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All workers face a great challenge trying to harmonize their lives, thus balancing between their works and families. In such a situation, families end up being affected. Some parents would like produce more children but the cost of them stopping to work seems too high.
Other couples are contented with the size of their families but want to work more (Di Cieri, Holmes, Abbott, & Pettit, 2002 p. 2). There is need for managers to encourage their workers to feel free to request for flexible working hours. Poor communication and cultural perceptions are the major obstacles to work-life balance for employees. Managers should change the cultural perceptions in their organizations to make sure those workers who need work-life balance are not seen as noncommittal to their work obligations.
Benefits of work-life balance for employees
If couples are forced to decide between bringing up their children and working, this will lead to very few children and very little employment. Having a good balance between work and life is a crucial issue for the well being of children because a child who is brought up working parents is thrice less likely to experience poverty compared to children with one working parent (Di Cieri, Holmes, Abbott, & Pettit, 2002 p. 1).
A good balance between work and family also reduces stress of the parents leading to more benefits to the relationship between children and parents as well as the relationship between both parents. Approximately 66% of mothers in OECD seek employment after their child is old enough to go to school.
This shows that families are capable of balancing their careers and families successfully. The number of hours an individual spends at work is also a significant factor of the balance between work and life. Research has indicated that long hours at work are likely to increase personal stress, endanger personal safety, and harm personal health. Besides, the more a person works the less likely will he/she be able to have time for other activities (Halbert & Ingulli, 2008 p. 10).
In the OECD, an average individual works 1739 hours each year and spends about 64% of their day for leisure and personal care (Bradford, 2011, par. 5). The balance of work and life does not necessarily mean an equal balance.
Managers play a very crucial role in helping their workers to attain the correct work-life balance. When managers promote a working environment that makes it easy for their employees to realize a good balance between their work and life, the organization will have motivated, healthier, more contented workers. The employees who have a better work-life balance are more satisfied with their jobs and eventually become more productive which is a benefit for the entire organization.
Managers can help their workforce to attain a work and life balance by: implementing flexible working schedules and work arrangements that meet the needs of employees, being respectful and thoughtful of employee personal responsibilities, creating time for employees to pursue career development and opportunities to serve the community, and by promoting a constructive work setting by providing good leadership and supporting all workers (Bohl, 2007 p. 25).
By providing a good work-life balance for the workers, the working environment becomes less stressful for the employees leading to increased organizational profits. Human resource managers should be more understanding and flexible with the needs of the employees in order to promote a successful and positive working environment (Halbert, 2008 p. 15).
Benefits of work-life balance for employers
There are both personal and organizational benefits for a work-life balance. The benefits for the organization include: increased personal accountability and productivity, better on the job relationships, communication and team work, improved group morale, and reduced general organizational stress.
Personal benefits include: healthier daily life balance and increased productivity, more fulfilling work experience, reduced stress, and improved work and off the job relationships. Work-life balance is not just a slogan but its life. There are various organizations who have adopted values that allow the workers to have a fulfilling work-life balance.
These companies have concentrated on the needs of their employees which are very crucial and the organizations have planned resolutions and opportunities which allow employees have more time for themselves, their families, as well as the society (Bohl, 2007 p. 20).
However, a few other companies have implemented a balance between work and life as directives of the human resources but not as a way of life or as a general corporate strategy. Such companies are gradually lagging behind. For all the parties involved in implementing a work-life balance a lot of work still needs to be done at many organizational levels. The distinct and most crucial principle that needs to be created is that it is not only possible to establish a work-life balance, but it is also proper, significant, and applicable to all the employees. Misconceptions are widespread that senior management does not need work-life balance. This fallacy also states that people should be workaholics to be successful.
Questions are being raised regarding the conventional explanations of what must be done in order to succeed in the corporate world. Many people particularly employees have come to the realization that they want to get involved with their families having to give up their advancement opportunities or their income.
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Research has indicated that a majority of full time employees actually prefer shorter working hours and even if many organizations are slowly implementing flexible working practices such as part time jobs such working practices are characterized by limited career development opportunities, low skilled jobs and low pay (Giovanna, 2006 p. 1).
This is explained by believable market failures where an increasing number of employees believe that if they request for shorter working hours the boss is likely to assume that they are noncommittal to their jobs, employers may not have the necessary knowledge about recruitment and management of flexible practices like part time work and see such practices as a burden to them.
For many employees’ lives, time has become the new currency and they require more of it. It is exciting for those who know how to spare time for their families and still grow in their career. However, a majority of employees are forced to make tough decisions regarding their life. As the discussions about work-life balance increases, organizations as well as individuals must recognize and pay attention to these vital issues.
Work and life are not mutually exclusive and therefore people should not let the two issues conflict one another. Whether the debate is termed as work-life balance or family-life balance they are all based on life (Reynolds, Callender, & Edwards, 2003 p. 50). All people need a work-life balance even the most promising careers and the highest salaries. The high salaries and promising careers are of little help to the employees if their personal lives suffer because of excessive work.
