By Margaret Hintz
Does your office have a work-life balance problem? Here are some possible clues: Are employees not taking some or all their vacation time? Do they routinely work overtime or have to make a third pot of coffee just to get through the day?
With long work hours increasingly becoming the norm, especially amid a still-uncertain economy, the pressure of juggling professional and personal life can be overwhelming.
The result? Employees can feel not only overworked but stressed, which may lead to reduced productivity, illness and absenteeism.
But all is not lost. While only the superhuman can claim a perfect work and home life, employees do have the potential to maintain separate lives through the often elusive work-life balance equation. And employers are a key part of the solution.
Nearly 75 percent of all workers surveyed by Citrix Online said they wanted the freedom to work remotely from home or somewhere away from the office, yet most workers don’t have that option. The desire is so strong that one in five workers is willing to relinquish 5 percent of his salary to work offsite one to two days a week.
To help employees achieve more balance in their lives, some companies have implemented flextime and telecommuting programs. The results are impressive: Two-thirds of human resources (HR) professionals who work in companies with these types of arrangements report a quality boost in employees’ personal/family lives, according to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey on workplace flexibility.
Even with such an outcome, many employers are not completely sold on the idea of employees working remotely. While the Citrix Online workplace report revealed that small business owners are more than four times as likely as others to be able to work remotely “all the time,” more than 25 percent still believe job duties demand that workers be in the office.
So why should companies consider integrating more work-life balance into their culture? What was once considered a trend has now become a highly sought-after benefit by many employees. Even in the current economic climate, research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board shows that work-life balance ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes – second only to compensation.
Employers also can reap several benefits through administering work-life balance programs.
Small and medium-sized companies that promote work-life balance are very likely to have a stronger recruiting edge, especially among the youngest members of the work force. Known as Generation Y, these workers are typically 27 years old or younger and are notorious for ranking work-life balance high on their list of priorities.
Improved employee retention
Companies that want to keep top employees understand the importance of encouraging work-life balance practices. The SHRM survey also found that 89 percent of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention as a result of flexible work arrangements.
Organizations that are looking for ways to enhance efficiency in the workplace are finding that flexibility yields big results. For example, research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board found businesses that effectively manage work-life balance issues can increase employee productivity by 21 percent.
An easy step is for supervisors to take a more active role in helping employees better manage their workloads. By clearly prioritizing projects, workers can focus on and accomplish the most important tasks and feel less stressed about leaving at the end of the day. Many training programs are available to help supervisors and employees improve time-management skills and learn how to streamline their workload.
Other value-added, but often overlooked, programs can help encourage work-life balance. For example, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is typically available through the employer’s health care provider at no additional cost to the employee. EAPs provide confidential counseling services and referrals to professionals who can help workers better manage issues, including work and personal issues, financial concerns and substance abuse. Many EAPs are accessible online and have extended their services to include wellness and training programs, and referral services to help employees find quality dependent or elderly care providers.
When it comes to managing an effective work-life balance program, employers should clearly document all policies to help avoid any potential confusion. Evaluations should be conducted on a regular basis to determine if any adjustments need to be made. In addition, communicating all policies and changes is essential to help ensure success.
Companies that promote flexibility in the workplace are at a competitive advantage. As the pressures of everyday life continue, employees who are encouraged to take care of themselves and their families will be happier, more productive and less likely to want to leave a company that supports their efforts.
Margaret Hintz is a team manager for Administaff (NYSE: ASF), the nation's leading professional employer organization (PEO), serving as a full-service human resources department that provides small and medium-sized businesses with administrative relief, big-company benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity. The company operates 51 sales offices in 24 major markets. For more information about Administaff, call 800-465-3800 or visit http://www.administaff.com.