Work-Life Balance: The Bottom Line

Today’s work force is riding a tidal wave of work-life trends as concepts like “mindfulness” and “nap rooms” become main stream. Many companies are redefining parental leave (for Dad’s, adopters, or non-birth parents), and volunteer days become the norm. The pattern here is making room for what happens in life and allowing for work-life balance, but three questions linger:

  1. “What do our employees really want?” (A lot)
  2. “How much is this going to cost me? (Not much)
  3. “Can employees doing ‘less work’ really get more done?” (No, but read on)

To begin, work-life balance is more than nap pods and personal days off. At its core, the notion of work-life balance reflects an employer’s support for their employees well-being and a respect for their life outside of work. It goes beyond policies; it really is about culture. We all know someone who has taken a job because of the great vacation package only to find they had no time to use it. In fact, almost half of Americans do not use all their vacation days!

Company cultures that support work-life balance project security to employees. It provides fulfillment for workers by allowing them to manage their personal lives so that they come to work focused and ready to perform.  Do you think an Assistant Manager who sent a sick child to school because he had no personal days is providing his full attention? Or that a project lead who commutes 2 hours each way every day (because there are no flexible work arrangements) has the focus to catch every mistake? According to most established behavioral science, the answer is a “not a freaking chance”.

We bring our whole selves to work (distractions of the morning last all day) and leading companies already recognize that. Those that have not, will find attracting new hires much harder. Getting top talent through the door requires real work-life balance options. Running existing employees in high gear for months is now a certifiable lose-lose situation. Productivity plummets after a 50 hour work week and, even worse, drive absenteeism and turnover. Employee ROI crumbles under the weight of overtime.

Solutions come in many forms. Part-time arrangements, job sharing, in-office perks. What is best for your bottom line?

STOP. Ask employees what they want first. Prioritize, start one-at-a time, and cut anything they don’t want. The best execution on increasing (actual and the perception of) work-life balance is a supportive culture from managers. Will you convince all managers this is a good idea? Maybe not. The alternative is losing another good employee.

Finally, your people will not likely get more work done. They will just get exactly the same amount done. And appreciate you for it.


Posted: 9/21/2015

Work/Life Initiatives Impact Employee Retention

“When organizations are establishing work/life programs, it is important to consider the purpose of the program and whom they serve.” – Nancy L. Lockwood, HR Magazine, Vol 48 No. 6

Work/life programs can be used as retention tools for organizations, but many miss out.

Sometimes it seems 24 hours per day is not enough to tackle work and personal tasks. Sound familiar? Both employees and employers realize that, in the modern lifestyle, work and family matters have converged. Many firms have instituted hotlines, programs, or even software to ensure that these conflicts do not diminish the quality and productivity of employees’ work. According to Lockwood’s “Work/life balance: Challenges and Solutions,” employers recognize the importance of employees’ needs to balance personal and professional responsibilities, but they are having difficulty integrating these programs into the corporate culture. Many employees worry that their career advancement will be hindered if they participate in these programs.

Often, the lack of employee acceptance is attributed to ineffective communication at the launch of the program. Rarely is the importance of work/life balance programs as a retention tool emphasized to managerial staff. Therefore, supervisors who have not bought-in to these programs are unaware that they can also enhance the quality of work, increase productivity, strengthen organizational commitment, decrease healthcare costs, and reduce absenteeism. According to recent research, published in Training & Development, 69% of absences are not due to illness, but occur because employees decide to attend to personal needs. This may cost an employer over $600 per absence. Burned-out, conflicted employees, who become detached from their work, are not as productive as those who have struck a balance between their professional and personal responsibilities. They also have more at-work conflicts. The financial health of a company is linked to the personal health of the human capital. By communicating the needs of the workforce, managers and executive can reap the financial benefits of work/life programs.

Integrating work/life balance in the organization’s culture will benefit all.

The consequences of not implementing work/life balance programs properly are the loss of (and potential disadvantage in attracting) talented human capital. Workforce planners, who clarify what type of alternative work arrangement is most appropriate for the differing roles of employees, help managers grasp how it can benefit their employees. Proactively instituting flexible work arrangements such as flextime, a compressed workweek, or telecommuting, signals trust and that you are empowering employees to “own” rather than be passive receptors of their work. Managers’ acceptance of flexible work arrangements is essential so that their direct reports will trust that their job security and career paths are not in jeopardy if they choose to take advantage of these programs.