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Work-life balance can be defined as a satisfactory involvement level between the multiple roles of an individual’s life. WLB is associated with maintaining a harmonious equilibrium in a person’s life. The evaluation of WLB involves the examination of an individual’s ability to manage simultaneous and multi-faceted life demands. For many employees and employers, achieving the right balance between the non-working and working life is very challenging. Objective studies conducted in this field indicate that the responsibility of ensuring work life of other aspects of life and work lies solely with the employer. In the recent years, the concept of WLB has become popular among the employers. Some of the motivations behind this development regard increasing the satisfaction of the employees and promoting operational and organisation development. Consequently, an increased concern for the employees and women participation in the workforce has promoted the developments due to increased demand for a better balance between home life and work. The developments could encourage the integration of home and work activities. Despite the benefits associated with WLB initiatives, they also present some challenges to both parties involved.
Benefits of WLB Initiatives
WLB initiatives present various advantages to the employers. They enable the attraction and retention of the potentially talented employees in the organisation. The programs offer flexible working which provides evidence for desired ramifications on different areas of the company (Chimote and Srivastava 2013: 62). For instance, most of the employers, regardless of the size of the firms report positive impacts on employee engagement, retention, and motivation. Most of the micro-businesses are more likely to feel the effects of flexible scheduling as it promotes productivity and enhances customer service. On the other hand, a collective majority of the big corporations are likely to report a positive impact on diversity. Studies conducted by Chimote and Srivastava (2013: 62) also indicate that employees’ perceptions regarding organisations with less family-supportive cultures increase their probability of being dissatisfied with their jobs. Therefore, the segment of employees is more likely to be less committed to the company. It is also bound to increase the work-life conflicts of the employees effectively reducing their turnover intentions as compared to the employees that are in corporations that promote a work-life support culture. The implementation of the WLB initiatives enables an organisation to adopt work-life support cultures that increase their productivity and the overall productivity of the enterprise.
Research conducted by De Cieri et al. (2005: 90-103) indicates that WLB initiatives are associated with the positive outcomes of appreciation and loyalty. These outcomes have varying impacts on different individuals. For instance, they enhance the evaluation of the employees’ needs and awareness, which encourage the development of strategies, that would ensure their maximum productivity (Chimote and Srivastava 2013: 62). Moreover, the work-life practices are associated with increased competitiveness, reduced labour costs, increased stock price, and profits. For example, studies conducted in industries indicate that the shorter working hours result in higher firm performance by promoting quality management in companies. Quality management practices are related to increased efficiency and productivity of the firms.
Work-Life Balance promotes the reductions of employee turnover in organisations. In companies with fixed reporting times and rigid working schedules, there is a likelihood of employees being tired before the start of work and late for work as they commute daily to and from the workplace (De Cieri and Trisha Pettit 2005: 90-103). Apart from being tiring, commuting is more taxing and stressful for the employees. The stressful nature of the workplace is associated with high employee turnover. However, employees will be more satisfied with situations where they might be allowed to work from home. Increased employee satisfaction increases their retention in the company and helps in building a reputation for the company that is essential in attracting other potential employees.
The WLB initiatives also present various benefits to the employees. For instance, it promotes better time management. When the employees can report to work at particular times of the day, they become more productive by maximising their performance and completing their tasks on time (Chimote and Srivastava 2013: 62). It gives them an opportunity to start new functions that might need to be completed during the week. Furthermore, if employees are given a chance of working for more extended hours in compensation for the week off-days, they would become more organised to ensure that the assigned tasks are completed to give them time to attend to their matters without interfering with their work activities.
The initiatives promote autonomy and personal employee growth. The WLB initiatives encourage employee autonomy by allowing them to design their working schedules and choose reporting times to their workstations (Wiese 2015: 227-244). The practice allows the workers to make decisions regarding their personal lives and their work. As a result, the workers become more confident and assertive, which is essential in boosting their morale. The practice ensures an increased focus on the employees. For example, when employees are allowed to report to work when their minds are working correctly, their concentration is at its peak enabling them to complete more work faster and efficiently as they do not have to worry about the personal commitments (Hill et al. 2001: 49-58). Additionally, when the employees have job satisfaction, they become more engaged in the workplace as they are motivated to work hard and offer quality customer service.
The WLB is essential to encourage personal well being among the workers. The initiatives provide flexible working times, which give the employees rest times that reduce stress. For instance, the workers can use the times spent in commuting to and from work to perform tasks that would have been performed in the workplaces in the comfort of their homes (Wiese 2015: 227-244). Therefore, it serves to reduce stress and gives them more rest times that prepares them for higher challenging tasks. The lesser the pressure, the healthier the employees would be which is reflected in increased productivity. It is not only helpful for the employees, but also to the organisation. When the workforce is healthy, the company is likely to record low cases of absenteeism that might result from various medical conditions. Absenteeism reduces the organisation’s workforce effectively reducing the amount of workforce that can be completed impacting negatively on the productivity and profitability of the firm (Hill et al. 2001: 49-58).
