“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.