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Work-Life Programmes in Business Strategy Research Paper


Abstract

Both workers and employers started experiencing remarkable changes in the workplace in the 1990s when many firms were downsized and adopted more number of part-time and temporary personnel. In addition, many females in the labour force have resulted in an increase in conflicts between work and life matters. A business strategy is an approach that is adopted by companies to achieve their business objectives.

Many firms use business strategies that address a wide range of activities that would be accomplished within a certain period. Many scholars recognise the need to utilise unique approaches to solve business issues. In a business world that is exemplified by high levels of competition, it would be prudent for management teams to focus on understanding various work and life issues that could impact their staff. In fact, there is a need to establish a work-life balance (WLB) by adopting excellent work-life programmes.

Many researchers have focused on understanding and proposing various work-life strategies that could be essential in attaining WLB. It is important to underscore that WLB is critical in attaining competitive advantage and increased market shares. This paper aims at evaluating research-based positive impacts that work-life programmes could have on business strategy.

Introduction

WLB is the “extent to which an individual is engaged in an equally satisfied with his or her work roles and family roles” (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013, p. 70). The two types of roles should have the following: involvement balance, time balance and satisfaction balance. It is believed that WLB is an individual notion that is based on compatibility of work and non-work activities. Modern human resource departments in various organisations focused on WLB employment practices, which provide excellent platforms on which personnel balance their work activities with responsibilities that they could have outside work (Chalawadi, 2014; Konrad & Mangel, 2000).

It is essential to note that WLB could be achieved if work and non-work interests are reconciled. This paper focuses on discussing the role of work-life programmes with regard to promoting business strategy in the workplace.

Discussion

The work-family conflict could be termed as an inter-role conflict that makes it difficult for an individual to participate in both work and non-work (for example, family) activities. Programmes should be aimed at promoting work-family synergy, which refers to the positive energy that exemplifies persons who participate in both work and family roles. Research has established that both synergy and conflict are bidirectional (Greenfield & Terry, 1995).

It has been argued that supervisors could act as vital persons with regard to resolving WLB conflicts. In fact, previous studies have demonstrated a relationship between supervisor support and improved performance outcomes of personnel. The outcomes could be categorised into “work overload, job satisfaction and life satisfaction” (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013, p. 71). Conflicts are found in situations where workers are involved in paid and unpaid work responsibilities. However, it has been proposed that WLB programmes could be important in resolving conflicts by enabling staff to be satisfied both in the workplace and at home.

It is important to recognise that conflict that is caused by paid and unpaid work responsibilities is associated with “lack of engagement, absenteeism, turnover rates, low productivity, and poor retention levels, which may compromise the availability and use of work-life programmes” (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013, p. 71). It has been shown that workers who achieve WLB have relatively low rates of absenteeism and relatively high levels of productivity.

A study was conducted in Gurgaon with the aim of establishing the positive impacts of WLB on organisations and employees. Using a sample size of 100 respondents working in call centres, the study authors analysed data using multiple regression analysis and t-test. It was found that WLB could be effective in reducing absenteeism. Personnel believed that work-life initiatives could be critical in job satisfaction, stress reduction and autonomy (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013).

With regard to the organisational perspective, it was established that WLB was associated with reducing rates of absenteeism and turnover, promoting performance outcomes, and increasing levels of loyalty. However, the study did not find a correlation between organisational perspective and employees’ perspective (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013). Another study focused on deciphering the extent to which WLB is fulfilled from the organisational perspective. The study underscored that many scholars examine “policy development and execution with regard to creating family-friendly job environments from personal perspectives rather than from a group of workers working under the same supervisor” (Mazerolle & Goodman, 2013, p. 670).

The study utilised eight athletic trainers who were important in giving responses in alignment with three themes. First, supportive work environments were shown to foster and encourage WLB through the attainment of personally and professionally shared ambitions. Second, non-work outlets were demonstrated to be important in providing time away from the workplace. They included exercise and hobbies. Finally, individualistic approaches showed that although persons could aim at achieving common goals, they should also focus on attaining individual objectives. Thus, it would be prudent to contend that work-life programmes that would be aimed at promoting a business strategy should focus on encouraging workers to achieve both personal and professional objectives (Mazerolle & Goodman, 2013).

