With the concern of rising suicide situations in the workplace, in-depth studies have been carried out by different institutions to examine the deep root of this suicide phenomenon. One of the CBS News reports in 2016 suggested that the study of suicide rates across different occupations conducted by Centers for disease Control (CDC) reflected that manual laborers in the US facing unsteady employment have the highest rate of suicide. (CBS News, 2017)
Getting know of suicide rates by job can give employers an opportunity to make effective policy where organizations can help their employees obtain a good balance between work and life. In result, organizations can reduce illness caused by stress in the workplace. According to statistics, around 70 percent of illness is rooted in stress, and much of that is workplace related.(LaBier, 2011)
To react efficiently, employers or even government start to study whether work hours, workload for each person, or task complexity, these aspects will or not impulse any negative impact on employees’ mental as well as physical health. One of the well-known examples are the cancellation of Siesta that Spain government insisted previously in 2016. (Mayo, 2016) Spanish Prime minister decided to transform Spain working hours in line with the rest of Europe. Without 2-hour long break often during lunch time, employees can arrive home earlier. This is an act that country has been looking for to support better balance of work and life.
The purpose of this essay is to help organizations to carry out more effective policies of work and life balance so that companies can reduce turnover rate, and meanwhile the employees can be more efficient at work. Effective company policies are essential to support work-and-life balance. This essay first reviews the impacts of excessive or insufficient work, which demonstrates the importance of work-life balance. Then, it will focus on two major policies and aim to providing organizations with better insights on work-and-life balance practices. Two topics are flexible working hours and locations, and long vacation and career breaks. Through different angles, this essay will offer a comprehensive overview of certain policies many companies are following.
Negative impacts of excessive or insufficient work
Too much work or too little work, either of the two unbalanced situations can bring negative influences to individuals and organizations in their own way. Too much work can be defined as long working hours for staff who can be divided into two types: workaholics who work voluntary hours, or overworkers those who work involuntary hours (Guest, 2002: 260). Both types are facing work-life imbalance. Employees with this working pattern have very little time dedicated to family members, friends and also themselves in spare time. Days are occupied by work-related activities, which hardly gives them time contributed to personal growth in other areas beyond working capabilities such as sports, music, reading, etc.
However, too little work on the other hand, may bring about work boredom (LaBier, 2011). Without enough work, employees tend to have a psychological disconnection with the organization. Too little work results in less engagement at work; employees are checked out from the work they do. In this case, they may hold the perception that they are not valued in the place or their capabilities are not utilized. So too little work decrease the satisfaction level individual has for its career. Besides, organizations fail to take advantage of their talents’ resources. In a long run, employees seek outside-company opportunities, which will result in high turnover rate of the company.
Since imbalance of work and life will bring drawbacks, so well-designed work-life balance policies are crucial to improve not only individual but also organization’s performance. Employees and organizations can both use their more wisely. Data are collected from 70 companies and 3,262 employees to explore the relationship between working time flexibility, business performance, and employee health. With work-life balance support policies, employees can have better control of their time; and it improves their personal life and work balance. Some financial indicators also prove a better firm performance. (Mayo, 2016)
With the good intentions of preventing suicide rates and helping employees better balance their life and work, majority of employers nowadays strive for enacting specific and diverse policies. However, the policy going extreme is not favored by employees. For example, a real estate company in Guangzhou, China required employees to walk at least 180,000 steps each month; staff members are fined 0.01 CNY for each step under the target. (ChinaDaily 2018). This kind of encouragement towards exercise conversely aroused the burden for reaching the target.
Flexible Working Hours and Locations
One of the frequent policies many companies are practicing is to offer flexibility in terms of working hours. Working from home is one of the exact exmaple here. Working from home is becoming popluar by employees who hope to have the opportunity, and is also favored by companies willing to allow it. In 2016, statistics shows that around a fourth of all Americans accomplished their work at their house or remotely, away from office. (Alton, 2017)
Therefore, working from home becomes a common method of balancing work and life applied by employers to provide more flexible work hours for their staff, so as freedom of working wherever they want. Instead of demanding employees working at one fixed office location, working from home, this concept can save long commuting time and offer opportunities of organizing their time more efficiently. The support for this policy came from rapid growth of technology. With teleconferencing tools, employers especially for global company are able to connect with their business branches anytime as long as the facilities are allowed and available. Technology creates the possibilities that employees can manage their tasks at home, so going to office on a daily basis becomes less necessary. Ctrip travel website founder James Liang, and Nicholas bloom once gave their call center staff choice of working from home for nine months. (Bloom, 2014). The outcome revealed that in comparison with the employees who came into the office, the at-home workers were happier and less likely to quit but also more productive.
