The society has undergone a significant transformation during the 21st century. These changes have affected different spheres of individual’s life. One of these spheres relates to work. Work demand is one of the major reasons for the increased need of work-life demands. Approximately 50% of the total workforce is comprised of women while 50% of all household adults are working (Chick, 2004, p.2).
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Findings of ‘The 2002 National Study on the Changing Workforce’ revealed that approximately 66% of all American families were dual earners by 1977. This means that these couples were salaried employees. However, the proportion grew to 78% by the end of 2002. Not only are the couples working but they are also required to work for long hours (Chick, 2004, p. 2).
In most cases individuals working for long hours experience health problems. In addition to work demands, the demands of life are also influencing individuals to have a balance in their life. For example, the adults are required to take care of their children and elderly parents.
From the study, 50% of the respondents interviewed said they do not have sufficient time for themselves while 63% said they do not have enough time to spend with their spouses. On the other hand, 67% of all the respondents interviewed said that they do not have sufficient time to spend with their kids.
As a result of increased participation in their work, there is need for individuals to establish a balance. In addition to family life, there is an increase in the number of adults who are attending school in an effort to improve their life. This arises from the fact that workers are aimed at developing their career.
Considering these challenges, workers are increasingly being concerned with ensuring that there is flexibility within their workplace in order to attain a balance (Romer, 2011, p.1). As a result, human resource managers are increasingly being concerned with work-life-balance as one of the human resource management concepts.
This arises from the fact that the profitability of the firm is dependent on its effectiveness in retaining employees (Clutterbuck, 2003, p.34).
According to Clayton (2004, p.146), the success of organizational leadership is dependent on the effectiveness with which harmony between the organizational goals and employees’ priorities is established. Considering the changes in the society, the researcher appreciated the importance of analyzing the concept of work-life-balance and its influences on employee development and career management.
According to Armstrong (2006, p.152), work-life balance entails establishing a balance between ones life and his or her work. In their human resource management practices, organizations are increasingly considering adopting strategies that enable their workforce to have a certain degree of flexibility in their duties.
Armstrong (2006, p.152) further asserts that the objective of work-life balance is to provide the employees with an opportunity of balancing their work with other personal responsibilities.
According to Armstrong (2006, p.152) one of the employees’ needs that organizations are required to take into account is employee development. In order to attain this most organizations have incorporated an employee development policy. The policy is aimed at ensuring that employees continuously develop their skills and abilities.
Factors that have contributed to increased demand of work-life balance
The 21st century has been characterized by numerous economic challenges. For example, the recent economic crisis had adverse effects on individuals’ purchasing power. This arises from the fact that some organizations lost their jobs as organizations undertook downsizing.
Coupled with the rise in the cost of living, these changes have stimulated the need to attain financial security. As a result, men and women are increasingly being involved in more than one job.
Additionally, there has been a change in the perception of work. A significant proportion of individuals are considering work as a source of personal satisfaction and not a component of one’s survival. Currently, individuals are working in order to succeed in their career.
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Demographic changes and diversity in organizations
The high rate of diversity within organizations is one of the reasons why human resource managers are faced with numerous challenges. This has further stimulated the need for work-life balance. According to Metusin, and Ooi (2006, p.77), one of the most valuable competences that human resource managers should possess entails understanding and harmonizing the existing differences between the employees.
Ghani, Metusin and Ooi (2006, p. 77) further assert that understanding diversity in addition to the growing need for a balanced life amongst the employees has become a prerequisite for a firm attaining sustained performance.
Demographic changes such as aging are contributing towards an increment in the amount of responsibilities facing workers. According to Ghani, Metusin and Ooi (2006, p. 77), it is estimated that there will be an increment in the number of workers who are charged with the responsibility of caring for their family members.
Ghani, Metusin and Ooi (2006, p. 77) assert that there has been a decline in fertility amongst individuals on one hand while on the other there is increment in longevity. The resultant effect is that is emergence of an aging population.
Ceiri, Holmes, Abbott and Pettit (2002, p.2) asserts that if the rate of fertility is constant at 1.6 children for every adult lady, the result will be an increment in the proportion of the aging population from 13.9% during the 1990s to 28% by 2030 within the OECD countries.
This arises from the fact that the employees have to take care of their loved ones. Additionally, the high rate at which women are being integrated in the workforce is creating pressure to human resource managers with regard to work-life balance and diversity management.
Ceiri, Holmes, Abbott and Pettit (2002, p.2) are of the opinion that the current demographic changes means that human resource managers have to formulate and implement human resource policies and strategies that take into account the employees’ work-life needs and also takes into account the diverse workforce.
