend. But at some point, I realized that putting in those long hours was more of a bad habit than a true necessity.
My generation and others believed that working more meant working better. If your boss regularly saw you putting in extra hours, you got a pat on the back—maybe even a promotion!
Today, I look back and think: Why was I so inefficient?
If you, your machine shop management team, or other team members constantly work overtime, stop and ask yourself, Why? You may find that there are inefficiencies making the job impossible to accomplish in the expected time frame. And that’s not only bad for the worker; it’s also bad for business.
Anyone can eke out extra work hours for a time. But eventually, burn-out and exhaustion will set in, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Overworked employees not only quit at higher rates but are also less productive, less creative, and more prone to mistakes, which leads to customer dissatisfaction and loss of profits.
So even if you, personally, don’t understand why Joe is so determined to get to his child’s ballet recital or why Karen won’t work on Sundays, you can at least understand your own bottom line and how work-life balance helps CNC machine businesses thrive for the long term. The work will always be there in the morning.
How to Build Balance into Your Machine Shop’s Workflow
There isn’t one “perfect” way for machine shop management teams to navigate work-life balance on behalf of themselves and their employees. It’s up to each employer to configure processes that keep the shop running and support each worker as a whole person with a life outside their job.
Remember: manufacturing improvement isn’t only about machines; it’s also about people!
So start by asking your team members questions like, “What can we do to help you?” They may know exactly what they need to be more productive, more efficient, more attentive, or even just happier in their jobs.
Don’t wait until employees revolt to make changes. Proactively connect with your people to find out what’s missing from their work experience. You can do this in person, via your machine shop management team, or with anonymous surveys. The more data you can collect, the better equipped you’ll be to establish successful new protocols.
Don’t get stuck believing that everyone’s role should come with the same expectations. It’s okay to make accommodations for individual people on an as-needed basis. This doesn’t mean you have to go along with every request; some employees may ask for things you simply can’t give for one reason or another. But saying “yes” when you can doesn’t make you weak; it makes you a good leader.
Be a leader
Well-respected leaders are those who aren’t afraid to try new things, whether the “new thing” is adding automation capabilities, permitting administrators to work remotely, or providing more vacation time. I encourage owners, in particular, to remember: this is your business, and you can do with it what you want—including make decisions that drive it into the ground if you aren’t careful.
Wouldn’t you rather build toward success, though? Helping your team achieve better work-life balance is an excellent step in the right direction because when employees feel happy and well cared for, they work hard; they solve problems; they provide excellent customer service; they are more productive; and, most importantly, they stay.