In our always-on culture, it can be tough to prioritize balance even if you know it's good for you. There are numerous well-documented studies that cite the benefits of disconnecting, but as a leader, it's hard to step away.
I know that when I disengage from work and spend time with my friends and family, however, I'm setting the stage for others within Zillow Group to do so too. A leader's approach to balance shapes company culture, so it's something I care a lot about.
To help myself step away from work, I've learned that I need to set clear goals, track my progress, and give myself and others permission to truly disengage. If you're struggling to recharge and create a balanced company culture, consider taking the following steps:
1. Set a resolution.
A few years ago, I started a New Year's resolution to not check email on Saturdays. The first year, I struggled to stick to it. I only succeeded five out of 52 weeks, which was nothing to write home about.
The second year, I got 10, and in 2016, I was up to 20. We're halfway through this year, and I've been 80 percent successful, year to date. My Saturdays are now filled with kids' soccer games, birthday parties, and family adventures with my wife and three kids--and they're invaluable to my family and me.
2. Quantify your progress.
Work-life balance is a squishy concept, especially for analytical people like me. My resolution was helpful to me because I was able to gamify and quantify the process of disconnecting.
Tracking my progress helped me see that I was headed in the right direction, and I could compete against myself each year (which was fun). Whatever disengaging means for you, try to quantify it. It holds you accountable, and it helps you celebrate wins along the way.
3. Give yourself and others permission to disengage.
Permission is the first hurdle that many companies struggle to get past when trying to instill balance, so I have a responsibility to the team to disengage from time to time. Leaders need to set the right example.
This only works, however, if it's reinforced by the example managers set for their teams. If everyone on your team responds to emails 24/7 or stays at the office until the wee hours of the morning, you feel like a slacker if you don't.
If I send an email late Friday night, I sometimes write "no need to respond until Monday," and I hope others within the company follow suit. Encourage managers to promote balance on their teams by exemplifying it.
When people have the space to recharge, they're happier, more productive, and more likely to come up with creative ideas that can't surface when they're heads-down. I've found that if you want to create a balanced culture, you have to live and breathe balance too.