A former NFL player turned CEO shares the 2 strategies he uses to encourage workers to communicate when they’re struggling with work-life balance

Mike Morini. Courtesy of Mike Morini
  • Mike Morini is a former NFL player and CEO of WorkForce Software, a HR tech company.
  • The company is ranked as one of the top work-life balance organisations, according to Comparably.
  • Morini said managers can increase employee engagement by improving their emotional intelligence.
  • This article is part of a series called “Leaders by Day,” which takes a look at how prominent business leaders are tackling various challenges in today’s economy.

Fostering a healthy work-life balance is important not only for the productivity of your company, but for the health of your employees.

Mike Morini, a former NFL player and the CEO of HR tech company WorkForce Software, knows the importance of this first-hand. Under Morini’s leadership, the company landed among the top 15 companies with the best work-life balance according to Comparably.

Right now, everyone is struggling to balance their jobs with responsibilities at home. Many people are grieving the loss of loved ones.

Leaders can invest in benefits to help employees deal with these challenges. For example, WorkForce Software has implemented company-wide policies and benefits such as unlimited vacation days, flexible work schedules, and partnerships with fitness and wellbeing programs, Forbes reported.

But helping employees achieve work-life balance goes beyond company perks like discounted gym memberships and paid vacation days, Morini said. It also means encouraging them to speak up when they’re having a tough time.

“I think everybody is feeling pockets of fatigue right now,” he said. “And supporting that balance is more important now than before — not just to make sure that people are ok — but it’s also an effective way to keep your employees engaged and keep moving ahead.”

Here’s what Morini recommends.

Listen to employees

Emotional intelligence is defined as your ability to navigate social scenarios through recognising someone’s emotions and feelings. It’s about knowing when to listen and when to speak, Morini said.

If you want to give employees more flexibility, you need to understand where they already feel constrained.

“On the field or at work, you got to have multiple plays in your playbook,” he said. “I think a big part of having emotional intelligence as a leader is understanding what play a certain situation — or your audience needs. There are various ways to deliver a message, but how you do it is important.”

Morini recommended that managers develop a habit of listening to their employees first before speaking during meetings. A conversation is a two-way street, and successful leaders make people feel heard, he said.

Leaders can actively listen by prioritising their employees’ agendas, look for the value in their words first before giving constructive feedback, and follow-up and check-in after the meeting, Insider previously reported.

For creating a more balanced workplace, Morini said managers should be intentional about gathering feedback on how the office environment can be improved.

“Try to look at the situation from their lens,” he said. “You can build your situational awareness that way.”

Be honest if you’re struggling yourself

Creating work-life balance means modelling it yourself.

Having open conversations goes both ways. And as a manager, sharing when you’re struggling, or don’t have all the answers, is key to fostering an environment where workers feel comfortable communicating.

Morini encourages leaders to be transparent about their own challenges. Keep the conversation going by setting up virtual office hours or team meetings, he said.

Morini recommended managers communicate and engage with people more frequently — even when you don’t have a meeting agenda. He also stressed that you can be honest about not having all the answers, especially given the fact that we’re all experiencing a global health crisis for the first time.

“I said we were going to do everything we can to make sure this company that we spent years building stays intact, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.