This is a post by Megan Blandford, Human Resources Consultant and freelance writer.

The Insync Surveys Retention Review shows that 46% of workers consider a clash between their job and their life reason to quit. In the scheme of reasons to resign, work/life balance came in second to satisfaction with the role itself – reason enough for employers to sit up and make balance a reality for their employees.

On a more proactive note, this in turn means that work/life balance is an employment benefit that potential employees are actively seeking to gain from your business.

But what does work/life balance mean and how can you make it a reality to your employees, rather than just another buzz phrase?

LifestyleCareers.com.au is an online job board that focuses on work/life balance, advertising only those jobs that offer a level of flexibility. Founder Leah Gibbs believes that work/life balance is part of a shift in the workforce:

“Employees are making their jobs work for them, and employers are sitting up and taking note,” she says. “Where once we were told to aim for eight hours of work, eight of play and eight of rest, these days we are realising such a rigid schedule rarely works for us anymore.”

The term signifies something different to everyone. A job board search shows that some employers classify it as part-time work, others use it to describe a job location outside the CBD, while many pair it with a term such as ‘flexible working hours’ or ‘work from home’. This variance in definitions is, in many ways, spot on. In their 2011 research project ‘The ABC of XYZ’ McCrindle Research found common ground between the generations when it comes to work/life balance, stating “most felt that balance was about empowerment over when they worked and where they worked”.

With all generations clear on their perception of the concept, and their expectations, this is certainly an issue that is here to stay. Gibbs agrees, and says that although the term may change slightly (“work-life ‘blend’ or work-life ‘fit’ seems to be the new catch phrase,” Gibbs explains, describing these as “the way work ‘fits’ into your life”), providing flexibility and balance is becoming a greater issue that affects every employee, rather than only women with children as it did in the past.

Businesses must retain valuable employees, and to do that requires helping them maintain their mental wellbeing – a major factor in the work/life balance equation. Put simply: businesses simply must keep up in order to remain competitive.

Tips for employers to make work/life balance a reality for their workers:

Participate in initiatives that promote balance

This clearly gives the message to your employees that balance is an important issue at the forefront of your business’ priorities. These include:

  • Go Home On Time Day (http://www.gohomeontimeday.org.au/) –  Supported by Beyond Blue, this initiative helps to remove the guilt often associated with leaving work on time, as well as promoting the mental and physical health benefits of work/life balance.

Look at the bigger picture

Work/life balance can mean much more than just a shorter working day. Think about:

  • Hours per day
  • Number of days per week
  • The leave available to your employees and the accessibility of such leave
  • Flexible working options such as job shares, working from home and other creative ways to make work a reality for your employees

Review your policies.

For each of the options you provide to your workers, you must have well considered policies in place. These should clearly outline the expectations on both parties and provide measurable checks for ensuring such working arrangements are suitable on an ongoing basis.

Consult with your employees

As the research shows, employees are increasingly expecting some input into how their work fits into their life, so to ensure this need is met you must open the lines of communication. Regular reviews of these working arrangements also need to be scheduled.

Research links:
Insync Surveys Retention Review: http://www.insyncsurveys.com.au/media/92979/the_2012_insync_surveys_retention_review.pdf
‘The ABC of XYZ’ McCrindle Research: http://mccrindle.com.au/resources/whitepapers/McCrindle-Research_ABC-06_Recruiting-and-Retaining_Mark-McCrindle.pdf

 

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