Work Life Balance Research Paper Maynard Management 310 Northwood University Work Life 2 Abstract Work life balance does not mean an equal balance, and the right balance today will probably be different tomorrow. The best work life balance would be one in which important areas of an individuals life didn’t have to be neglected in favor of work-related chores and goals. A changing and growing workforce has employees looking for more work life balance opportunities when it comes to choosing an employer. The U.S. workforce is culturally diverse and made up of different generations, with their own set of priorities. Businesses are in various stages of their own life cycles. There is no standardized concept of work/life balance; instead there should be a combination of theses variables to define what the balance is and what it should be. Work Life 3 Work Life Balance Introduction The expression “work-life balance” was first used in the late 1970’s in the United Kingdom and in the United States in 1986. It was defined as unhealthy life choices that many people were making, like neglecting important areas in their lives such as family, friends and hobbies in favor of work-related chores and goals. Many Americans experienced burnout due to overwork and increased stress. Employers began seeing increased violence in the workplace, rising levels of absenteeism, stress related health issues, and rising worker’s compensation claims due to unhealthy work life balance. Juggling work, family, friends and community may seem sometimes like an impossible task. A flexible work schedule may be one solution to a better work-life balance. How has the workforce changed since this expression started to be used? How does the US compare to other countries in regards to workplace policies regarding work life balance? What are the recent attitudes of the growing and changing workforce? A new generation of workers is entering the workforce as the baby boomers are getting closer to retirement. What kinds of benefits is this new generation looking for in perspective employers? As the workforce becomes scarce of adequately skilled people, companies have begun to compete for them as they have always competed for other resources. What are businesses today doing to compete for and retain these scarce human resources? The right balance for someone today, may be different tomorrow. The right balance when someone is single will be different than when they marry or if they have children, when starting a new career versus when they are ready to retire. Work Life 3 Changing Workforce Times have changed since the 1900’s when attitudes such as: farming was work and farming was life. The farmers then would not have understood the concept of work life balance. Over the past 25 years there has been a substantial increase in work due in part by information technology, globalization and a competitive work environment. Modern cultures came to expect more and more from their employees yet offered little security in return. From 1977 – 1997 Americans working full time increased their average working hours from 43.6 to 47.1 hours each week, not including travel time. (Bunting) This does not leave much time for family, leisure, or outside responsibilities. Many Americans have experienced burnout due to overwork and increased stress, trying to balance work and family obligations. Today’s workforce has changed because in many marriages both people have to work, and there are also many single parent households. Those with children require day care, and need time for children’s needs such as doctor appointments and school visits. Without some sort of paid time off it can become very stressful for working parents. There can also be the needs of those who have elderly parents who require special needs or care, those with disabled children, or other serious outside commitments... Americans are starting to work longer and retiring later. The average age for retirement used to be 60, now the average is 62. Today’s jobs require less stamina that led to mandatory retirement ages. With so many changes in pension plans and the uncertainty of social security, employers have less economic incentives to encourage retirement and employees have more reason to want to work longer. There is also the worry that so many baby boomers will be reaching retirement age soon, and it will significantly deplete the workforce of some of the Work Life 4 brightest, skilled and well educated employees and there will be a shortage of qualified replacements (Wessel 2008). Deciding to offer more flexible benefits In deciding to offer more flexible benefits organizations need to add up the cost of turnover, including the cost of talent acquisition, training and the decrease in productivity of a brand new employee and compare it to the increased effectiveness of those on flexible work arrangements. Any alternative work arrangement must make sense for the organization and the organizations clients/customers, the proposed work path should not interfere with the effectiveness of work relationships. Flexible work initiatives aren’t a good fit for every firm or every employee. Success depends on many factors, for example: disciplined self motivated employees, who have a clear set of performance metrics to assure accountability. Polices compared to other countries. The US is one of the very few industrialized countries where government doesn’t regulate benefits in the private work sector. US employees receive an average of 9.6 paid vacation days after one year of service, 11.5 after two years, 13.8 after three years and 16.9 after five years according to an employee benefits survey from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. On average European employees get four weeks of vacation, it would take the typical American employee 15 years or longer to attain the same vacation privileges. The country with the most vacation days is Denmark with 31 days, followed by Austria & Finland with 30 days, France and Norway with 25 days, Germany at 24 days, Belgium, Ireland, the U.K, Netherlands and Switzerland each at 20 days (Rosenberg 2007). Work Life 5 A recent study done by Harvard and McGill University researchers says workplace policies for families in the United States are weaker than those of all high-income countries and many middle and low income countries. The US lags behind in policies such as maternity leave, paternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast feeding. (Crary 2007) Fathers are granted paid paternity or parental leave in 63 countries, the US does not guarantee such a leave. At least 107 countries protect working women’s right to breast feed; they are paid for the breaks in 73 of those countries. The US does not have any federal regulations to guarantee the right to breast feed. At least 145 countries provide paid sick days, with 127 of them giving at least a week or more annually. The US only guarantees unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, which does not include all workers, but there is no federal law providing for paid sick days. At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week. The US does not have a maximum work week length or a limit on mandatory over time per week. (Crary 2007) The US did