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3 Steps to Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is exactly that: it balances family life and work. Here is how you can achieve it in your organization.

Work environment
Employee Experience

Anne-Marie Battista

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Work-life balance does not only concern organizations or unions, and especially not only working mothers. In fact, it concerns everyone. So, how is it possible to achieve a better work-life balance in your organization, and more importantly, how can you make it work successfully? Here are 3 important steps (that are much less complicated than you may think) to make it work.

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance – or WLB for the initiated – is a number of measures that are implemented in the workplace to allow a balance between professional life and family life. The goal is to create a working environment that takes into account the uncertainties of employees’ family lives, and to provide employees’ with what they need to be at their best both at work and at home.

Work-personal life balance and work-life balance: two different things

Careful! Do not confuse work-personal life balance and work-life balance. Although they might seem similar, they are two distinct concepts; hence, an organization can have a work-personal life balance plan without necessarily having a work-life balance plan.

Work-personal life balance

Work-life balance is a vast concept: its strategies include a wide variety of elements that are decided by each organization, like continuous learning while at work, sick leave, public involvement and work-life balance.

Work-life balance

As for WLB, it refers specifically to family life. However, the word family here has a very broad sense: it encompasses every person who has a non-arm’s length relationship with the employee: close family, extended family, and friends. Not only does work-life balance consider the demands incurred by having children, but it also refers to the responsibilities an employee might have towards family members: spouse, parents, grand-parents, in-laws, etc.

Shared benefits

If work-life balance provides many benefits for employees, the same is true for employers.

Employees who benefit from a work-life balance policy notice an improvement in their quality of life in particular, and they get greater satisfaction out of their work. These results translate into better resistance to stress, a sharper sense of creativity, a greater motivation, and an increased sense of belonging. A work-life balance strategy presents just as many advantages for the employer.

Just think of the improved corporate image, the reputation as an employer of choice, a reduced turnover rate, an increase in productivity, and even the reduction of costs related to absenteeism or presenteeism.

Work-life balance in 3 steps

1. The state of affairs

You would like to take action and move forward with a work-life balance program? Very well! But before you do anything, lend an ear and listen!

First of all, make sure that the want for change is shared or even initiated by senior management. It implies several changes in the work organization; hence, you will need their full collaboration as well as their unwavering support so that everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Then discuss it with the managers. They will be able to help you by giving you a full and current picture of human resources management, and they can even provide you with excellent advice on how to improve it.

Finally, don’t forget to consult the employees. Give them the chance to express their needs and expectations in terms of work-family balance. In doing so, you will also show them that the organization takes an interest in their well-being.

With all that information, you will then be able to develop a work-life balance strategy adapted to your organization’s and its employees’ needs and realities.

Establish a committee

Although the support of senior management and the good faith of employees are essential for the project’s success, you don’t need to bear the sole responsibility.

Consider establishing an internal work-life balance committee and put someone in charge. The committee will be able to help you monitor the progress of the program, can act as a focus group for finding solutions, and can propose adjustments to the plan in order to ensure its survival.

It’s a great way to get the employees’ to contribute  to their own happiness at work. Obviously, the committee must permit employees’ to help one another manage their time properly. Avoid letting this be considered as an added energy-consuming task; so adapt everyone’s schedules and tasks accordingly.

2. Developing a work-life balance strategy

Like with anything else, work-life balance must be planned out. The strategy must take into account present irritations, and the measures set out to improve the situation. To each organization their own! What may work for one organization might not work for another. So, the measures must correspond to the needs.

Here are a few solutions that are often found in work-life balance programs:

Accommodating work hours

  • reduced working hours
  • working from home
  • compressed work week (35 hours over 4 days)
  • credit hours
  • schedule based on traffic (outside of rush hour)

Family management

  • parental leave: maternity, paternity, and adoption
  • improving and prolonging leave
  • preventive withdrawal of pregnant workers and progressive return
  • establishment of a child care service
  • financial support for child care services
  • time-off for medical appointments (children, parents)
  • improved leave conditions related to sickness or death of a relative

In this regard, it is strongly recommended to consult the work-life balance standard. Although it is in no means an obligation, this reference material can help guide you in the development of your strategy.

Anticipate the necessary time

Implanting a work-life balance program must be done over a realistic time period. Some organizations can devote up to a full year in doing so. Be wary of time-saving strategies and dedicate the necessary time!

3. Follow-ups and communication

Make the work-place program a project that all employees can rally behind. Make sure that the management’s initiatives and support are clearly communicated to them. Everyone can benefit from this unifying program at some point, so it is worth knowing about!

Of course, you have experienced it before: you are fully aware that change leads to questions and oftentimes to objections. So be ready to answer all questions, to be an active listener, and to be humble and diligent enough to make the necessary changes to the plan if need be.

Without a shadow of a doubt, employees need to have a balance between family and professional life in order to do their best at work. Hence, in a market with demographic change and where quality employees become rarer, employers who propose WLB programs will have the upper hand. Does your organization have what it takes to be a leading figure in work-life balance?

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