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Work Life Balance

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| Work Life Balance Brief | Organization Behavior and Change Management | | | |

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Introduction
Work-life balance does not mean that both your work and personal life will be equally balanced. Work-life balance does not mean that what might be the right balance today is going to be the right balance tomorrow. For many employees throughout the world, balancing their work and personal lives is a significant concern (Mathis & Jackson 2012).
The current dynamic global economy ranks work-life balance as one of the most important workplace attributes, second only to compensation (Bloomberg Businessweek, 2009). In the US the workforce is culturally diverse and encompasses numerous generations (Baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y aka Millennials), each one with a set of his or her own priorities. For the Millennials, work-life balance is of the utmost importance (Gilbert, 2011). Alluding to the fact that while there aren’t standardized concepts of work-life balance; there should be a set of variables to define “what is balance”, as more and more Millennials enter the workforce.
In this brief I hope to show how work-life balance is about creating and maintaining supportive and healthy work environments, which will enable employees to have balance between work and personal responsibilities, thus strengthen employee loyalty and productivity.

Defining Work-Life Balance Work-Life balance has been referred to as a balancing act between organizations and individuals (van Eijnatten & Vos, 2002). One could say that work-life balance is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives. Work-life balance to me is an intentional state of harmony that exists within my areas of family, career, health, my own personal development and my spiritual beliefs, similar to the “Flow” described by Csikszentmihalyi.
Csikszentmihalyi (1997) investigated “flow” experiences and defined it as those times in life when things are going well and people are fully enjoying what they are doing. I believe that Csikszenthmihalyi’s flow philosophy could be the variable to measure the “what is balance” on the employee side of the scale as the opposite of flow is apathy. Given that we as individuals know when we are at our flow and can only define when we are not experiencing it we need to understand the other variables that we cannot personally control, the US workforce.
US Workforce vs. The world In today’s working environment Americans are working longer and retiring later. A study by Harvard and McGill University researchers’ states workplace policies for families in the US is weaker than those of all high-income countries and many middle and low income countries. The US lags behind in policies such as maternity and paternity leave, breastfeeding support and paid sick days (Crary, 2007) In sixty three countries, fathers are granted paid paternity leave; in the US pay is not guaranteed. At least 107 countries protect a female employee’s right to breastfeed and in seventy three countries these employees are paid for their breaks. The US does not have federal regulations to support a female employee’s right to breastfeed. In 145 countries employees received paid sick days, with 127 of these countries providing at least a week or more annually to the employee. The US only guarantees unpaid leave through FMLA, which does not include all workers, also there is not a federal law providing for paid sick days. The US does not have a maximum work week length or limit of mandatory overtime per week, in 134 countries there are laws setting the maximum length of work week (Crary, 2007). The US did well in some areas, such as; guaranteeing higher pay for overtime and ensuring equal opportunity employment for all ethnic and racial groups, but lags in comparison to ensuring that employees’ have a work-life balance.
Work-Life Balance Benefits In the Balance Work & Family Life white paper (Soroptimist 2012) the authors state that providing opportunities for flexible work arrangements can create a more productive and effective work environment and can help employees achieve a work-life balance. The whitepaper goes on to define some of the types of flexible work arrangements that could be beneficial to both the employee and the employer (i.e. flextime, flexible week, flexible reduced time, part-time work and telecommuting). The white paper attributes job satisfaction, high employee productivity and employee morale to the flexibility offered by the company and highlighted the benefit of telecommuting as the most common form of benefit offered to employees, which allowed employees to work from other locations and contribute to the productivity of an organization. Yahoo’s CEO Melissa Mayer does not believe that telecommuting was productive or beneficial to the success of the company when she ordered hundreds of remote workers to report to the office beginning June 1. Mayer, released a memo to all employees discouraging from even occasional flexibility as she believes that communication and collaboration can only be done if everyone is working side-by-side, which is contrary to surveys and reports on telecommuting and work-life balance. According to David Lewin, Management Professor at University of California, Los Angeles, “A variety of studies show that telecommuting and working from home is associated with higher productivity,” (Goudreau, 2013). A 2011 study by World@Work found that companies with stronger cultures of flexibility experienced lower turnover and increased employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement (Goudreau, 2013). One wonders if Mayer’s decision to remove the telecommuting benefit is a way for her to restructure the organization with a mass exodus and to start a new culture at Yahoo filled with employees whose value of a work-life balance does not include telecommuting. We will have to wait post June 1 to see if this was her management strategy for a new Yahoo work culture. While Mayer’s management vision might not include a work-life balance, other managers who see the benefit of a healthy employee work-life balance can assist employees with attaining this balance.
How Managers Can Assist Employees Achieve Work-Life Balance Managers should recognize the symptoms of poor work-life balance amongst the employees (i.e. poor productivity, overuse of sick-time, overworked employees, etc.) and find ways to deal with the issue. Managers must keep track of over-work situations and should refrain from making an employee feel bad or negligent for taking their fair share of time off. Managers and organizations should insist that all employees work reasonable hours and that the employees use all of their allotted vacation time each year. Managers should prevent vacationing employees from taking work home or communicating work-related information back to their place of work. Managers should review each employees needs on an individual basis and provide the employee with support and the approved company work-life balance benefit.

Summary
The concept of work-life balance is becoming more and more relevant in today’s working environment. Given the dynamic global economy an organizations success is dependent on the satisfaction of its employees. Providing a variety of alternative work arrangements could be beneficially to both the organization and its employees, allowing for the company and its employees to succeed both personally and professionally. The ideal work-life balance would be one in which the important areas of an individual’s life is not neglected for the benefit of one’s work related obligation and time off would be considered as important as “time on” assuring that employees are productive, happy and healthy well into the future.

References
Bloomberg BusinessWeek (2009), The Increasing Call for Work-Life Balance. Bloomberg BusinessWeek; Retrieved February 6, 2013 from http://businessweek.com/managing/content/mar2009/ca20090327_734196.htm

Crary, D. (2007) US Family Oriented Job Policies Weak. Washington Post; Retrieved February 8, 2013 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/01/AR2007020100214.html

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. New York: Harper Collins.

Gilbert, J. (2011), The Millennials: A New Generation of Employees, a New Set of Engagement Policies. Ivey Business Journal; Retrieved February 8, 2013 from http://www.iveybusinessjournal.com/topics/the- workplace/the-millennials-a-new-generation-of-employees-a-new-set-of-engagement- policies#.URr_5WdUrUc

Goudreau, J. (2013), Back To the Stone Age? New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Bans Working From Home. Forbes; Retrieved April 5, 2013 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2013/02/25/back- to-the-stone-age-new-yahoo-ceo-marissa-mayer-bans-working-from-home/

Mathis, R. & Jackson, J. (2012) Human Resources Management, Essential Perspectives. Ohio: South-Western, Cengage Learning.

Soroptimist (2012), Balancing Work & Family Life. Soroptimist.org; Retrieved February 5, 2013 from http://www.soroptimist.org/whitepapers/WhitePaperDocs/WPBalancingWorkFamilyLife.pdf…...

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