One of the factors that characterise the modern workplace is a relatively large number of personnel. The personnel have precise needs and resources, which are critical in establishing a balance between work and life roles (Balkan, 2014). Many scholars have focused on describing WLB using personal and career dimensions of staff in organisations across the world. Work-life programmes have come to the fore with regard to correlations between improved conditions in the workplace and increased flexibility of paid work. Many studies assert that job stress could have negative impacts on the wellbeing and performance outcomes of workers across the globe (Balkan, 2014).

Thus, work-life programmes focus on preventing the negative impacts of job stress. An example of such programmes is the stress management programme, which argues that problems that are related to stress are inbuilt. Thus, initiatives are applied based on particular workers with the aim of enabling them to improve performance outcomes. While stress management initiatives are aimed at helping personnel in stressful conditions, they are not focused on eradicating the source of the stress (Balkan, 2014). Issues have been raised with regard to firms that aim at eliminating stress without analysing the needs of the individual.

The results of such programmes could only be short-term. Policymakers are worried that many firms are avoiding adopting excellent WLB programmes due to high costs. However, scholars propose that business establishments should focus on adopting tested work-life approaches that would be important in achieving long-term positive impacts. The proposal is in the context of more competitive markets that require strategic business actions (Balkan, 2014).

Many workers aim at attaining WLB, but they rarely achieve it because they work for relatively long hours and hardly find an association between home and work. If workers have many non-work issues that affect them, then they would have relatively low levels of productivity in the workplace. Currently, the work-life conflict could be viewed from two perspectives. First, it could be noted that work aspects could interfere with family issues. Second, it is notable that family matters could have negative impacts on work outcomes. Thus, it is prudent for work-life programmes to address both work interference and family interference.

A study was conducted to investigate the impacts of WLB on job stress and individual performance outcomes. It used a sample size of 1000 students, but only 300 students were accessed for the survey, and 232 students were used for statistical analyses (Balkan, 2014). The study authors concluded that job stress issues could significantly impact performance outcomes. In addition, job outcomes were impacted by WLB factors.

Due to the strong association that was established, it would be critical to underscore that stress would be characterised by three stages (Balkan, 2014). The first stage is exemplified by an individual who perceives stress, and he or she releases hormones to mediate processes that show signs of being stressed. The second stage is involved with resistance to stress, which is brought about by adaptation. At this stage, stress signs disappear.

The third stage is exemplified by exhaustion, which implies that the body can no longer defend stressful conditions. Thus, diseases can easily result from stress. It is evident that workers could have their health outcomes negatively impacted by work-life stress factors. Therefore, it could be prudent for management teams of business establishments to focus on addressing WLB issues by adopting effective work-life programmes (Balkan, 2014).

Studies have also dealt with WLB and health commitment of organisations. For example, a study published in 2014 found that a strong correlation exists among the following: WLB, job satisfaction among personnel and commitment (Azeem & Akhtar, 2014). In fact, 37% variance was attributed to a commitment by firms and job satisfaction, which were critical in the achievement of WLB (Azeem & Akhtar, 2014). Thus, it can be asserted that organisations that are committed to achieving exemplary results are exemplified by personnel who have relatively high levels of job satisfaction and WLB.

Scholars have also focused their studies on understanding various aspects that could be important for maintaining WLB. It is notable that multiplication of duties in the workplace could be a key factor for lowering efficiencies of workers of firms across the globe (Stankiewicz, Bortnowska & Łychmus, 2014). This could be explained by the increased expectations among personnel. Another negative impact of multiplication of duties is that personnel spend relatively more time in their professional engagements than they spend in their private responsibilities.

In addition, excessive working time could negatively impact cognitive functions of an individual and lead to other health conditions such as insomnia and chronic stress. The consequences signify the need to focus on the actions that could be critical in fostering WLB of employees (Stankiewicz et al., 2014).

It is evident that modern workers encounter more social, economic and technological challenges (Greenfield & Terry, 1995). Thus, many scholars have pronounced the realities of the workplace that have brought more stress and complicated the lives of millions of workers across the world (Khan & Agha, 2013). Business establishments should aim at adopting excellent work-life programmes that would help to achieve WLB.

