Work-life balance is the core element of employee satisfaction, productivity and loyalty. Therefore, if you
manage to create a workplace where employees can balance the requirements of their jobs and their personal lives,
you do not have to think about retention problem. In addition, if you become prominent in the labor market regarding
this matter, you will overtop competitors at hiring good people. Think of restructuring the work-family integration
as a win-win situation that leads to more creative and efficient work by employees and more productive and
innovative work place to achieve key business goals for companies.
Two long-term developments brought work-life issue to a head starting from the late 1990s:
First was the expanding the hours an employee work in a year. Even people became more productive and prosperous, they
were asked to work more hours and these extra hours caused employees spending fewer hours with families or on
personal matters. Therewithal, people started to spend more time working at home due to the increase in usage of
computers and e-mails. Consequently, people started to find themselves in a winless situation in which they must
either shortchange of their careers or neglect their social life.
Second big issue was the growing number and importance of married women in the work force. Each day more women are
being employed outside the home, which is great news for gender equity but having two full-time working spouses
means less available time to spend together for the family.
Three Principles of Work-Life Balance
People had enough of longtime, paltry vacations spent in hotels, weekend e-mails and realized that personal life and
work life are complementary priorities. Many companies responded this issue with programs to help their employees
balancing two sides of their lives. You may believe that concessions given to the employees may be too costly but in
fact, work-life balance creates a win-win situation. Here are three principles:
Make sure that employees understand business priorities and encourage them to be equally clear about their
The work of the organization must be done and work-life balance should not be excuse for not fulfilling the duties.
At the same time, work cannot be an excuse for putting away important personal matters.
Managers should be clear about the company goals and performance expectations as they should encourage the employees
to be clear about their goals as family members and professionals so that they can plan an efficient way to arrange schedules
and assignments on behalf of both sides.
Recognize and support employees as “whole people” with important roles outside the workplace:
Managers need to show interest in their employees’ lives out of work in order to understand and deal with work-life conflicts.
Showing interest also creates a bond and trust between people.
Continually experiment with how work gets done:
Good managers know that work processes must be periodically reconsidered and redesigned for greater efficiency.
Work-life balance provides opportunities to experiment with these processes, so be aware that conflicts between work and
personal matters may help you to realize a hidden inefficiency problem.
In addition to three principles, you can give employees specific goals with greater autonomy and more attention to
results than asking questions about how, where or when they get the work done. Get to know with employees and coworkers and
encourage people to find new and better ways of meeting their responsibilities. All these cues will help to improve morale,
increase productivity and help you hire and retain best employees.
An effective method for helping employees achieve work-life balance is teleworking in which employees work out of offices
and it is facilitated by telecommunications and Internet capabilities.
Telework cuts the costs, creates a greater employee productivity as well as employee loyalty and job satisfaction and
lowers the employee turnover. Teleworkers report that it helps them to balance work and personal responsibilities.
In addition, a study shows even that teleworkers spend more hours on work, extra one hour on average every day and feel more
satisfied with their careers. It also makes attracting and retaining good employees easier.
Before you implement a telework program, you need to ask some questions including:
Which jobs are practicable for telework?
What are the legal, regulatory, insurance, technology issues?
How will you supervise teleworkers and assure accountability?
Will people worry that telework will negatively affect their chances for promotions and other recognitions?
Surely not all organizations are suitable for telework programs, but those which are committed to new ways of operating;
more informational than industrial; dynamic, nonhierarchical, technologically advanced; not command driven; and willing to invest
in tools and training can successfully maintain telework.
Also not everybody is suitable to work as a teleworker. A handy “Personnel Screener” evaluates the readiness of employees for
telework in four dimensions:
Prerequisites refer to levels of job knowledge and experience, productivity, work quality and so forth.
Skills refer to the ability to plan and manage projects, to set and reach goals.
Work style refers to the ability to work with a minimum level of supervision to work independently.
Attitude factor refers to willingness to try new things, a positive attitude toward telework.
Telework also requires adaptation on managers and supervisors’ side. They need to focus on results rather than
the activities. They need to set goals for teleworkers, make them sure that they understand the goals clearly and set up a
system for monitoring the progress in short-term stages. Another challenge for managers is to integrate teleworkers into
the larger group so that they are not isolated.
Flexible Work Schedules
Flexible scheduling is another tool to create work life balance. It allows employees to have an option to work differently from
the usual 9-to-6, 40 hour, 5-day week schedule.
Many employees appreciate flexible schedules as it creates convenience especially for those who are obliged to accommodate
needs of their children or infirm relatives. A survey performed in a large consulting firm showed that employees enjoy their
flexible work schedules and in return, it provided the company a higher retention rate that was proved by the employees admitting
that they would leave the company if there were no flexibility arrangements.
Some typical flex-schedule arrangements used in business today are:
Reduced-time schedules in which an employee’s work hours are reduced shortly.
Seasonal schedules in which an employee works more hours a week for a period than the other periods of the year.
Compressed schedules in which an employee completes her/his working hours in less days.
Flexible work schedules also provide a larger pool of qualified people as you do not restrict potential people.
Women as a Special Case
Majority of women want to have a serious career and participating in rearing of their children. Traditional work schedules and
practices and demands of business travel were working against women to do both.
Still usually, the woman takes care of the housework and/or of the children, even though both parents are working. Therefore, it
is much more important for women to have flexible schedules, telework and similar programs and since women represent the half
of the talent in the world, it is also very important for companies to create such programs in order to perform an efficient
recruitment and retention.
So, if you do not have work-life balance programs at your company, ask yourself:
What is the turnover among women in key positions and how does it compare with male turnover in the same positions?
What have defecting female employees pointed out for the reasons for leaving? Are they moving to firms with work-life programs?
In our recruiting for those positions, what percentage of women versus men has rejected job offers we have made? Was work-life balance a factor in our offers being rejected?
If the answers to these questions show clear problems in hiring and retaining women, determine which work-life program would
solve these problems and calculate the cost/benefit relationship of these programs.