A bursting topic in the board room is the demand for better work-life balance. An unhealthy work-life balance is bad news for any company because of the resulting loss of employee productivity and loyalty. It is crucial to create a balance that fits the needs of your company and its employees. Both executives and human resource professionals are expected to manage and implement successful work-life strategies within an organization. The balance may be difficult to achieve, but the payoffs from finding a balance are substantial.
Room for Concern and Room for Opportunity
A healthy work-life balance cultivates productivity and a thriving work environment. Three issues to consider are:
- Growth and profit: On and off-the-job stress drives down productivity and work quality. Implementing a solid work-life balance strategy reduces employee stress and improves employee output.
- Customer service: Both real and perceived overwork adds unnecessary pressure on an employee. A disgruntled employee that engages with clients and customers can take a toll on your company’s objectives. By reinforcing a better work-life balance, your employee can commit to the company’s mission.
- Employee demands: Generation X and Y employees in particular have high expectations when it comes to corporate culture. They expect employers to understand that they have a life outside of work. In fact, a major reason individuals quit their job is due to work-life balance issues. Maintaining a better balance can help increase corporate loyalty.
When looking at work-life balance, your business must first accept that it gets the most out of its employees when they live satisfying lives. HR professionals can help find and implement work-life solutions that fit your company’s objectives and employee demographics. The solution will be different every time. Finding the right balance will increase employee retention, commitment, and productivity while also improving attitude, morale, and customer service.
Over time, competitive work environments have eroded corporate community and loyalty. Employees feel like expectations and standards have been raised while companies offer little security in return. A poor work-life balance leaves many employees feeling overworked and burnt out, which increases absenteeism and reduces retention rates. By supporting better work-life balance, a company can expect employees who are more loyal to the company and have fewer intentions of leaving. Higher satisfaction with both job and life leaves employees feeling more motivated, and they will produce higher quality work in a shorter amount of time. You will get more for your buck if you carefully plan how much you ask of your employees.
There are a number of ways to implement higher work-life balance such as different initiatives and programs. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” work-life balance. Trying to have a universal policy for every company often perpetuates frustration and failure. The right HR management strategy will be tailored to the unique needs defined by a company’s demographics, culture, and product or service line. Because every individual has different needs, an HR strategy must integrate different elements of work-life balance that support both the company and the individual.
Balancing Work Hours with Life
A common work-life issue in today’s workplace is employee work hours. It is not uncommon for a business to demand 50+ hours from an employee on a weekly basis. This is fine during times of emergency, but if it becomes an ongoing trend, you risk burning that employee out. Employees who work more than 40 hours a week tend to get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. A burnt out employee cannot function as efficiently or effectively as a balanced employee. They will take longer per task to produce work of lower quality than an employee who enjoys a strong work-life balance.
In today’s economy, it is tempting to save costs by asking an employee to do the work of 1.2-1.5 employees and reduce your workforce by a third. This may work for awhile, but you can eventually expect degradation in your outputs. You should not come to depend on it as a permanent solution. In addition, some companies have started issuing corporate cell phones and asking their employees to be “on call” at all times. In such companies, it is not uncommon for an employee to be called late in the evening with an urgent task. When this becomes common practice, a company risks losing its employee loyalty and getting inferior outputs from its employees. You can expect half-hearted results by your employees to be felt—and resented—by your customers.
Another Example: Childcare
Changing demographics have had a major impact on work-life balance. Decades ago when 90% of US households were married and upheld the “traditional” family model, maintaining a balance with work and family was simpler. Now when 50% of US households are married and only 13% of families fit the “traditional” family model, there are shifting changes in priorities that are often detrimental to businesses. With the increase in single parents and dual-income families, balancing work and family has become harder.
A survey of 2,500 employees of two large companies can give you a peak into how these changing demographics are trickling into the work force:
- 50% of employees were late for work 3-6 times a month for childcare purposes
- 50% of employees missed work an additional 3 times a month for childcare
- The average employee called home, the nanny, or caregiver 3 to 4 times a day
- 60% of employees reported loss of work time to care for a child
These startling statistics easily reveal how much time and resources are lost in any given day or month due to an imbalance between work and family. By catering to the change in demographics, there is room for your company to reinforce a better balance. In this example, the problem could be significantly reduced by providing daycare services and/or locating the business close to a school. To a single mother, providing daycare could be even better than a pay raise for encouraging loyalty, which in turn improves attitude and productivity.
Better than Benefits
While traditional benefits like medical insurance, life insurance, and workers ‘compensation are all important, newer generations of workers expect more. They do not live to work—they work to live. They don’t see the point in higher salaries when they are never home to enjoy their salary. On the other hand, they tend to spend more time at work when their workplace includes a recreation area and a gym. A common theme in successful companies today is to install a weight room and put a foosball table in the lounge. By letting their employees take frequent short breaks, they can get more quality output out of their workforce. Younger employees often value these amenities over medical insurance. We don’t advocate wholesale replacement of insurance benefits with entertainment benefits. However, providing more company-based recreation instead of low-premium insurance may be cheaper for you and more valuable to the rising generation of workers.
The Bottom Line of Work-Life Balance
Plenty of work-life efforts implemented by organizations fail because they say a lot of things and then do nothing. Pep talks, lip service, and other hype will not make a difference. Your employees will likely be skeptical of any policy changes you make until they see the new policies in action. An HR management service can provide specific advice that addresses your company’s needs in this regard. If you are just starting to introduce new work-life balance efforts or need to improve existing efforts, an HR management service can substantially improve your company’s bottom line.