The U.S. Department of Labor posted an article by Peter Berg, Eileen Appelbaum, and Arne L. Kalleberg, drawing attention to the extra demands on people in the current workforce. “Business Week” reports that nearly 40 percent of working moms are the sole financial provider for their families, and many dual-earner households have a growing need for work-life balance. Many adults are finding themselves having to care for elderly parents while also managing their professional lives. In order to compete in the labor market, and attract and retain competent staff, employers must realize the need to be responsive to the additional demands being placed on employees.
Technology and Time
Modern technology, handheld devices and platforms such as social media are encouraging people to be “plugged in” sometimes 24 hours a day. It makes little sense then that employees be kept to a 9 to 5 schedule when working an alternative schedule can help them manage their work and personal lives more efficiently. Stephen P. Robbins, author of “Organizational Behavior,” gives the example of a company that introduced a four-day compressed work week, so employees could avoid rush-hour traffic. The company experienced increased worker enthusiasm and morale, increased commitment to the organization, increased productivity, reduced machine downtime, less overtime, turnover and absenteeism. A company that is aware of the possible benefits in offering such flexible options will find higher quality new recruits.
Staff Require More Control
Technology allows small business owners to achieve increased productivity and a better work-life balance, and the same can be true for employees. More than 40 percent of small business owners, surveyed in “Business News Daily,” claimed that they work during time spent with family. Providing employees with tools to manage extra demands – flexible working arrangements, the ability to work remotely – can give them more control over their professional and personal lives, while encouraging them to work harder. A paper by the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology uses the term “the office in your pocket” in referring to handheld devices.
Incentives and Rewards
Alternative work schedule options such as the compressed workweek, flextime, job sharing and telecommuting, can become a valuable incentive and reward tool for staff. Rolling flexible working arrangements into part of an incentive system for staff can benefit a small business as long as the implementation is consistent and transparent.
Implementation of Work-Life Options
A September 2011 article in the “New York Times” draws attention to the need for inclusiveness regarding flexible working arrangements. Problems can occur if one employee is given flexibility for child care reasons and another is not permitted to care for an elderly relative. A suggestion for an employer is to appoint one person to oversee all of the employees who are working flexible schedules, monitor hours and look at assignments and how they are staffed. An effective work-life program is one where an employee gains flexibility but maintains communication with colleagues and clients. “Business Week Daily” reported that employers must find ways to offer flexible work options if they want to attract and retain top talent.
- U.S. Department of Labor: The Role of The Work Environment and Job Characteristics in Balancing Work and Family
- Business News Daily: 7 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT Sloan: Technology and the Work-Life Balance
- New York Times: When the Work-Life Scales Are Unequal
Caroline Banton has more than 14 years of experience in the communications and publishing fields, working in global development and finance. Her articles have covered business, economics and recruitment, among other topics. Banton holds an M.B.A. in marketing management.