Work-life is the practice of providing initiatives designed to create a more flexible, supportive work environment, enabling employees to focus on work tasks while at work.
It includes making the culture more supportive, adding programs to meet life event needs, ensuring that policies give employees as much control as possible over their lives and using flexible work practices as a strategy to meet the dual agenda – the needs of both business and employees.
In short, we define work-life as the interaction between employers and employees, because everything that happens at work has an impact on workers’ lives. While a full range of organizational offerings may appear under the heading work-life, the number one challenge today is to create the kind of workplace that supports their use and treats employees as human beings, respecting the fact that they have full lives and important responsibilities outside of work.
Our new e-course will guide Human Resource staff as they help managers create that kind of flexible, supportive, productive workplace. Your HR staff will become experts in both workplace flexibility and the business case that supports it. They’ll create their own task force and their own business case, learning about pilot projects, the challenges that may appear, and the solutions for each.
They’ll cover the reality of telework, including worker’s comp issues, and will gain the ability to coach managers as they create and learn from their pilots. And they’ll learn how flexibility can be appropriate for low-wage and hourly workers. (For a short demonstration of this course, click on the box at the right headed “Introducing Flexibility: A Guide for Human Resource Staff.” Then call us at 1-800-487-7898 if you’d like to view the complete course.
Here’s more about the components that make up a work-life strategy.
Many companies are redesigning how the work is done, asking employees how they can make their lives more livable and still get the job done. They eliminate tasks that are duplicative, reassign others to create a job that’s appropriate for flexibility or remote work, and look for ways to save time − some of which goes back to employees.
Alternative work arrangements like flextime (altering starting and ending times), job sharing, telecommuting, reduced work schedules and compressed workweeks are now becoming standard in many organizations. Daily flexibility − allowing employees to control their schedule and set their own daily hours as long as goals are met and the job gets done − is first on the list of job-seekers’ criteria, and is being used by more and more companies to recruit skilled workers.
Training managers and supervisors is part of the process, helping them understand that setting measurable goals and focusing on results will allow them to create a flexible workplace while making them more effective managers.
More employers are putting all their paid leave days − sick leave, personal leave, funeral leave, parental leave, floating holidays, etc., into what most call a “Paid Time Off Bank” that allows employees a certain number of days. Many companies use the PTO Bank to curb unscheduled absenteeism. The number of days in the bank is usually just slightly less than the total number of paid leave days an employee would otherwise get. Sabbaticals, both paid and unpaid, are also making a comeback.
Concierge services, onsite shopping, consumer resources, buying, leasing and maintaining cars, home repairs, real estate listings, house cleaning and other services that help employees save time are gaining in popularity again as the economy surges ahead. They’re a win/win, saving time for employees as workloads grow, helping employers get more work done, and acting as an enticement as they recruit new talent.
Most employees offer the services of an Employee Assistance Program. Developed in the early 70s to help with employees’ alcoholism and addiction issues, their mandate has grown. Still the experts in alcohol and drug intervention assistance, counseling for gambling and eating disorders, they also provide counseling for grief and loss, personal relationships, work relationships, marriage and family issues, divorce and separation, mental health issues, violence and crisis, work-life balance and stress management.
Sometimes included in EAP services, financial counseling is growing in importance. Companies are offering assistance with budgeting, credit and collections, home buying and renting, saving and investing, retirement planning, insurance and taxes. Many offer low-interest loans for housing, college and personal emergencies.
Many employers offer the services of a lawyer to talk with employees about wills, consumer protection, estate and probate law, family and elder law, real estate issues, living wills and other legal issues. Some subsidize the service and some arrange for lower group rates.
It pays to offer as much assistance as possible to make sure relocation is a success. Most offer help with selling current homes and finding housing in the new location. Many help spouses to find a job and assist with school issues, childcare, financial counseling and transportation. They also have well organized programs, including support groups, for expatriates returning from overseas.
Health insurance may be the most important work-life benefit of all. As costs skyrocket, more employers are switching to consumer-driven plans, offering employees the option of high-deductible, lower cost health savings accounts.
Physical Wellness Programs
Fitness programs, disease prevention, smoking cessation, obesity programs, nutrition and diet assistance all have a measurable payoff in keeping employees healthier, which not only cuts health care costs but raises productivity and reduces absenteeism.
Parenting, childcare and child development
When the field of work and family was first invented, in the mid-80s, childcare was pretty much its sole focus, and it’s still an important piece of keeping a workforce productive. It includes helping those who want to be parents with infertility counseling and financial assistance, and even, in some cases, in vitro fertilization. It often means helping new parents with adoption leave and financial assistance, and of course finding or providing regular and after-school care, summer care, backup and sick child care. Most companies now offer parenting seminars and support groups. Some provide summer programs for older children and teens and many offer college support of various kinds. There’s special help for single parents and support groups for blended families.
Exceptional caregiving, eldercare, special needs children
There are now about 120 million caregivers in the U.S. and an estimated 60% are also in the workplace. As the boomer generation moves into their 60s, both of those numbers will grow very fast. So more companies will provide or facilitate the services of geriatric care managers, help find or provide eldercare, backup care or caregiving assistance along with resources for emergencies, special needs children, disabled adults, legal or financial resources and information, needs assessment, evaluation of eldercare facilities, caregiver support groups and eldercare fairs.
For more about work-life, and how to create the most effective work-life culture, please contact us at 1-800-487-7898.