Work-life Balance In today’s work environment a better balance between work and life is increasingly desired by workers. Desire for a better work-life balance has become one of the growing concerns in contemporary society (Wood and de Menezes (2010, p. 1575). Therefore it is essential for organisations to incorporate work-life balance strategies with job design and employment policies. According to Wood and de Menezes (2010, p. 575), work-life practices have come to the front position of employment policies in a number of countries in the past ten years. Nankervis et al. (2011, p586) suggest that work-life balance (WLB) ‘recognises that employees have different personal needs (e. g. childcare, ageing parents) which need to be accommodated in their work patterns’. However, to find a appropriate way to balance between work and family life has become a great challenge for both males and females in today’s highly competitive work environment.
This paper is going to address the importance of work-life balance, identify the elements that need to be put into consideration when designing an effective work-life balance program and analyse the elements that need to be put into considerations when implementing an effective work-life program. It is important to identify the benefits of work-life balance before designing and implementing any work-life balance program.
Examining the advantages of work-life balance can help organisations to realise the importance of incorporating work-life balance strategies with their employment policies, consequently they can design and implement effective work-life balance programs in their work environment. In today’s work environment work break is viewed as one of the work-life balance strategies. Promoting health is one of the benefits of work breaks. Taylor (2005, p. 461) suggests that pressure and physical inactivity are the two main factors that baffle the achievement of promoting health. Taylor (2005, p. 61) also states that work breaks are normally used to overcome physical inactivity and work stress. It is important to note that not all the breaks are beneficial to people’s health. Breaks like smoking work breaks and coffee work breaks are not advantaged to promote people’s health (Taylor, 2005). A new type of break called ‘Booster Break’ was introduced by Taylor (2005, p. 462), promoting health, reducing stress, increasing productivity and job satisfaction are the objectives of ‘booster break’ . Reducing stress and improving the quality of life are also the two main benefits of work-life balance.
Research by Eby et. al (2005) and Pocock (2003) has proved the importance of work-life balance in terms of family and individual’s health and wellbeing. Work-life balance policies and regulations are able to compel employers to give reasonable consideration when employees request for flexible work hours. Therefore, a good work-life balance policy is able to help employed people to reduce the stress as they can find a suitable way to balance between work responsibilities and their personal or family needs e. g. care responsibility of children and ageing parents.
According to Allen, Herst, Bruck ;amp; Sutton (2000), work-life balance contributes to reduce the stress of people and help people to improve their life satisfaction. A better work-life balance enables employed people to be successful both at home and at work through helping them to achieve a more pleasing and healthier balance of their different roles and responsibilities. Greenhaus, Collins ;amp; Shaw (2003) argue that family is linked to higher quality of life whereas work plays an negative role on the quality of life.
Thus a better work-life balance can help employed people reduce the work-life conflict and improve the quality of their life. Work-life balance can help employed people to gain organisational commitment, which will consequently increase productivity. Grawitch, Gottschalk and Munz (2006) argue that work-life balance makes contribution to employee engagement such as organisation commitment and job satisfaction, which can decrease turnover and increase productivity. However there is a number of research arguing against this opinion.
Pocock (2005) argues that there is no solid evidence demonstrating that work-life balance will increase the job motivation and retention of employees. According to Parkes and Langford (2008, p. 279), there is a small positive connection between work-life balance and engagement such as organisation commitment and job satisfaction. However based on the results of research that were done by Wood and de Menezes (2010), the results prove that work-life balance contribute to nhance the correlation between organisational commitment and productivity, since a high friendly management can construct stronger relationships between organisational productivity and workforce commitment. Unfortunately, there is no evidence from the research of Wood and de Menezes (2010) showing that work-life balance has a connection with labour turnover. Therefore, work-life balance is able to increase workforce commitment, and then consequently increase productivity. Heidtman and McGraw (2009) suggest that the aim of work-life balance programs is to help employed people to balance work and family life and to provide more autonomy.
After examining the benefits of work-life balance, it is crucial for organisations to identify the factors that need to be considered when designing an effective work-life balance program. Pocock (2005) states that a key factor of work-life program is that employees are able to control where, when and how they work. Later in this paper, the general elements that need to be considered when designing a work-life balance program will be addressed. It is important to note that orgranistions need to create their programs based on their own economic situations and organisational culture.
In order to design an effective work-life balance program, the benefits for childcare would be one of the main factors that need to be considered. Barnett (2004) sates that more and more working parents and employees are yearning for policies that can support them to manage work and family life due to the growing number of dual-earner families in recent decades. In order to design a work-life balance program which aims to help working parents to balance work responsibilities and childcare responsibilities, this program should include policies such as maternity leave, paternity leave or on-site child care.