The underlined core concept behind “working from home” is the flexibility that organization can execute by allowing their employees to have free working hours. A case study about W.L. Gore & Associate, Inc. a global company who produces proprietary technologies with PTFE used in products in the health and leisure industry, indicates that free working hours can drive high performance from individuals and teams. (Maxewell, 2008) Working hours are central to Gore’s approach; there are no set working hours. Employees are encouraged to fulfill their personal and family responsibilities; they do not have any duty to explain if they are not going to be at work. Nevertheless, with this policy, employees tend to explain because they want to be fair to their employers, and keep to their commitments.
Based on the two examples mentioned above, company benefit from flexible working hours policy by encouraging working from home for an example.However, whether or not the productivity or performance can be truly improved is still questionable. First of all, working from home as an example, significantly reduces the cooperating opportunities between team members. At first glance, working from home relieves the burden of micromanaging from bosses or peer pressure from coworkers. This is what employees want to get away from. (Alton, 2017) Despite that, one key factor leading to happiness appears to be how or how often we connect with people. Physical isolation from coworkers, or managers can subject staff to potential career burnout. Second, although modern technology transfers work to cozy home, it gradually creates a contradiction of “at home-at work’. To explain, without clear boundaries such as strict working hours, employees who working from home in a long term tend to confuse their personal lives with their serious work. Gradually, employees unconsciously tempt to check their emails during non-work hours, for instance. (Jones, 2018)
Overall, flexible working hours can offer employees much freedom but whether or not it’s a right approach of balancing work-and-life needs to be further discussed. Lack of clear line drawn between work and life through physical space or time dimensions measurement, can result in misinterpretation of life and work relationship. Blurring these two together does not mean a perfect balance.
Long Vacation and Career Breaks
Vacation length offered by organizations often vary based on company policy. Since vacation serves the purpose of allowing employees to fully relax themselves away from work, some companies now try make different vacation policy to help employees achieve work-and-life balance. For instance, beyond allotted vacation, some companies allow employees to purchase additional time off. Individuals have chances to enjoy a longer vacation as long as they are willing to pay for it. (Hananel, 2013)
Some employers even try to make a long vacation as a mandatory requirement. For example, William Blair bank has a mandatory three-week vacation policy for new hires. And the firm takes the word mandatory literally as senior managers can see their compensation reduced if their direct reports don’t take the full three weeks. (Tuttle, 2018)
From a different perspective, vacation policy without any time limit is not always a good idea to achieve balance. Elongating the timeframe upon which employees judge work-life balance is crucial because balance needs to be approached in a balanced way. (Marsh, 2010) This viewpoint can be put into a simple saying: a day is too short while retire days are too long. Therefore, vacation policy needs to have a “stretching” notion to avoid falling into the trap that having a retirement life equals the balance of work and life.
Another form of vacation is introduced by some companies frequently to drive work-life balance: career break. Lothian and Borders Police headquartered in Edinburgh is one of the organizations who implement this policy. LBP approved Louise Parker, a full-time clerical assistant to have a gap year for realizing her travel plan. After 54-week career break, Parker returned to work, and LBP perceived her as a completely different person who can bring added qualities to work and the team. Through this break, Parker was able to learn about cultures challenge stereotypes, and develop self-confidence, all of which played a critical role in developing her skills. In this case, LBP is very willing to accommodate flexible working. Taking time off to study abroad, travel globally is acceptable and encouraged by the organization because such programs can help employees make positive changes. With wider experience, employees can benefit the company. (Maxewell, 2008)
As organizations can vision benefits from work-and-life balance policies, so they make every effort to carry out new policies or make current one more effective. The policy plays a key role in employee turnover because effective can help alleviate high turnover rates. (Deery, 2008) Managers report that when they support more of work-personal life balance, employees have greater job career and life satisfaction, fewer psychosomatic symptoms, and lower intentions to quit, greater joy in work. (Burke, 2013)
As Nigel spoke in the video, a commercial company is inherently designed to get out of each employee as they can get away with. Work-life balance has to be a balance between what the organization needs and what the individual needs. Policies such as offering gym membership cards, are proposed for motivating staff to exercise, lowering the chances of illness. For certain type of companies that give employees large amount of work in office, gym membership is not an effective arrangement because they barely have time to work out. When organizations carry out their policy for the sake of employees, they need to take their true demand into considerations. Otherwise, the policy is not effective to help them achieve the balance of work and life.