Many office workers have eaten a “sad desk salad” at one point or another. Fork in one hand and computer mouse in the other, employees have often forgone a true break in favor of working through their lunch hour, dusting off the crumbs from their desks afterward.
However, this practice has until now been illegal in France, where a longstanding rule in French labor code prohibited businesses from allowing employees to eat at their desks. The Labor Ministry recently amended the labor code to permit desk lunches, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The new rule is temporary and applies to offices with more than 50 employees that lack a cafeteria large enough for social distancing.
Previously, companies that broke this rule faced a fine if discovered by the inspectors who enforce the labor code. Employees could be subject to unspecified disciplinary action, at the discretion of the company and its policy. While in actuality many workers were surprised to find out that such a law existed in the first place, the decree is still one more way that COVID-19 has altered work norms.
In a country where the lunch break is typically sacred and reflects the larger prioritization of work-life balance, the change is noteworthy. It prompts greater discussion around how employers everywhere can help their employees disconnect from work, during the pandemic and beyond.
The importance of work-life balance
Employee burnout is incredibly costly, both personally and organizationally. When working long hours, 27% of employees feel depressed, 34% feel anxious and 58% feel irritable, according to research from the Mental Health Foundation.
The feeling is common—at least 76% of employees experience burnout “sometimes,” and 28% feel burned out “very often” or “always,” according to a Gallup report. These employees are 63% more likely to take sick days and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.
It’s crucial that your company has practices and policies in place to encourage work-life balance. Here are four work-life balance solutions for employers you can implement to ensure employee health and productivity.
1. Allow for flexible work schedules.
Flexibility is key. Especially during the pandemic when many parents are juggling work and childcare duties, you can help by embracing flextime policies that give employees greater freedom over how they arrange their work schedules. Measure performance by results, not by strict adherence to the typical 9-5 workday. As long as managers make expectations clear and employees accomplish their daily tasks, this flexibility fosters trust and shows employees that they’re valued both in and out of the workplace.
2. Monitor employee burnout signs.
You can’t address burnout if you aren’t aware that it’s happening. Ensure that you know how to spot burnout and that you’re actively monitoring possible indicators. If an employee is taking more sick days, making more mistakes, acting more irritable than usual, or showing clear physical exhaustion, there could be a problem. When you understand the signs, you’re in a better position to prevent burnout before it becomes a real issue.
3. Educate employees on work-life balance.
Do more than give lip service to your company’s support of work-life balance. Make it a part of your culture by educating employees on why work-life balance is important and how they can address burnout when it happens. Give employees clear guidelines on the signs and symptoms of burnout, how to approach managers when it happens, what managers can do to help direct reports, and strategies they can use to increase efficiency and work smarter, not necessarily longer.
4. Offer supportive health benefits & programs
Healthy bodies and minds are essential to mitigating the harmful effects of burnout. When employees take the time to tend to their physical and mental health, the positive outcomes spill over into the workplace, allowing them to bring their best selves to the job. To encourage a healthy lifestyle, you can provide employees with tangible support like mental health benefits, employee assistance programs, gym membership discounts and office-wide yoga classes.
How an Employer of Record (EOR) helps
An Employer of Record (EOR) like Elements Global Services helps global employers provide better support to their employees. A company that is headquartered in one country but operates in others will likely find it difficult to fully grasp the local culture, workplace norms and labor laws. With entities in over 135 countries, Elements has local experts who provide the nuance you may otherwise lack. These services, plus tools like Expandopedia, also ensure compliance with updated labor laws like the French ruling on desk lunches. Contact us here to learn more about how we ensure the best experience for employers and employees alike.
About Elements Global Services:
Elements Global Services is an award-winning HR technology & services company. Elements provides employment solutions in over 135 countries—covering everything from payroll, benefits, HR, local compliance to visa & mobility. Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, Elements has a global network of offices and employees delivering innovative solutions to its growing customer base. Elements’ Direct Employer of Record model helps companies expand, onboard, manage & pay employees worldwide. Visit elementsgs.com, LinkedIn or Twitter for more information.