Within an organisational level, such programmes would be applied to support credible and corporate business activities, which would result in a gain of competitive advantage and increased market shares. However, it should be noted that work-life initiatives are focused on providing employers and personnel with long-term mutual benefits. WLB initiatives have been shown to be effective ways that could be used by HR departments with a view to recruiting, retaining and motivating their valued workers (Khan & Agha, 2013). Furthermore, work-life programmes could be important tools for changing organisational cultures and helping to change how various personnel view their careers and work (Chalofsky, 2008).

The proposal to engage HR departments in executing WLB approaches is based on the observation that human resource management (HRM) plays more proactive and strategic roles to manage staff in the workplace. In fact, HRM plays roles that are viewed in the context of the larger society where different business establishments belong. Thus, several changes characterise modern HR practices (Khan & Agha, 2013). For example, commitment is now preferred to compliance, and modern HR professionals ensure that they staff their firms with highly skilled employees. In addition, training of all staff is a critical feature of proactive HR practices. Thus, HRM could be important in achieving flexible working, which could be utilised to describe WLB.

Many study authors argue that there is a positive relationship between policies that promote WLB and performance outcomes of individual workers. However, some researchers assert that “wide gaps exist with regard to the policies and the reality in most workplaces” (Wei, Yili, Tian, 2013, p. 105). Thus, it has been argued that supportive work-life culture that is adopted by an organisation could have important implications for the execution of work-life programmes (Chalofsky, 2008).

Four cultural aspects have been cited as the most important factors (Wei et al., 2013). First, managerial support ensures that all employees are motivated to achieve personal and professional goals. Second, gender-based perceptions are crucial in helping management teams to understand and address gender issues that could negatively impact performance outcomes. Third, career consequences could be essential factors to motivate or discourage workers from working hard in the workplace. For example, if an organisation promotes workers who have excellent performance results, then workers would be encouraged to work in order to be promoted.

On the other hand, unmotivated personnel could exemplify firms that do not reward industrious workers with job promotions. Fourth, co-workers’ support is important in enabling personnel to achieve both personal and professional goals and solve various work and non-work issues. Research shows that HRM can only be effective if the top management and middle-level management show commitment to supporting proactive HR practices (Greenfield & Terry, 1995). In fact, the following have been proposed to be effective ways that management teams could adopt to encourage workers to achieve WLB (Wei et al., 2013):

  • Encouraging women’s positions.
  • I am considering fairness among workers.
  • Adopting new methods to evaluate performance outcomes.

Leeds City Council proposed the following nine policies that could be used to establish a flexible working environment, which could result in improved performance outcomes (“Leeds lists the benefits of better work-life balance”, 2004):

  1. Annualised hours.
  2. Job share.
  3. Self-rostering.
  4. Employment break.
  5. Compressed hours.
  6. Homeworking.
  7. Differences in hours.
  8. Flexible working time.
  9. Term-time only working.

The policies were proposed with a view to realising more benefits from flexible working options. In fact, the policies would go a long way in promoting WLB because, despite the growing alternatives of flexible working, it is notable that much work across the world is correlated with “long working hours, high-stress levels among workers and low levels of job attachment” (“Leeds lists the benefits of better work-life balance”, 2004, p. 21).

While the policies would be important in implementing work-life programmes, it would be important for managers to adopt approaches that would be compatible with formal work-life policies. “Low levels of stress, absence through employer flexibility, improved recruitment and retention” have been cited as the key elements of WLB (“Leeds lists the benefits of better work-life balance”, 2004, p. 22).

It is argued that work-life initiatives have not been successfully implemented because many persons believe that they are approaches that should be used by female parents in the workplace. In fact, the perception has negatively impacted its potential achievement with regard to promoting strategic business benefits (Chalawadi, 2014).

Millions of workers are increasingly adopting telecommuting across the world. The concept implies that employees can carry out their tasks at home instead of going to the workplace (Osoian, Lazar & Ratiu, 2014). The approach has several advantages. For example, it reduces costs related to travelling to the workplace, it enables workers to organise their work more effectively, it offers personnel the chances of working in less stressful environments, and it helps workers with disabilities to work from their homes (Osoian et al., 2014).

A company’s bottom line could be impacted either positively or negatively by telecommuting because staff can decide whether to work during their peak productive periods. Telecommuting is one of the best programmes that could be adopted by business establishments to improve their business strategies. Compressed workweeks are arrangements that are adopted by the management teams of firms to “enable their personnel to work for relatively long hours so that they would have a reduction in the number of working days in their work cycle” (Osoian et al., 2014, p. 334). The approach provides additional days off work to personnel. The days off would be utilised by workers to solve their family issues.

