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Bringing clarity to work-life balance

on Monday, 14 October 2019. Posted in Wellness Programme Design

WLB Blog

Work life balance (WLB) has become an area of focus for businesses since the 2000s. Reasons include a greater participation of women in workplace, increasing dual-earner families, rising living standards, new technologies and longer work hours. We discuss four types of WLB practices below, explaining how they can be good for business and providing some real-world examples we have observed while working with local companies.

Jenkins et al. (2016) surveyed many small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and found there were four main types of WLB practices: flexible work options, leave programs, support benefits, and care arrangements. 

1. Flexible work options:

The first set of WLB practices that Jenkins et al. classified, were flexible work options. These can include a Compressed workweek (e.g. a four-day week), Flexitime, Job sharing, Telecommuting, Work-at-home programs, Part-time work, Shorter workdays, Emergency care, Childcare during school breaks, Sabbatical breaks, Job Sharing and, Flexible start and finish times (Jenkins et al., 2016).

While flexible arrangements can make it a lot easier for employees to find a balance between their personal life and work, research suggests that they can also benefit business, including increasing worker satisfaction and reducing psychological stress (Moen et al., 2016).

Practical flexible work practices that we have observed are often designed to help avoid long commutes (especially in Auckland!) and balance family, life and study. For instance:

  • Staff starting work early (e.g. 6.30am) in order to leave work early so as avoid peak traffic, or, to pick up children from school.
  • Some teams working 1 day a week (or fortnight) from home to limit commuting, avoid day-care for children or arrange for tradespeople to visit their home.
  • Some individuals working every second Friday at home to avoid the commute. Zoom or similar is often available so they can participate in meetings.
  • Part time options available for people studying.
  • Paid interns working part time to accommodate study.
  • Employees approaching retirement being supported to gradually reduce hours.

2. Leave programs:

Leave initiatives are the second kind of WLB practice. These can include additional Parental leave, Carer’s leave, General domestic/special leave, Flexible annual leave and Paid religious holidays (Jenkins et al., 2016).

Studies have shown that paid leave – such as parental leave - improves worker retention, which saves employers money through reduced turnover costs (Houser & Vartanian, 2012, January).

A common initiative we have observed includes additional paid parental leave on top of the government parental leave payments (e.g. 2 weeks). This is often available to both the primary and the secondary caregiver, with flexibility allowed around how leave is used; that is, leave doesn’t have to be taken in one block.

3. Support benefits:

A third set of WLB practices involve support benefits. Support benefits in SMEs can include a Re-entry scheme (once someone has been absent from the workforce for some time), Employment Assistance Services (EAP), Life skills program, Subsidized fitness centre or membership, WLB kit or library, and, Purchased additional annual leave (Jenkins et al., 2016).

Common support benefits we have observed amongst clients including wellness initiatives such as EAP services and fitness challenges. Worker wellness initiatives have been found to be beneficial to both staff and business operations (Chapman, 2007; World Economic Forum, 2010), impacting factors such as engagement, productivity and retention (World Economic Forum, 2010).

4. Care arrangements:

The final set of WLB practices classified by Jenkins et al. are care arrangements. Care arrangements can include Childcare on or near the worksite, an On-site breast-feeding area and Volunteer work (Jenkins et al., 2016).

Many companies now have some limited flexibility with care arrangements to support breastfeeding mothers, as well as opportunities to support and care for the wider community.

Some researchers argue that ‘work’ and ‘life’ are inseparably intertwined (Rincy & Natarajan, 2014). Therefore, the full range of stakeholders should be considered – including employers, workers, the community and society at large - when developing a workable and holistic model of WLB (Pradhan, 2016, p. 5; Rincy & Natarajan, 2014).

A commitment to the wider community, often reflects company values that will likely appeal to a youthful workforce. Research has shown that both Generation Y (1983-1994) and Generation Z (1995-2002) are attracted to making a positive impact in their communities or society at large. As a result, they show greater loyalty to employers who tackle the issues that concern them, such as protecting the environment and unemployment (Deloitte, 2019).

Need more help?:

We at Joyworkz can provide guidance to help you incorporate work-life balance practices into your workplace wellness strategy. Please take a look at our Design Partnership Service web-page and feel free to make contact for further information. 

References:

Chapman. (2007). Proof Positive: An analysis of the cost effectiveness of worksite wellness. Chapman Institute.
Deloitte. (2019). The Deloitte global millennial survey 2019. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com
Houser, L., & Vartanian, T. P. (2012, January). Pay matters: The positive economic impact of paid family leave for families, businesses and the public Retrieved from http://www.nationalpartnership.org
Jenkins, S., Bhanugopan, R., & Lockhart, P. (2016). A framework for optimizing work-life balance practices in Australia: Perceived options for employee support. Journal of Employment Counseling, 53(3), 112-129. doi:10.1002/joec.12033
Moen, P., Kelly, E. L., Fan, W., Lee, S.-R., Almeida, D., Kossek, E. E., & Buxton, O. M. (2016). Does a flexibility/support organizational initiative improve high-tech employees well-being? Evidence from the work, family, and health network. Amercian Sociological Review, 81(1), 134-164. doi:10.1177/0003122415622391
Pradhan, G. (2016). Conceptualising work-life balance: Working paper 368. Bangalore: The Institute for Social and Economic Change.
Rincy, V. M., & Natarajan, P. (2014). Work life balance: A short review of the theoretical and contemporary concepts. Continental Journal of Social Sciences, 7(1), 1-24. doi:10.5707.2014.7.1.1.24
World Economic Forum. (2010). The wellness imperative: Creating more effective organizations. World Economic Forum.

 

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