by Mary Martinez
When work/life hit the corporate scene in a big way twenty plus years ago, it was all about making it possible for women to do it all have a career and raise a family. Work/life balance is again top of mind, but the old solutions are no longer sufficient in the new world. It is time to re-evaluate.
Here are questions you might find helpful as you review the approach to work/life balance in your organization. Work-life balance is more about the culture than it is about the programs that are offered.
Is it acceptable in your organization to work part-time, in different places, on different time tables, using different methods or leadership styles? Can employees leave and return to the workforce or, perhaps, chart a different kind of career path that is not a straight ladder to the top?
“Good work/life balance programs leverage synergy with other initiatives.”
Are people’s careers derailed when they step out of the traditional mode of working? Are they perceived differently, as less loyal, less committed, less worthy of key assignments or promotions?
Flexibility means more than flex time or telecommuting. It may mean actually redesigning the way work is done. Look at functional areas or specific jobs where attraction or retention is a particular issue: is work design a barrier to finding/keeping individuals in those jobs?
In units with a poor record of retaining women or younger people, are there characteristics of the culture that might be unfriendly to work/life balance? For example, are meetings often scheduled at inconvenient times? Is putting out fires valued and rewarded more than avoiding them in the first place?
Traditional work/life services, such as child care (especially emergency care), on-site dry cleaning, referral to elder care resources, and so forth can be very valuable if they are used. Have you received full value of programs you have in place? As your workforce has changed, are you offering the right services? Do you measure usage and satisfaction? How will your workforce be likely to change in the future, and will your services still be the right ones to appeal to new generations or other new populations of employees? Are services well-communicated?
Good work/life balance programs leverage synergy with other initiatives. Are you thinking broadly about what you can include under the work/life umbrella? Have you sought linkages between work/life and other programs such as health and wellness, corporate responsibility (e.g., opportunities for breaks to do volunteer work), or company branding?
To make work/life balance a reality, managers need training and coaching on how to create a positive, balance-friendly culture and implement work/life policies. Do managers know how to evaluate performance based on contribution rather than face time?
Is competition among colleagues over-emphasized? Are requests for flexible arrangements from me nor people without families given the same consideration as those from women with families?
Armed with the answers to these questions, you will be well equipped to adopt or design work/life practices best suited to your organization’s business needs, to defend the investment in work/life programs, and, most importantly, to make a real difference to the organization’s performance.
This article has been sponsored by:
Mary Martinéz is Senior Leader of consulting in Mercer’s Global Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion practice. She can be reached at [email protected].