Have you heard? The OECD Better Life Index ranks America low in terms of work / life balance. This is no surprise to many. Currently, close to 30% of Americans work weekends. We also tend to work longer hours than employees in many other advanced countries. So what does this mean to Human Resources? Plenty.
Improper balance between work and life can only lead to one thing… workplace stress. For Human Resources, workplace stress means dealing with a host of employee issues, namely:
- Increased absenteeism
- Decreased productivity
- Underperformance in work
- Low job satisfaction, resulting in low employee commitment
Inc.com notes that with easy access to work, with our smartphones and laptops, unfortunately it is easy for employees to become overworked. Personal and work lives blend together, instead of ideally being isolated. So what is an employer to do? How does Human Resources promote effective work / life balance, for engaged, dedicated employees?
Some organizations have taken non-traditional measures. For instance, Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, promotes a “freedom and responsibility” culture within his company. A facet of this culture is its vacation policy…which doesn’t exist. “We focus on what people get done, not on how many days they work,” Hastings said in a Bloomberg Business Online article. “Prior to 2004 we had the standard vacation model, until we realized no one was tracking how many hours in a day they worked. Why were we tracking whether someone takes two weeks or four weeks of vacation?” Hastings noted that this tracking attitude developed, and has been maintained to this day, from the industrial era.
Perhaps, he is correct. IBM is another company who is well known for having an unconventional vacation policy. In particular, employees are allowed three or more weeks of vacation, but IBM doesn’t keep track of who takes how much time or when. Employees at all levels make informal time off arrangements with their direct supervisors. The overall arbiter is if the employee can handle getting his / her work done on time with the time off. If a workplace emergency occurs, there is usually a form of contact available. This contact aspect of the vacation plan does add pressure to some employees. A 2007 New York Times article notes that employees will sometimes feel peer pressure to check their e-mail and voicemail messages while on vacation. Supervisors can sometimes ask subordinates to cancel days off to meet deadlines. Like Netflix, however, the real consideration for IBM’s vacation policy is whether the employees can handle the workloads they have, despite the time they take off.
How about you? What policy or plans does your organization have to promote a healthy work / life balance? Is it an area of consideration in your human resource strategy? Let us know and we’ll gladly share your thoughts here at Astronology.