Influences of work-life balance on employee development and career management
Work-life balance plays a vital role in the development of the employees. Employee development entails the various activities are associated with the employee training and development. Employee training is an important component of ensuring that a firm attains competitive advantage. Needle (2010, p.482) asserts that the skills gained through the training act as an organization’s source of competitive advantage.
Work-life balance enables an organization employee development program to be effective. This arises from the fact that the fact that the employees become committed to the program.
Additionally, work-life balance enables employees to be effective in their career management. From an individual point of view, career management entails the various developmental practices that are undertaken in order to enable the employees execute their job.
On the other hand, organizations consider career management to include the various practices and policies that are implemented with the objective of attaining the needs of a suitable proportion of employees who are well trained. Career management is critical in ensuring that an organization has effective staff.
On the other hand work-life balance enhances firms in their career management in that it contributes towards a high level of employee retention. On the other hand, work-life balance enables a firm to be effective in their development hence attaining their career objectives.
Benefits of work-life balance
Currently, a large number of workers are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits associated with an organization having flexible human resource strategies. This has arisen from realization of the fact that it is impossible to separate work and the various life commitments. However, employees are faced with a challenge in their quest to attain work-life balance.
This arises from the fact that their workload is increasing as organizations shift to flat and more participative structures. The resultant effect is that it is becoming difficult for employee’s to establish a balance between their career and life.
According to Coussey (2000, p.1), there is a high probability of an individual succeeding in he or she establishes a balance between his or her life and work. Coussey (2000, p.1) is of the opinion that work-life balance entails developing working practices that are beneficial to both the organization and the employees.
From an employee’s point of view, work-life balance entails establishing and maintaining a balance between one’s responsibilities at home and work.
Considering the competitive nature of the labor market, it has become paramount for business organizations to recruit and retain motivated employees. According to Torun (2007, p.4), employee turnover can be costly to an organization. However, implementation of work-life balance programs can contribute towards a firm improving its employee retention rate.
A study conducted in Hoechst Celanese which is a Japanese firm revealed that 60% of the employees interviewed said that the firm’s ability to ensure that there is a balance between the employees’ work and their life was a key determinant in their decision to continue working with the firm (Torun, 2007, p.4).
Additionally, work-life balance programmes within organizations act as marketing tools that organizations use to attract employees. The need to retain the employees has become a motivating factor why organizations are increasingly incorporating work-life balance in their human resource management practices and policies.
Coussey (2000, p.1) asserts that the profitability of businesses is dependent on the level of employee motivation. If an organization does not incorporate work-life balance, there is a high probability of the employees’ attitude being affected negatively. The result is that their morale is diminished.
Lockwood (2003, p. 7) opines that incorporation of work-life balance contributes towards an organization minimizing absenteeism amongst its employees. This arises from the fact that the level of stress which is depicted by increased health problems amongst the employees and absences are minimal (Lockwood, 2003, p.7).
In the long term, work-life balance contributes towards a decline in the employees health care cost. Findings of a study conducted by the American Institute on Stress revealed that approximately one million workers do not attend work daily as a result of stress complications (Lockwood, 2003, p.7).
The resultant effect is that the employees’ productivity is enhanced culminating into an improvement in the probability of the organization attaining its goals.
Not only is work-life balance being advocated by human resource managers but also by researchers and governments. During the 21st century, work-life balance is being considered as a strategic human resource management issue. As a result, human resource managers are integrating the concept of work-life balance in their employee retention strategies (Martin, 2010, p.35).
In order to survive in the long term as going concern entities, organizations should appreciate the changes in employees needs. This will play a vital role in formulating flexible work-life balance strategies.
Problem – Work-life conflicts
According to Bird (2006, p.3) asserts that the changes within the society have presented both workers and organizations with a challenge. The challenge emanates from existence of a conflict between the workers personal life and their work. The employees’ personal responsibilities and their work may be mutually incompatible to some degree.
Needle (2010, p.482) asserts that employees’ personal responsibilities usually conflict with the needs of the organization. This has made management teams of firms in different economic sectors to shift their focus to employees as their core concern.
The shift towards the employees arises from the fact that organizations recognize the fact that they can lose the employees. Additionally, organization can also be sued if they fail to address the employee’s needs.
Human resource management strategies to enhance work-life balance
There are a wide range of strategies that human resources managers can integrate their management practices in order eliminate work-life conflict. Integration of work-life balance will give the employees a high degree of flexibility. The following are some of the strategies that organizations can integrate in order to attain work-life balance.
This strategy entails a permanent form of employment whereby individuals are required to work for fewer hours per week. The employee is required to fulfill the responsibilities assigned within a specific duration.
This strategy is more appealing to workers who prefer to have more leisure time and parents who need to be with their children. By incorporating part-time work, an organization can enable its employees to achieve work-life balance.
