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Balancing Act: Navigating Work/Life Balance in the Franchise Model

The unique model of a franchise is all about balance: finding the perfect balance between the consistency of a broader company and the specificity of a locally-operated business. In that way, franchises are also uniquely positioned to have much-needed conversations around work/life balance. Today’s franchise leaders face an evolving professional landscape, as well as employees whose idea of work/life balance is evolving, too.

 

Here’s what your franchise leadership team should be keeping in mind as you look to craft an approach that keeps employees satisfied, engaged, and productive – and avoiding stress or burnout.

 

The Weight of Burnout

We may be past the peak of the Great Resignation or Great Reshuffle, but employees are still feeling the ripple effects of several years of stressors piling up. The result? A workforce that is increasingly tired, burned out, and dissatisfied – and that’s especially true for “frontline” workers with public-facing roles. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 60% of employees reported negative effects due to work-related stress, including:

 

  • Physical fatigue as a result of stress (44%)
  • Cognitive weariness (36%)
  • Emotional exhaustion (32%)
  • Lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%)
  • Lack of effort at work (19%)

 

A lack of work/life balance can absolutely be a major factor in creating this sense of burnout and fatigue. Over the last few years, more and more people have developed a stronger desire for a balanced life, as well as greater willingness to make changes in their professional sphere in order to achieve it. In fact, one survey, as reported by CNBC, found that today’s employees are more likely to consider work-life balance, flexible hours, and mental health support as more important over “traditional” markers such as career progression. Another survey by FlexJobs found that 63% of respondents would choose better work/life balance over better pay.

 

In light of these realities, the question becomes: how can franchise leaders tackle the thorny and often variable issue of work/life balance?

 

A Focus on Culture

For some industries, hybrid work has become the go-to solution. Many franchise brands, however, are in niches where remote and hybrid work is not practical or realistic, especially for on-the-ground employees. Franchise leaders should place the focus more on broader cultural strategies, building an organization that prizes its employees’ universal well-being.

 

Because franchises may vary so widely, it’s not necessarily helpful to attempt to prescribe certain actions and say “do this and you’ll succeed!” Instead, franchise leaders can start by considering questions that can uncover their cultural strengths and weaknesses, such as the following:

 

  • Who sets or models our culture at the corporate level? How is that culture then transmitted to individual locations?
  • How much flexibility do individual franchise locations have to develop their own, localized culture?
  • What mechanisms do you have in place for gathering employee feedback? Once gathered, how is that feedback analyzed and/or implemented?
  • How do you ensure that employees feel valued and appreciated? Is there a formal recognition program of any kind?
  • How does your organization demonstrate its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB)?

 

From there, you can begin to drill down further on addressing issues specifically pertinent to work/life balance. These might include topics like:

 

  • How is scheduling handled to ensure adequate coverage without strain?
  • What do parental leave and childcare policies look like?
  • Is there a culture of overwork or of drawing appropriate boundaries, and who models that culture?
  • How is collaboration encouraged among employees?
  • Are there any “on-call” requirements, and how can you strike a balance between ensuring coverage and allowing true “down time”?
  • Does your organization offer any mental health support and/or coverage?
  • Are there strategies in place to encourage organic team-building and connection?

 

The Benefits of Balance

We spend so much time talking about the pitfalls and potential negatives of not having adequate support for work/life balance, but it’s also worth looking at the reverse side: the true benefits of a culture that supports balance.

 

In today’s always-connected world, work/life balance matters more than ever. It’s critical for employees to have that chance to disconnect, unwind, and put work out of their minds. From a purely work perspective, that downtime helps refresh them so that they’ll be more productive, positive, and engaged when they clock back in; from a broader human perspective, that time away from work is where they thrive in the other areas of their lives: their families, their hobbies, their time to rest.

 

When the Gap ran a flexible-scheduling pilot program, the Harvard Business Review reported better morale, more productivity, and increased sales. Other research has linked work/life balance with up to 75% increases in motivation and 63% increases in focus and creativity. Balance relieves pressure, and that relief often translates into the freedom to perform and innovate at higher levels.

 

It can even support your DEIB initiatives! Research published by the Harvard Business Review found that “when companies had universal policies for family leave time, flexible scheduling, and help with childcare, the percentages of Black, Hispanic, and Asian American male and female managers increased significantly. So did the percentage of white female managers.” Policies that support work/life balance, in other words, are especially effective for addressing some of the most common barriers that keep underrepresented groups from advancing in their careers.

 

Work/life balance is more important than ever, especially in today’s talent marketplace. Employees are increasingly preferring to work for employers that support their whole selves, whether that’s through policies for family care, schedule coverage, mental health, or other perks. When you show your employees you care, you earn their loyalty and their continued engagement. And who knows – perhaps, some of these satisfied employees just might take the next steps with your brand and turn out to be your next top-performing franchisees, too!

 

About the Author

 

Nancy Estep-Critchett is a founding Partner of Blue Rock Search, with oversight of the Franchise Practice. She has 30 years of successful working experience as a business advisor and executive recruiter in the franchising space. Nancy has built solid relationships which have spanned decades with industry professionals and internationally recognized brands.

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