Moreover, the work-life balance program should also support the employees’ care responsibilities of elderly and sick family members. Bond, Flaxman, & Bunce (2008) suggest that subsidized childcare, leave time for new born babies and care responsibilities of elderly or sick family member should be addressed formally in the work-life balance program. As this paper addressed before, benefits for childcare has been identified as one of the main factors that would be considered when designing an effective work-life program.
In order to achieve this goal, flexible work arrangements should be considered as another factor of designing an effective work-life program. According to Bond, Flaxman, & Bunce (2008), job sharing, reduced work hours or longer lunch hours are the factors that should be included in flexible work arrangements when designing an effective work-life balance program. Flexible work arrangements such as job sharing, reduced work hours and longer lunch break can help employees to enhance their psychological flexibility.
According to Bond & Flaxman (2006), if a employee’s level of psychological flexibility is higher, then the employee will have a greater capability to effectively realise and respond to goal-oriented tasks at work (cited in Bond, Flaxman, ;amp; Bunce 2008, p. 652 ). Therefore, if employees are given more flexibility of job control, they will have better abilities to discover more chances to achieve the goal-related tasks. The research by Bond and Barnes-Holmes (2007) has proved that people are able to learn a computer software system faster if they have higher levels of flexibility.
After identifying the benefits for childcare and flexible work arrangements are the two factors that would need be considered when designing an effective work-life program. Flexible work hours or scheduling control would be also considered as a main factor when designing a work-life balance program. Krausz, Sagie, ;amp; Bidermann (2000); Melamed, Kushnir, ;amp; Meir (1991) define scheduling control as individual worker has the right to select his or her own work hours (cited in Jang, Park and Zippay 2011, p. 136).
In recent years, a growing number of research in work-life balance has paid attention to flexible work hours and scheduling control of individual. According to Hill et al. 2001; Saltzstein et al. 2001; Scandura ;amp; Lankau 1997 (cited in Jang, Park and Zippay 2011, p. 137 ), flexible work hours may have a positive impact on work-life balance and improving job satisfaction. Scheduling control of Individual has been identified as an effective strategy in improving job satisfaction and decreasing work-family stress (Costa et al. 006; Halpern 2005; Jacobs ;amp; Gerson 2004; Krausz et al. 2000; Scandura ;amp; Lankau 1997 cited in Jang, Park and Zippay 2011, p. 137). After designing the work-life balance program, the most important thing is to implement the program in organisations. The strategies of implementing the work-life balance program in organisations are the key to achieve the goals of work-life balance policy that are specifically designed for the organisation. Thus, it is important to analyse the factors that would need to be considered when implementing a work-life balance program effectively.
Support of lower level managers or first-line supervisors is a factor that need to be considered when implementing a work-life program. Nord, Fox, Phoenix and Viano (2002, 229) states that when implementing work-life balance programs, support of lower level managers is more critical than support of top managers. The attitude of first-line supervisors in terms of whether they actively support the work-life balance program has an great impact on the effectiveness of implementing the program.
Therefore, organisations need to encourage and push their first line managers to actively support the implementation of the work-life balance program. Nonusers’ concerns about fairness would also be a factor that need to be considered. When implementing work-life balance programs, particularly programs about helping working parents to balance work responsibilities and child care responsibilities; employees without children have great concerns about fairness as they are not eligible to use the programs (Nord, Fox, Phoenix and Viano 2002, p. 230).
It is essential for the employees without children to understand that children are future human capital of our society due to the aging population. Thus, having programs to help and support working parents to balance work roles and parent roles is our social and moral obligations When implementing the work-life balance program, it is important for supervisors to communicate with all the employees appropriately and adequately about the program. Nord, Fox, Phoenix and Viano (2002), suggest that communication is very important when implementing a work-life balance program.
Poor communication of the work-life balance program between organisations and employees has resulted some employees to have sarcastic attitudes toward to peers who are using the program (Nord, Fox, Phoenix and Viano 2002, p. 229). Therefore, it is important for supervisors to communicate with those employees who are not using the work-life balance policy such as working at home for childcare responsibilities. It is necessary for those employees to understand the importance of implementing the work-life balance program and to know that the program may benefits them as well someday.
To communicate adequately is also an important factor when implementing an effective work-life program. If not communicating adequately, employees may not even know such programs existed. Nord, Fox, Phoenix and Viano (2002) state that the active support of supervisors plays an vital role in implementing the work-life balance program effectively. Face to face communication between workers and their supervisors about the work-life program is important to successfully implement the program. Work-life balance is a worldwide issue that concerned by workers all over the world.
To find a suitable way to overcome the concerns of work-life balance is becoming necessarily. In order to generalise the use of work-life balance programs, this paper has primarily identified the importance of work-life balance such as promoting health, reducing stress, improving the quality of life and increasing organisational commitment. This paper also identified the factors that need to be put into consideration when designing and implementing an work-life balance policy. Orgnisations need to accommodate work-life balance policies if they want to continue to attract and retain high talented employees (Nankervis et al. 2011, p197).
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