Currently, when candidates are choosing the organization to work for, their main consideration is whether the organization allows their workers to concentrate on a balance between their work and their personal lives. Individuals should find ways to create the correct balance between their work and life.
The right work-life balance differs from one person to another even between workmates. Working long hours creates a balance and worth for some people while for others this work schedule makes them unproductive and they may not want to maintain it. After some time, the right work-life balance for all people changes. A person starting a career will have a different work-life balance from a person who is about to retire.
Similarly, for a person with a family, their right work-life balance will be different from that of a person with no children (Stone, 2011 p. 60). The correct work-life balance is likely to change over time and while people struggle to create a situation that enables employees to incorporate their personal or family life, the employees must find means of creating the best work-life balance for themselves.
When employers allow workers to work in flexible conditions they improve the lives of the employees by providing the best work-life balance.
This ultimately enables those who provide care to the old and sick to balance their community responsibilities with the organizational roles, reduces the number of people who depend solely on benefits, allows employees who are older to continue staying in the labor market, reduces poverty levels and the statistics of children of working parents who live in poverty, and helps workers to achieve the correct work-life or work-family balance.
A majority of women working on part time basis are working below their potential. Research has indicated that almost half of the women who work on part time basis have held jobs in the past which required higher qualifications or more responsibilities. Part time jobs mostly involve work positions with low pay. This results to lesser opportunities for such employees to enter the labor market leading to high economic losses as well as workplace inequality.
Working part time is one of the various ways of working in a flexible environment. Organizations should raise awareness of the various ways and change the notion that working part time must involve a fixed amount of time or days in a week or that working flexibly means working for lesser hours.
Current outlook of parenting means that more parents and particularly fathers would like to be able to work in a flexible environment so that they can spend some time with their families and be more active in raising their children. Flexibility is important for those who provide care in order for them to balance their responsibilities to provide care with their employment (Probert, 2007 p. 4). Older employees wish to extent their working lives but do not necessarily want to work full time.
In general, workers want to have a better balance between their responsibilities in the office with their obligations at home. Having the best work-life balance can help the organization to retain skilled and experienced employees and preserve quality and reduce recruitment costs. The talent pool of employees is increased when the organization offers flexible hours enabling employers to recruit candidates with better skills, retain committed and loyal employees. This way productivity will improve leading to an increase in organizational profits.
Employers should understand the importance of work-life balance to make sure that customers get quality services. Economic recession has forced employers to adopt more flexible working practices. The disadvantage of the recession in terms of working flexibility is that the number of workers holding part time jobs and who prefer to hold full time work has gone up (Greenhaus & Parasuraman, 2002 p. 6).
The advantage of the recession is that the reaction of employers of providing more flexible work is an indication that organizational attitudes can change and organizational capability to embrace and make work-life balance have a long-term impact. Having a better work-life balance enables workers to be in a better position to balance both work obligations and home life.
Today, both parents want to balance between their families, work as well their caring obligations which nowadays are shared more equally (Greenhaus & Parasuraman, 2002 p. 14). Flexible working conditions are a significant factor that employees consider when applying a job.
Male and female employees with children and those who provide care to the elderly or sick people consider work-life balance very important in a job. Modern parenting involves both parents making decisions together concerning the management of chores and meeting their family and children needs.
Childcare is no longer viewed as a responsibility of women alone. The role of fathers has become important in the equal division of duties and childcare. However, the desire of parents to spend more time with their families is limited by inflexible working environments.
Job design is about recruiting and designing a proper workload and the ability to manage employees working in different patterns. Understanding the prospective job responsibility and the necessary deliverables and outputs can convince employers that working full time is not the desired position (Kaila, 2005 p. 15). Advising employers on ways of evaluating if existing or new roles can be worked with work-life flexibility can assist in attracting a broader pool of talent to the organization.
Job design can identify whether working flexibility can apply to a specific job. Managers should put more emphasis on the amount of time required to complete the job or what the job entails instead of taking the view that all jobs are designed on a full time basis. Poor job design may be the cause of the difficulties related to the implementation of flexible working or work-life balance practices.
Line managers have a significant role to play in the implementation of practices that encourage work-life balance. Managers should be trained so that they may understand and be able evaluate if a job can be performed part time and support the workers in the new job practices (Yeandle, Philips, Scheibl, Wigfield, & Wise, p75). When performing job design managers should involve existing workers who want the work-life balance because they are the people who fully understand the job limitations.
It is also important for managers to encourage good practice when advertising job opportunities. In most cases, employers have part time employees in their organizations but do not seem to understand the wide variety of working options available when hiring new employees.
Employers should be encouraged to design and advertise jobs that can offer the right work-life balance. Small and medium size enterprises lack a dedicated human resource function in their organizations and therefore both the employees and employers in such companies do not know where to get advice for debating these matters.
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