Work- life balance is about adopting working arrangements that enable the business and its employees to thrive; regardless of race and gender by easing the combination of work with other responsibilities or aspirations. In March 2000, the UK government launched the Work- Life Balance campaign. The campaign endeavoured to encourage employers to introduce flexible working policies in order to enable their employees to achieve a better balance between work and other aspects of their lives.
The campaign focused on three areas, specifically tackling the long- hours working culture, targeting sectors with severe work- life balance problems and providing support and guidance for employers who want to introduce a work- life balance scheme in their company. To encourage employers to utilise these policies a Challenge Fund and a Partnership Fund was set up. The Challenge Fund pays consultants to work with businesses developing work- life balance strategies and the Partnership Fund was created to secure productivity improvements with supporting the development of business projects that solve business problems.
(Work- life Balance, Department for Trade and Industry, available from: http://www. dti. gov. uk/work-lifebalance) To support the Governments commitment to create highly productive, modern and successful workplaces through fairness and partnership at work the Employment Act 2002 received royal assent on the 8th July 2002. The Employment Act is a wide ranging package covering work and parents and will take effect from 6th April 2003.
The act will introduce a number of changes, these include extended rights to statutory maternity and paternity pay and leave, new rights to adoption leave and pay and a right to ask to work flexibly for working parents with children under six, or disabled children under 18. Employer will have a duty to consider requests seriously. With these changes it will help working mothers, recognise the role fathers and adoptive parents play in caring for their new children and supporting their partners, facilitate flexible working and help business.
The Government especially is committed to helping working parents in ways that enhance business efficiency. (Employment Act 2002, Department for Trade and Industry, available from: http://www. dti. gov. uk/er/employ) By introducing work- life balance in our company we need to know the needs of our employees and then find the “right” balance for our workforce to manage their private and working life. Finding the “right” balance is not always a straight forward procedure.
However, for a medium sized enterprise like ourselves it is relatively easy to incorporate the new work- life balance policies into our company in comparison to larger companies. For the following reasons; on a smaller scale it is easier to assess the business benefits of flexible working arrangements as some employees want to work more or need to work less, also to identify the needs of employees and implement solutions that meet the needs of employer, customer and employee alike.
Introducing work- life balance policies in a company depends on different key factors such as size of the enterprise, gender of workforce, working days and working time, products and services offered, owner of enterprise and distribution channel and the new government policies. Our company is working in the service industry with six working days a week from 8am until 8pm. Furthermore, about 45% of our workforce are female employees and most of them are mothers.
For us as an employer, the introduction of work- life balance and application of the new government policies supporting work- life balance could have an important impact on our organisation. Work- life balance in our company can be achieved through; firstly offering flexibility in the total number of hours worked per week. Our company can offer full- time or part- time positions, job sharing or term- time working.
We can offer flexibility on when our employees work, specifically flexibility in the arrangement of hours for example a compressed week, flexible hours, annualised hours, shift systems and offering flexibility on the location from which the employees work for instance enabling employees to work from home providing a telephone service. Secondly, we can train our employees to manage their own work- life balance better through stress management, time management, assertiveness and team building.
Thirdly we can offer our employees childcare support, elderly care support or retirement support. This can be accomplished by allowing them carers leave for employees with either child or adult dependents, emergency leave, bereavement leave or work breaks. Being committed to work- life balance brings many benefits for employer and workforce. For employers such as ourselves, advantageous gains can be achieved from having a more motivated, productive and less stressed workforce.
Along with maximised available labour, making employees feel valued, a loyal and motivated workforce in a less stressful environment, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and retaining valued employees. This leads to smaller turnover costs along with a simultaneous increase in profit. The benefits for the employees are greater responsibility, improved self- esteem, health, concentration and confidence, better relations with the management, greater control of their working lives, loyalty and commitment and more time to focus on life outside work.
Of course there will be some difficulties in implementing work- life balance policies. One difficulty that could arise is the negative attitude of the male employees towards such contemporary changes. For example traditional males may have a strong preference for their female partners to stay within the home to take care of the children and not seek employment at all. Another problem that might occur in our company is that in certain sectors where specialist skills are vital, flexible working hours may not be possible if there are limited numbers of such people available.
Another point to mention could be that some employees would take liberties if given the choice to work flexibly. If our company is committed to work- life balance it will recognise that effective practises to promote work- life balance will benefit our organisation and its employees. It also acknowledges that individuals at all stages of their lives work best when they are able to achieve an appropriate balance between work and other aspects of their lives.
Further it highlights the employers` and the employees’ joint responsibility to discuss workable solutions and encourages a partnership between individuals and their line managers. It will develop appropriate policies and practical responses that meet the specific needs of the organisation and its employees. And finally it demonstrates leadership from the top of the organisation and encourages managers to lead by example.
Books Coussey, Mary (2000), Getting the right work- life balance: implementing family- friendly policies, Chartered Institute of Personal and Development, London Bolton, Trevor (2002), Work- life Balance, Chandos, London Karasek, Robert (1990), Healthy Work: Stress, Productivity, and the reconstraction of working life, HarperCollins, London Electronic sources Work- life Balance, Department for Trade and Industry, available from: http://www. dti. gov. uk, Employers for Work- life Balance, available from: http://www. employersforwork-lifebalance. org. uk