According to Pride, Hughes and Kapoor (2010, p.295), job sharing entails an employment arrangement in which tow employees share a single full-time job. Job sharing is attained by dividing the number of hours that each party works.
For example, one of the job-sharer may be required to work from 8.00 am to 12 noon while the other party works from 1 to 5 p.m. alternatively, the employees may decide to alternate the days that each one works. By incorporating the concept of job sharing, an organization is able to attract highly skilled employees.
For example, some professionals may not be available fulltime. Job sharing gives an organization an opportunity to have a strong work-force. However, this strategy is only applicable to some jobs.
The 21st century has been characterized by a growth in the rate of technological innovation. Organizations are increasingly incorporating technology in their human resource management practices. According to Pride, Hughes and Kapoor (2010, p.295), telecommuting entails allowing employees to work at home either full time or for a number of hours every week.
Some of the technologies that facilitate telecommuting include modems, personal computers, cellular phones, fax machines, and voice mails. Additionally, the emergence of overnight couriers is also enhancing the growth in telecommunication. Telecommuting presents a high degree of flexibility to the employees. This arises from the fact that the employees have the discretion of determining the most appropriate time to work.
This means that they can have more time to spend with their families. Pride, Hughes and Kapoor (2010, p.295) assert that organizations that have incorporated telecommuting experience minimal employee turnover and absenteeism. Another benefit relate to increased work-life balance.
In this strategy, human resource managers give the employees an opportunity to determine the number of hours that they prefer to be working. However, the hours have to be within certain limits that are predetermined by the employer. In this strategy, the human resource manager sets two main time bands. These include the flextime and core time.
The flextime relates to the time when the employees may prefer to be working. On the other hand, the core time entails the specific hours within which the employees must be at work. For example, the core hours may range from 8 am to 11 am.
This strategy gives the employees an opportunity to work for a certain number of hours and then have the discretion to attend to their personal responsibilities (Pride, Hughes & Kapoor, 2010, p.295). This means that employees can be able to attain work-life balance. However, this strategy is guided by a condition that stipulates that employees must work for a predetermined number of hours.
According to Kaiser (2011, p.212), compressed schedules entails a working arrangement whereby employees are required to work for a predetermined number of hours weekly.
However, instead of the working hours being distributed evenly throughout the week, the employees have the discretion on how to distribute the working hours throughout the week. Through this strategy, employees can work for more hours on a particular day in order have take an off on a particular day.
Holidays, leaves and career breaks
Human resource managers should also consider incorporating company-paid holidays annually. Other strategies which human resource management should consider include integration of leaves.
There are a wide range of leaves that human resource managers should consider in their human resource management practices. One example of such leaves include leave without pay. Additionally, human resource managers can also consider implementing an extra leave in which the employees receive a proportionate compensation during the leave period.
According to Raddon (2005, p.50), integration of career breaks would also play a vital role in enhancing work-life balance. Career breaks are an important component of ensuring that employees develop their skills. Career break give employees an opportunity to address their economic needs.
The resultant effect is that the employees remain competitive within the work environment. During the career breaks, an employee is able to address other family commitments.
The study has illustrated the importance of incorporating work-life balance as one of the human resource management practices. Currently, the society is characterized by numerous changes which are affecting workers in executing their duties. Some of these changes relate to increased responsibilities amongst the employees.
The workforce has also experienced a significant transformation as a result of increment in the number of women who are employed. These women have to take care of their families. Other changes relate to demographic characteristics of the society. For example, there has been an increment in the proportion of the aging population which has to be taken care of.
Additionally, employees are faced with a rise in the cost of living and hence the need to attain financial security. As a result, most employees including women are working for long hours. The study has also illustrated that diversity within the workforce is stimulating organizations to consider incorporating work-life balance.
The increment in the amount of responsibilities that employees are facing has stimulated the need for work-life balance. This arises from the fact that employees are increasingly experiencing work-life conflicts.
Integration of work-life balance as a human resource management strategy is beneficial to both the employees and the organizations. Some of the benefits associated with work-life balance include increased employee retention, increased productivity, and improvement in the employee well being and reduced labor costs. In the long run, an organization’s profitability is improved.
On the other hand, work-life balance contributes towards the employee developing their career. This arises from the fact that organizations are forced to incorporate employee development and career management strategies. Additionally, the employees have sufficient time to develop their careers through various means such as going back to school.
The study has illustrated that there are a wide range of human resource management strategies that organizations can adopt in order to ensure flexibility. Some of these strategiesinclude part-time works, job sharing and telecommuting.
Alternatively, human resource managers can also consider developing compressed schedules, flextime, holidays, leaves and career breaks. Through these strategies, there is a high probability of an organization being successful incorporating work-life balance. The resultant effect is that the organization is able to eliminate work-life balance.
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