Understanding the Work to Live vs. Live to Work Mentality

Some people work to live. Others live to work. But neither is particularly sustainable over the long run. If you’re a manager trying to implement a stronger workplace culture, you’ll need to put support in place to help everyone find a healthier work-life balance. Here are some tips.

Work to Live

Work-to-live types tend to be fiercely protective of their downtime. They also have a tendency to do as little as possible when they’re at work or possibly underperforming employees. They aren’t necessarily bad employees, in fact many of them are quite loyal to their employers. But they may need a bit of extra motivation, especially when project deadlines or staffing shortages require everyone to do a little more.

Respect their values and don’t try to force or bully them into compliance. Instead, appeal to their loyalty and sense of fairness – also, a healthy dose of excitement, enthusiasm, fun, appreciation, and recognition goes a long way. Suggest solutions that help them rise to the challenge while protecting their need to get away. Flexible work schedules can be extremely helpful for work-to-live employees, because they can put in a lot of hours over a short period to get things done, and then take some time to rejuvenate.

Live to Work

Live-to-work types are the polar opposite. They’re at their workstation 15 minutes early, and don’t go home until everyone else does. They volunteer for extra projects and are always happy to work overtime. At first glance, they might seem like model employees—at least, until they burn out.

Living to work is unsustainable. This type of worker is at high risk for burnout or even a workplace injury. The key is to find ways to get them to slow down without dampening their enthusiasm. Model healthy behaviors, such as leaving work on time and using up PTO hours. Enforce limits on how many extra projects any one employee can take on, and on how many hours of overtime can be worked in a week or a month. Talk about work-life balance and the importance of self-care.

It can be tough to implement a healthy work culture, especially if your team has a mix of work-to-live and live-to-work types. But like most things in life, balance is essential. Foster an environment in which employees are encouraged to work hard and then take time to rest, and gradually everyone will find a healthier spot in the middle. Look for opportunities to boost employee morale – especially during the summer when schedules tend to slow down.

When you onboard new hires, make sure you emphasize the importance of work-life balance. This provides motivation and enthusiasm while focusing on delivering exceptional, team-oriented work habits.

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