Work/Life Balance

Work-Life Balance In #Retail

I have been in retail for approximately 18 (sigh) years. I have worked in large, very-organized, and structured companies. I have also worked in smaller, start-up like organizations. Even though these businesses were extremely different in many ways – they did have some significant similarities. Two of these similarities are a tremendously heavy workload and lack work-life balance . WHY?

Why do exorbitant hours worked really = someone who is considered a productive or loyal team member? Why isn’t high-quality of work the sign of a highly-productive, loyal, engaged team member? Or retention? Or metric performance? Or team happiness? Or efficiency? Or the ability to be a top performer and support others with their responsibilities? Remember the movie “The Shining“? – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – Lack of work-life balance is like that but it also leads to low engagement, high turnover for many retailers.

Lack of work-life balance has always been an issue that I have tackled in my area of responsibility when I start a new position as it has always been an opportunity area for my team. I have rarely found that my most productive team members are the ones that log the most hours. I have found people that work extreme hours or schedules usually struggle in time management & prioritization, quality of work, customer service, strategy, and morale. One of the responsibilities I have to my team is to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to effectively accomplish their job duties in a reasonable amount of time. One of my biggest focus areas is coaching Time Management/Prioritization and to a secondary degree – delegation. Helping people plan their day and utilize their resources has allowed the employees to find balance and a higher level of workplace happiness and measurable productivity improvement and through delegation they begin to train their teams.

There are a number of factors that contribute to employees working excessive hours:
-Vacation & PTO consistently denied by direct supervisor
-Chaotic and confusing internal communication/direction
-Employees being hired/promoted into roles that exceed their skill level
-Primary focus on compliance and lack of development in skills training
-Poor scheduling, lack of team, or inadequate payroll hours
-Apathetic mid-level to senior leadership
-Poor overall workplace culture

Here are some things you can do to help your culture value your employee’s time – both professionally & personally:
-Verbally communicate that there is an initiative to help drive balance
-Balance should absolutely be part of the Company Values and Culture
-Ask the team members who struggle with their schedules how you can help them manage their time more effectively
-Publish a company blackout calendar to encourage planning of personal time
-During holidays & Back-To-School – encourage employees to attend the school events of their children
-Set parameters – at Cotton Candy our Store Managers cannot work more than 42 hours per week, our field & corporate leadership cannot work more than 48 hours per week
-Set parameters on email and off-work hours communication
-Actively train time management to your employees
-Plan company events (outside the office but during work hours) that encourage work relationships

Working in retail, one naturally understands that there are times when more hours are needed: during holidays, inventory, peak shopping weekends, etc. These things are a constant and can be expected. However, once you set realistic work week parameters – follow up quickly with the employees that seem to struggle with completing their tasks in the time frame outlined. Again…it is, typically, a training issue that can help them overcome this challenge.

Frequently, your best employees are very strong with time-management and can complete their daily, weekly, monthly tasks effectively and judiciously. They are so competent that they can complete their required duties leaving time to take on added roles and responsibilities. They can often times support others who have planning challenges so utilize them to mentor their peers in this area. Your best employees will also put in the time needed to complete their work and are not “clock watchers” – if they are having fun and feeling a sense of accomplishment they will work, happily, for their bosses for what is needed.

Establishing reasonable working hours for your team will boost productivity, profit, and support the cognitive health of your team. Cognitive functions include things like: ability to think, learn, and remember; and it is the basis for how we reason, judge, concentrate, plan, and organize. Making work-life balance a focus will go a long way in boosting workplace happiness and culture. Every retail organization can be a #BestPlaceToWork by focusing on their workplace culture and what an impact it can have on the customer experience. Happy employees create happy experiences for the customer.



Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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