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Work-Life Balance

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Why you need it and how to achieve it

 
...working less means working better.
— Anne-Marie Slaughter, Unfinished Business

Research is providing evidence that work-life balance (WLB) is not only good for people, it’s good for business, and it’s catching on.

Donnie Hutchinson, a consultant specialising in WLB strategies, reports that “more and more CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are exercising daily, eating healthy and becoming accustomed to anxiety-reducing techniques such as meditation.”

WHEN WORK-LIFE BALANCE IS NON-NEGOTIABLE

To keep younger talent, you’re going to have to deliver on it
— Dr. Linda Duxbury

Linda Duxbury, professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business says that “balance is not going to be an optional discussion point pretty soon.”

WLB affects your workforce and your business. Recent data shows that:

  • 40% of job-seekers will leave for another job with better WLB
  • 30% of employees list WLB as a leading contributor to their loyalty
  • 29% of (American) employees resign due to poor WLB
  • 53% of Millennials say a healthy WLB would make them stay at their job
  • 40% of employees say they wished their employers cared more about WLB

CASE STUDY: THE ROYAL BANK FINANCIAL GROUP, CANADA

The RBPF offered:

  • flexible work schedules
  • job-share opportunities
  • sabbaticals to any employee (without risk of career disadvantage)

The RBFG saw:

  • declined employee absenteeism by more than 50%
  • lower employee-reported stress levels
  • higher employee-reported energy levels
  • consistent—in some cases, improved—job performance
  • increased employee time-management skills

CASE STUDY: MCKINSEY’S TAKE TIME PROGRAM

The consulting giant McKinsey offers its consultants up to ten weeks off per year, between projects. Employees use this time to travel, cultivate hobbies, or take care of family. Only in its early stages, this program has already led to increased employee retention and recruitment as well as employee-reported improvements in engagement and well-being.

WHERE DO YOU STAND?

  •        How does your organisation support employee work-life balance?
  •        Does your work-life balance policy align with leadership practice?
  •        What policy changes could bring about increased work-life balance?

 

If CEOs, supervisors, and managers want to avoid missing out on the next great wave of productivity increases and morale improvements, they too need to adopt policies that provide true flexibility.
— ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, UNFINISHED BUSINESS

WHY AREN’T YOUR WORK-LIFE BALANCE POLICIES LEADING TO MORE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

There’s a good chance your organisation’s policies already includes WLB features, but are you reaping the benefits that WLB can provide? Do you know what role WLB plays in employee turnover? Are you benefiting from your talent’s peak productivity or paying the costs of unproductive, traditional work structures? (Microsoft employees have reported that in a 45-hour work week, they put in only 28 productive hours!)

An organisation can establish positive rapport with employees through frequent communication on WLB policies, which then leads to a potential increase in retention rates and lowered absenteeism without decreasing quality output.
— DR. ERICA M. SOUTHWORTH

  •        Are your WLB policies perceived as only available to female workers, rather than as family or personal wellness options for all employees?
  •        Do your employees fear personal or professional backlash?
  •        Do your managers promote WLB but fail to lead by example?
  •        Does your leadership understand the benefits of WLB to productivity?

STEPS TOWARD IMPROVING WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN YOUR ORGANISATION

Take your organisation to the next level and join the ranks of industry leaders making work-life balance an integral part of long-term growth planning.

1.     OPT-OUT, NOT OPT-IN

When it comes to WLB, ask that your employees opt-out of otherwise expected WLB policies. For example, make parental leave a mandatory leave. Don’t expect your employees to request it, but do expect them to explain why they might choose not to take it. You don’t want new parents, suffering sleep-deprivation and increased stress, to be juggling their new family demands alongside work expectations, especially in high-stakes scenarios.

2.     ASSUME IT WORKS UNTIL IT DOESN’T

Make flex-work the rule, not the exception. Let new hires know that they are welcome to work under flexible conditions until or unless those conditions prove untenable. The same goes for other wellness initiatives such as walking meetings/phone calls, mid-day breaks, working from home, extended holidays, etc.

3.     LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Why would you pass up the opportunity to boost your own creativity, mental acuity, wellbeing and productivity? If you make WLB a priority, so will your talent. It doesn’t matter what your policies are, if employees don’t see management taking advantage of the same WLB measures, they will get the message that those measures are not really encouraged. 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery famously said that “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Like all organisational objectives, work-life balance is only achieved when we implement steps that lead to the desired outcome.
If family comes first, work does not come second. Life comes together.
— ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, UNFINISHED BUSINESS
 

© Dr Kristen Liesch 2017. All rights reserved.

SOURCES

 

Erica M. Southworth, “Shedding gender stigmas: Work-life balance equity in the 21st century,” Business Horizons (2014): 97-106.

A.R.. Hochschild, The time bind: When work becomes home and home becomes work (New York: Metropolitan Books Henry Holt & Co., 1997).

N.L. Spinks & N. Tombari, “Flexible work arrangements: A successful strategy for the advancement of women at the Royal Bank Financial Group,” in Advancing Women’s Careers, ed. R. J. Burke & D. L. Nelson: 220-242 (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 2002).

T.A. Beauregard & L.C. Henry, “Making the link between work-life balance practices and organizational performance,” Human Resource Management Review 19, no. 1 (2009):9-22.

A.M. Slaughter, Unfinished Business (London: Oneworld Publications, 2015).