comparatively well in some areas, such as: guaranteeing higher pay for overtime work and ensuring the right to work for all racial and ethnic groups, without discrimination to gender, age or disability. Competing for Scarce Human Resources The number of people entering the workforce is lower than the number of people qualified to retire from the workforce. This fact is further incentive for employers to encourage older workers to stay longer or for employers to want to hire older workers. Mature workers have a lot of leverage because they are among the most experienced & well trained and because the numbers are low for younger workers who could fill the vacating positions (Ruiz 2008). Some Work Life 6 companies have added additional benefits as incentive for older workers to continue working such as: paying ½ the cost of financial planning and awarding extra days off to those 62 and over. Some also offer part time work for full time pay to workers who agree to defer retirement and mentor their successors (Wessel 2008). ). Employers will also have to be able to adapt to the needs of older workers by helping them to cope with physical problems they may experience such as poor vision, hearing and mobility (Bolander 2007 p 224). Employers may have to show prospective candidates early on how they can progress and build career equity in their company in order to encourage long term employment from younger workers as well. What the new Generation of Workers are Looking for in Perspective Employers According to a recent survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, 85% of recruiters have seen candidates reject a job offer because it wouldn’t include enough work-life balance. 90% of recruiters say work-life balance considerations are more important now than they were five years ago (Ridge 2007). A 2007 Pew Research Center survey notes that more than 50% of working mothers, committed to their domestic responsibilities as well as contributing to the family income, prefer part time work (Kubal 2008). Some employees have requested 4 day work weeks in order to spend more time at home with their children, or for other outside commitments, and flexibility to work from home when possible. Work Life 7 Flexible Benefits Available Alternative work schedules – There are 2 types: Flexible - which total 40 hours a week but are not the traditional 8 hour work days. Compressed –completing 80 hours worth of work in less than 10 days. Leave programs – Ensure job security after a prolonged absence, they are generally not paid and can include leaves for medical issues, natural disaster or military reasons. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 guarantees most employees up to 12 weeks of leave for birth, adoption, care of a sick family member or a serious health condition. Part time – working fewer than 40 hours per week. Job Sharing – two or more part-time employees filling a position that needs to be occupied full time Telecommuting – allows employees to work from home instead of their company’s main office. They usually would have access to the company systems from a home office. Some firms offer part time telecommuting, where employees may work from home a few days a week and in the office the rest of the week. Other Family Friendly Programs Some companies may not be able to offer flexible schedules, due to the type of work required, but they can offer other family friendly type programs to attract knowledgeable and skilled employees. Some examples are: Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) which offer no-cost or low cost counseling for employees and their dependents in areas such as family challenges, financial challenge, substance abuse or other addiction counseling and sometimes legal counseling. Work Life On-site family Seminars – dealing with family issues. Wellness Programs – focused on helping employees to maintain good physical and emotional health. They may offer on site fitness centers, nutrition and dieting Counseling, incentives for preventative care. Elder Care Services – the same as child care services only for elder dependents. On-site child and elder day care centers Companies Who Offer Some Creative Ways to Keep Their Employees Happy Google offers onsite laundry, gyms, car washes and free ski vacations to its employees. Genentech employees get a six-week paid sabbatical for every six years of service. Cranium, a gamemaker, has family inclusive parties at every major holiday and employees take home 10 free games a year. When school is cancelled because of snow, managers and employees can bring their kids to work (Ridge 2007). Intel Corporation offers its employees a generous leave policy, every seven years employees are given a paid 2 month leave, with their job safely held 8 for their return. The insurance company NRG: Seattle encourages its employees to work at home one day a week so they can concentrate better and recharge their spirits. Benefits of Offering More Flexible Benefits “Analyses have found that employees in more flexible workplaces exhibited more desirable outcomes across the board. They exhibited more favorable outcomes of most direct interest to employers: greater job satisfaction, stronger job commitment/engagement, less spillover from life off the job to work that impairs productivity and higher retention. Employees in more flexible work places exhibited more favorable outcomes that are of most direct interest to themselves and their families: less negative spillover from work to life off the job that reduces Work Life the quality of personal and family life, greater life satisfaction and better mental health.” (Bond 2006). Conclusion An organizations success depends on the satisfaction of their employees, for a company 9 to succeed, their people need to succeed, not just at work, but in all areas of their life. To ensure the success of both, providing a variety of alternative work arrangements would be beneficial. Offering some kind of flexibility shows an openness and willingness to work with people for the good of the business, the customer and the employee. When these kinds of benefits are not possible for a company to offer, having other benefits to attract talented employees would best benefit them. References Bohlander, G. Snell, S. (2007) Human Resource Management in Perspective. Managing Human Resources RR Donnelly. Willard, OH Bond, J & Galinsky, E (2006) What Workplace Flexibility is Available to Entry-Level, Hourly Employees. Families and Work Institute Research Brief No.3 Bunting, M (2004) Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruining our Lives. Harper Collins, London 368pp Crary, D. (2007) U.S. Family-Oriented Job Polices Weak. Retrieved April 26, 2008 from http://www.washingtonpost.com Kubal, D & Newman, J. (2008 May) Work- Life Balance Becoming a Key Tool for Retention Retrieved 5/30/08 from www.workforce.com Ridge, S MD (Mar 2007) Balance: The New Workplace Perk Forbes Magazine Rosenberg, J (2007) Vacation Polices Around the World retrieved 4/26/08 from http://www.vault.com Ruiz, G. (2006 Mar 27) Age Wave: Adapting to Older Workers Workforce Management pg32-36 Wessel, D. (2008, May 15) Older Staffers Get Uneasy Embrace Wall Street Journal pg A2
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