Work –Life Balance
There are three parts to organizations creating work-life balance or what might be seen as the three legged stool.
Part I: Family friendly policies, benefits, career ladders
Many organizations today have found that in order to hire and retain great people, the organization needs to put into place some baseline policies and benefits. These include such items as good benefits including family healthcare, policies that embrace the changes in people’s lives (i.e. birth of a child, young children at home, school age children, aging parents), flexible schedules, part time work, work from home options, and the desire to move up the ladder but not always as a manager.
These benefits and policies are the first step in hiring, retaining, and promoting great people that can be productive because the environment supports needs they might have at different times in their lives.
Part II: Manager/ Team culture and implicit behaviors
Managers and therefore the teams they lead have their own cultures which may or may not support work/life balance. Take for instance a manager who is at work at 7 am and stays until 7 pm. Even if s/he does not say a word, the manager’s behavior sends a message to the team, long hours is important. If however, the manager takes off on Wed at 4pm to coach their child’s soccer team, the message changes slightly. That is until the employees begin to see waves of emails sent that night from 9-11pm. Every behavior by each individual is observed and becomes the norm for what is expected and what will be tolerated, whether implicit or explicit.
What is critical is that managers and teams discuss the work/life balance culture. What are the norms? What is permissible and what is seem as excessive? How are they measured, by hours, productivity, or client results? Is office time always necessary or are can everyone benefit from some days when professionals work at home?
The key is to make all Work/life balance behaviors visible and explicit.
Part III: Individual
The individual must also take responsibility for designing the type of work/life balance they need at each specific stage in their life. This requires an understanding of their goals and how they want to both develop professionally and personally and how the lifestyle that will create work/life balance that is healthy and productive.
The activities and time spent in other aspects of each employee’s life is found to be equally beneficial back in the workplace. Research has shown that relationship and team skills practiced outside the workplace are similar within the work environment and vice-a versa. Integrating dual work/life learning enhances the individual as a family member, a community citizen, and a high performing employee.
Creating Work/Life Balance Cultures, Teams, and Individuals
Balancing the 3 legged stool is key to hiring, retaining, and developing a high performing workforce. It is not just the organization’s responsibility, or the managers, or the individuals, but it takes all three.
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