Despite the benefits, WLB initiatives present challenges to both the employers and employees. Studies indicate that following the implementation of WLB practices, most of the employees remain unaware of their entitlements. Apart from employee unawares, there are also other factors that hindered the effective implementation of the initiatives (Wiese 2015: 227-244). Some of these factors include negative career perceptions. Studies conducted among technical employees in various industries identified that the provision of WLB practices had an effect on improving the organisational commitment of the employees. The improvement only worked to a particular extent to where the workers felt that the practices did not present negative influences to their work lives such as a damaged career prospect. For example, there are various policies attached to part-time employment. However, most of the employees such as the lawyers have used the systems due to career derailment fears (Schueller-Weidekamm et al. 2012: 244-250). Among these groups, there is a perception that the WLB practices might present detrimental effects on an individual’s career prospects. Therefore, it has served as a demotivator for the use of practices among the workers in their career advancements in the coming years.
Organizational time expectations are also another factor that influences the overall supportiveness of the work-life practices. It regards how the workers use their time and the number of hours they are supposed to work. Most of the case studies conducted in this field indicate the long work working hours are associated with employee commitment, worker’s motivation for advancement and productivity. According to Lockwood (2003), for one to succeed, and individual needs to be committed to work. Consequently, the factors work in correlation in that productivity is directly related to the presence of employees in the workplace. For instance, for one to be perceived to make a significant contribution, he has to maintain a continued presence in the workplace as well as his productivity.
Co-worker support presents another challenge in the implementation of WLB initiatives. Studies have increasingly shown that employees using the WLB practices usually suffer negative perceptions from their superiors and colleagues (Wiese 2015: 227-244). The findings of the studies indicate that employees that used to practices were perceived to have low levels of commitment thought to affect the allocation of rewards in the companies such as salary increases and opportunity advancements. Some of the staff members that have previously used the flexible arrangements have reported experiences such as resentment from their colleagues.
Managerial support plays a crucial role in barring the implementation of work-life balances. Managers play a fundamental role in ensuring the success or failure of the work-life programs in organisations. For instance, they are in a position to either discourage or encourage worker’s efforts regarding the balance of the work and family lives. For example, when the supervisors promote the integration of the practices, there is an increased likelihood that the worker would adopt these programs. However, there might be instances whereby the hinder the integration of the WLB programs indicating that they present adverse effects to both the firm and the employees.
There are organisational cultures which associate the long working hours as high organisational commitment. In these scenarios, employees working for long hours are considered to be more loyal hence subject to organisational rewards (Wiese 2015: 227-244). Such cultures serve to oppressive the employees that have embraced the WLB programs. The workers are forced to be solely committed to their work to the extent that they neglect their other life commitments. The employers in these environments become passive to the employee other need creating unsupportive and hostile working environments for the workers.
In some enterprises, some senior management staff members have not yet embraced the work-life balance initiatives. As a result, they resorted to recruiting staff based on the preferences of homo-sociability aspects. Most of the members hired into the jobs have negative perceptions towards the work-life practices (Wiese 2015: 227-244). Wiese (2015: 227-244) argues that there is inadequate education and awareness regarding the work-life programs. The findings indicate that most of the employers and employees do not understand the benefits that arise from these programs in relations to the disadvantages that might result from the implementation of the initiatives. Due to limited knowledge, the employers continue using the traditional methods whereby productivity is measured by the amount of time spent on the organisations and not the output of the employees (Lockwood 2003). Essentially, it becomes as a demotivator for the workers lowering the productivity and the overall profitability of the company.
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WLB initiatives present various challenges as well as benefits to both the employers and the employees. For instance, for the employees, the initiatives encourage employee autonomy and personal growth. Also, they promote employee engagement, better time management, and personal well being of the workers. Among the workers, the programs serve to reduce the turnover of workers and help in building the reputation of the company. They also play a role in increasing the productivity of the employees. On the other hand, the initiatives also present challenges such as negative career consequences and resentment for workers. The challenges might also arise from organisational cultures that might still be emphasising on long working hours as a measure of productivity among the workers. The rigid cultures are as a result of lack of education and awareness concerning the WLB initiatives in workstations. Other challenges regard the lack of managerial support in the companies and organisational time expectations where the employees are expected to work for particular periods using defined work schedules in their workplaces.
- Chimote, Niraj Kishore, and Virendra N. Srivastava. (2013). “Work-life balance benefits: From the perspective of organizations and employees.” IUP Journal of Management Research. 12 (1), P. 62.
- De Cieri, Helen, Barbara Holmes, Jacqui Abbott, and Trisha Pettit. (2005). “Achievements and challenges for work/life balance strategies in Australian organizations.” The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 16 (1), P.90-103.
- Hill, E. Jeffrey, Alan J. Hawkins, Maria Ferris, and Michelle Weitzman. “Finding an extra day a week: The positive influence of perceived job flexibility on work and family life balance.” Family relation. 50 (1), P. 49-58.
- Lockwood, Nancy R. “Work/life balance: Challenges and solutions.” HR Magazine. 48 (6), P.1-1.
- Schueller-Weidekamm, Claudia, and Alexandra Kautzky-Willer. (2012). “Challenges of work–life balance for women physicians/mothers working in leadership positions.” Gender medicine. 9 (4), P.244-250.
- Wiese, Bettina S. (2015). “Work-life-balance.” Springer Berlin Heidelberg. P. 227-244.