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How to Promote Work-Life Balance In the Skilled Trades

Buzzwords in the workplace can be polarizing: synergy, paradigm shift, growth hacking. Sometimes it feels like organizations use buzzwords without knowing what they really mean. Then, sometimes there are words that seem like buzzwords but actually change the workplace for the better. We’ve covered one of these on this blog before, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and how it’s not only a benefit to your organization but necessary. Another phrase that might get thrown around a lot but just as necessary as DEI? Work-life balance. A lack of it can lead to burnout resulting in reduced productivity, accidents on the job, and high turnover.

If you’re not promoting work-life balance to your employees yet, you should start. And if you don’t know where to start, keep reading for some tips on how to promote work-life balance to skilled trades employees. 

Ok, But Is Work-Life Balance Important to Skilled Trade Employees?

Between 2022 and 2027, 56 skilled trade sectors will experience a 10,000 person shortage, according to RBC’s “Powering Up: Preparing Canada’s Skilled Trades for a Post-Pandemic Economy”. Employment and Social Development Canada estimates that approximately 700,000 skilled trades workers have retired or will retire between 2019 and 2028 without enough apprentices to replace them. 

In 2022, 92.6% of people working in trades, transport, equipment operations, and related occupations and 72% in manufacturing and utilities were men, according to Statistics Canada. We hear a lot about the very real and valid stereotypes and unhealthy messaging that can harm women and girls in the workplace and hold them back. But much less attention is paid to the unhealthy messaging men and boys receive in the workplace. 

How many times have we heard phrases - meant to be motivational - like: 

  • rise and grind
  • good things come to those who hustle
  • growth mindset
  • hard work pays off

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If these phrases are motivational to you, that’s great! But sometimes it’s hard to balance our motivation to work hard and achieve our goals, with our home life, causing this kind of messaging to have a toxic effect on mental health. “Hustle culture” can quickly lead to an unbalanced work life and turn into burnout culture. 

With this data in mind, it is safe to assume that there are already skilled trades workers in your workplace who may be experiencing burnout and in need of better work-life balance.  

5 Tips for How to Promote Work-Life Balance 

If you think some of your skilled trades employees may be experiencing burnout, here are some tips for how to promote work-life balance to them:

  1. Talk About It: Learn about your workers’ needs and challenges to find out what might be keeping their work and life out of balance. Meet with employees one-on-one or if that’s not possible, create a survey to get their feedback and guide the strategies and decisions you make going forward. 
  2. Enforce Breaks: Everyone needs rest. Yes, even you! A University of Illinois study found that even a quick 5-minute break gives your employees a moment to refresh and refocus themselves. Encourage employees not to work through their scheduled breaks and also encourage them to use their PTO; you’ve provided it for a reason! Time away from work gives bodies and minds a rest and time spent at leisure activities or with loved ones help employees recharge. 
  3. Be Flexible: In the skilled trades, it’s not always possible to provide flexible work schedules; sometimes working from home, popular since the pandemic, is impossible in this sector. But if you can be, it doesn’t hurt to be flexible with work schedules. Even if the work schedule is set in stone, there are other ways to accommodate flexibility. Think about the ways we respond when workers request time off for an appointment or express the desire to leave early to attend a family event. Accommodating these requests can provide a needed boost to employees and alleviate stress. 
  4. Watch Out for Overwork: In the paragraphs above we talked a lot about the present and future worker shortage in the skilled trades, so we realize that this tip is a bit difficult. If you’re already experiencing this shortage you may feel like your employees are already experiencing overwork and you may find difficulty attracting and retaining a supplemental workforce. If this is the case, overwork can be managed through strategic work delegation, playing to employee strengths and providing clear expectations. 
  5. Be the Change: We hope this one is the easiest. To be the change for work-life balance in your business, lead by example! Simply apply all of these tips for yourself. 

Don’t Discount Quality of Life at Home In Employee Work-Life Balance

Use the resources on the Quality of Life in Eastern Ontario page to: 

  • attract new employees 
  • keep the employees you have happy
  • encourage work-life balance in the region
  • encourage work-life balance for yourself!

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External links are provided as informational resources only and are not necessarily endorsed by Ontario East.


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