Personnel e.bulletin – August 2014

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Work-Life Balance – Thoughts for You and Your Employees
Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

Is work-life balance a dated concept? A myth? The work–leisure dichotomy was invented in the mid 1800s when anthropologists proposed that a definition of happiness was one that has as much separation as possible between work and play. The work-life balance phrase was first introduced in the UK in 1972 and in the Untied States in 1986 – when the mobile phone was a new invention; poised to replace phones implanted in cars and equipment. Dated it is, but its relevance in the workplace has never been more significant as technology has deeply blurred the lines between work and play – connection to work is 24/7/365.

In a variety of research studies, work-life balance is generally ranked among the top five job attributes that top performers seek and it plays a significant role in engaging and retaining talent. Creating an environment that makes modern day work-life balance more attainable is a combination of programming and leadership. Let’s start with steps to take on the program side.

Work-life Balance Practices

Companies, who have reputations for environments that place a priority on work-life balance, work with their employees to negotiate a balance that best meets their needs as long as work gets done and obligations are met. While they focus on structure, they are adept at being flexible within boundaries. Their practices include:

  • A variety of flexible work schedule options that appeal to various segments and demographics within their workforce.
  • Flexible work options that are conducive to their specific business operations and job roles.
  • Equal claims on flexibility no matter employee’s age or life circumstances – no work-life balance trump card that can compromise the success of flexible work arrangements.
  • Supervisors and manager discretion to have conversations with employees regarding their schedules and work/life needs.
  • Tools to help managers address flexible work needs, such as request forms and guides to implementing flexible work arrangements, and training.
  • Technology to help employees do their work outside of the physical boundaries of the office.
Some interesting and progressive practices include:
  • An 11 month year work option – works for companies that have busy seasons.
  • Thirty hours a week as full time – labor intensive companies.
  • Strict limits on the maximum number of hours employees work per week/year.
  • CARE Days, where preventative measures are offered and paid for by the company, saving employees time and money.
  • Managers being held accountable when their employees don’t take enough time off.
  • Ability to make up hours without using PTO/having pay deducted.
  • Unlimited sick and personal time – more and more companies are doing this, over a third of companies on the 2012 Best Small & Medium Workplaces list extended this benefit to employees. What’s interesting to note is that even with this generous offer, employees typically take fewer days off for health reasons!

Best Places to Start

Flexibility

Flexibility is probably the biggest factor in creating a successful work-life balance program. Research shows that almost 50% of workers say a flexible schedule is what they value most when evaluating an employer. What’s more, many working adults are willing to give up some percentage of their salary for more flexibility at work; that’s how important it is.Here are some ways to make flexibility work for you:

  • Give employees more control over their schedules – consider a job-share model so that customer demand is met.
  • Offer flex-time and flex-location options.
  • Encourage and support telecommuting and working remotely where possible.
  • Allow flexible paid time off.

Accommodation

While flexibility is a fairly universal need among employees, you should also make an effort to accommodate the individual needs of your staff. Some “perks” you might consider offering include:

  • Fitness benefits
  • Legal assistance
  • Financial planning
  • Employee development courses
  • Childcare programs
  • Tuition assistance program
  • Grocery service
  • Adoption assistance

A Look Beyond Programmatic Solutions

Organizations that seem to have the best handle on helping employees juggle work and personal responsibilities are also typically the ones that have good management systems in place throughout the company.

Specifically, within these “work-life balance leaders:”

  • Provide clear direction regarding company priorities, to help employees focus on the highest-value tasks.
  • Have policies and practices that are consistently implemented, to ensure that workloads are seen as fairly and equitably distributed.
  • Push for high levels of teamwork within and across organizational units, to provide employees with access to support from co-workers in coping with work demands.
  • Provide strong support for training and development and allow high levels of employee empowerment. This ensures that employees have the skills and decision-making authority to get the job done.
  • Make sure adequate resources (e.g., tools, equipment and technology) are supplied, to enable employees to execute work tasks efficiently and with high quality.
The key message for you as a business owner or manager is that many of the same factors that are associated with a more engaged and effective work force also lead to work environments where employees are more positive about stress and work-life balance issues.
The benefits of getting it right from a program perspective and a leadership perspective are real – you will position yourself to retain your key talent, which just might be the majority of your workforce.

This content was developed for the PHCC  Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. (www.tpo-inc.com). Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of July 2014. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at http://www.phccfoundation.org.

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