Work pressure can create critical issues in employees’ careers and social lives. Work/Life Balance (WLB) policies can be defined as adjusting how work is completed to suit employees’ circumstances such as flextime, job-sharing and onsite childcare centers. The work load and task list of employees are becoming more and more complex. For employees who are part of multi-national companies, time and schedule becomes erratic due to the need to be connected with counterparts in various global locations. Communication technology often forces employees to work during their free time. Moreover, cost of living has led to the rise of dual-career couples which makes life more difficult for wives and husbands to fulfill their family commitments. (Robbins & Judge, 2013). One of the objectives of Human Resource Managers is to satisfy employees’ needs in order to reduce staff turnover. This reduces the need for training and saves up on cost.
It has been proven that WLB policies increase the productivity of organizations. This essay will discuss different initiatives of implementing WLB in the workplace by evaluating the benefits and challenges of work restrictions, family friendly policies and flexible working arrangements.
The first initiative a company can use to help employees achieve WLB is to implement restrictions on work. Work restrictions refer to any approach of limiting how an employee can complete her or his job’s tasks. This initiative could be enforced by a legal protection and mandatory organizational policies, or by voluntary organizational policies. According to a study, the French government has passed a law that prevents companies with 50 employees or more from the intrusion of work into the employees’ personal lives. (Schrobsdorff, 2017). In addition, many big companies have restricted out-of-hours emails such as Daimler who installed software that automatically deletes the emails of any employee on a vacation and Volkswagen who set up a system that prevents some employees sending or receiving email 30 minutes before and after the working hours. However the Vynamic chose to make restrictions on work optional for its employees by discouraging the use of email from 10 pm to 6 am. Whelan and Akram (2014) argue that forcing restrictions on work will reduce employees’ stress levels and give them more time to spend with their families. Also, this initiative can help companies to send a clear message to boost their reputations that their staffs’ wellbeing matters. This program will benefit both companies and employees since it will avoid some mistakes being made at home by sending messages or emails under the influence of alcohol. The authors add that when applying this program, it will introduce more clarity to the relationship between staff and companies. On the other hand, both employees and employers may face challenges since the overall productivity will decrease over time. For example, some employees are happy by working via their smartphones and using the recent technologies to assist them finishing their tasks easier. Also, some employers perform their best production at night. (Beardsley, 2018). Others emphasize that implementing work restrictions will prevent flexible working hours especially for employees with young children and older parents. (Whelan & Akram, 2014). Also, the employees will not be able to manage the workloads and increase end-of-week pile-up work. Whelan and Akram add that work restrictions seriously affect SMEs since the program reduces their profits and forces them to cut jobs. (2014).
The second initiative a company can implement to help employees achieve WLB is by providing paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, and establish workplace solutions for onsite childcare. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) found serious discriminations against women who return to work after pregnancy. These discriminations could range from negative behaviors and comments from co-workers and supervisors, through to be treated unfairly regarding career developments. (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014) However, several countries have acknowledged the right for mothers and fathers to pursue parents’ fulfillments. So, they have legislated laws of paid leave for both parents and prevent discriminations against parental leaves. For example, Norway provides 10 weeks parental leave that must be taken after the birth of the child and 49 weeks which can be shared between mother and father until the child turns 3 years. (Horne, 2016). There are many advantages of implementing parental leave; parents will be close to the baby in his/her early life and both fairly share in caregiving, more opportunities for women to move from part-time to full-time jobs and increase the national GDP. Moreover, workplace-based childcare is an effective strategy to execute family friendly policies. This strategy is considered beneficial for companies, parents, and children. It makes organizations more competitive and sustainable. (Balasundaram, 2010). According to Hein and Cassirer (2010) there are many benefits of on-site crèche. First, parents will be near their children and can immediately attend to any case of emergency and neither parent needs to quit their job to take care of children. Second, this service saves the parents’ time in dropping and picking them up again after work. Third, this solution will decrease the absenteeism and turnover rate, increase the company reputation and loyalty. (Hein & Cassirer, 2010). However, crèche needs huge space and might be expensive. Also, the company must recognize the future demographic changes. Such a program might create unsafe commute or dangerous environment for the baby if a company is in an industrial area.
The last initiative an employer can implement to help employees maintain a WLB is by facilitating employees to arrange flexible working hours. There are several ways of applying flexible working arrangements; compressed work-weeks, flextime and job-sharing. According to Lingard et al. (2007) compressed workweek is defined as reducing the number of working days and increase the hours of the working day. Such approaches reduce the conflict between work and personal life and increase employees’ productivity because it enables workers to rest and recuperate on their return after the weekend. (Lingard, Brown, Bradley, Bailey, & Townsend, 2007). However, working for long hours a day may discourage female workers from entering this industry since they often are responsible for children. Another approach is flexitime which gives employees the freedom to choose when they start and end their work; also they can choose where they work, and how long they spend on an assignment. There are indications of different benefits on the personal level. (Downes & Koekemoer, 2007). Employees will be able to fulfill their personal responsibilities and control their workloads. For example, an employee can work while commuting in the train or night at home and take his/her children to school in the morning. However, this approach needs rigorous time management where employees need to plan their deadlines and responsibilities. The productivity of companies will increase because most employees will work with enjoyment and gratitude. Also, this program will attract the most talented employees and increase the retention rate, but the lack of disciplinary procedures might encourage few employees to misuse flextime and it is difficult to determine their locations. The last approach is job-sharing that allocates two persons to finish the responsibilities of one job. Job-sharing can reduce the absenteeism and give employees more time to spend with the family. (Crampton, Douglas, Hodge, & Mishra, 2003)
In conclusion, this essay has discussed the benefits and challenges of the most important WLB policies, such as restrictions on work, family-friendly policies and flexible working arrangements. WLB policies bring many benefits such as reducing stress, better management of workloads, increased productivity and reduced costs. However, these policies might bring challenges during implementation. For example, work restrictions prevent flexible working hours, and compressed work-week discourages female workers from entering this industry. It can be clearly seen than both points of view have persuasive argument, but overall the benefits of WLB policies outweigh the challenges.