Thus, family issues would rarely interfere with their professional work aspects. Part-time work could also be used to allow staff with some problems, such as disabilities, to work productively, improve their job skills and gain job experience. From an organisation’s perspective, the adoption of this strategy would be critical in “maximising human resources and increasing the levels of operational flexibilities by providing additional coverage during peak periods” (Osoian et al., 2014, p. 335).

The initiative would be an excellent platform on which WLB would be achieved. Job sharing is a programme that is adopted to allow two or more workers to carry out tasks on a full-time basis. If two or more personnel collectively accomplish tasks, then it would imply that they would have more time for other tasks such as family responsibilities. The net result of the programme would be that there would be fewer chances of work-family conflicts that would negatively impact the performance outcomes of individual workers and organisations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is apparent that the modern business world is characterised by many changes, which have resulted in a number of challenges that negatively impact the productivity levels of workers. Work-family conflicts occur when both work and family issues affect the output of workers. Thus, management teams are supposed to focus on understanding the various factors that could affect performance outcomes of their business establishments.

In fact, in the contemporary competitive world, businesses are required to adopt strategic business approaches that would enable them to gain competitive advantage and more market shares. Business strategies are supposed to be unique and feasible. WLB is focused on achieving flexible working environments, which would positively correlate with increased productivity levels. Work-life programmes are aimed at enabling workers to appreciate that they are required to perform excellently in the workplace and at home. One common feature of all work-life initiatives is that they prioritise matters of employees.

Various studies have identified strategies that would be utilised by firms to attain WLB. Although many people have argued that the approaches could only be applied to solve issues related to female parents, scholars have shown that they could be used to solve work-life issues that are experienced by both female and male workers. The extent to which companies would thrive in the competitive business environments would largely depend on the work-life programmes that they would adopt to address workers’ work-family conflicts.

References

Azeem, S. M., & Akhtar, N. (2014). The Influence of Work Life Balance and Job Satisfaction on Organizational Commitment of Healthcare Employees. International Journal of Human Resource Studies, 4(2), 18-24.

Balkan, D. O. (2014). Work-Life Balance, Job Stress and Individual Performance: An Application. International Journal of Management Sciences and Business Research, 3(3), 38-47.

Chalawadi, C. I., (2014). A study on work life balance and women: Issues and challenges. SUM EDHA Journal of Management, 3(2), 80-91.

Chalofsky, N., (2008). Work-life programs and organizational culture: The Essence of Workplace community. Organizational Developmental Journal, 26(1), 11-18.

Chimote, N. K., & Srivastava, V. N. (2013). Work-Life Balance Benefits: From the Perspective of Organizations and Employees. The IUP Journal of Management Research, 12(1), 62-73.

Greenfield, C., & Terry, M., (1995). Work/life: From a set of programs to a set of strategic way of management. Employment Relations Today, 22(2), 67-81.

Khan, S. A., & Agha, K. (2013). Dynamics of the Work Life Balance at the Firm Level: Issues and Challenges. Journal of Management, 14(4), 103-113.

Konrad, A. M., & Mangel, R., (2000). The impact of work-life programs on firm productivity. Strategic Management Journal, 21(2), 1225-1237.

Leeds lists the benefits of better work-life balance: Councils reap the rewards of family- friendly policies (2004). Human Resource Management International Digest, 12(7), 21-23.

Mazerolle, S. M., & Goodman, A. (2013). Fulfillment of Work-Life Balance From the Organizational Perspective: A Case Study. Journal of athletic training, 48(5), 668-677.

Osoian, C., Lazar, L., & Ratiu, P., (2014). The benefits of implementing and supporting work-life balance policies in organizations. International Journal of Management Sciences and Business Research, 30(13), 333-339.

Stankiewicz, J., Bortnowska, H., & Łychmus, P. (2014). Conditions necessary to maintain work-life balance of employees-in the light of the research results. Management, 18(1), 326-340.

Wei, C., Yili, L., Tian, Y., (2013). How Can HRM Help Organizations Build the Supportive “Work-Life/family” Balance Culture? International Journal of Business and Social Science, 4(9), 104-110.

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