Employees need to balance work commitments with other responsibilities, including child care, elderly care, continuing education, volunteering and hobbies. Job-related issues can have an impact on an employee's life away from work. At the same time, the level of conflict or support an employee experiences in his personal life can influence his attitude or performance while he is at work. Reduced conflict between work and family commitments can increase an employee's satisfaction with both life and work.
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Work-life balance describes an individual's ability to manage their work-related and non-work commitments. External commitments need not be family-related, although much of the discussion around work-life balance centres on family responsibilities and the increased role of women in the workplace over the past 50 years. Changes in society have undoubtedly led to increased pressure on parents trying to balance work and family commitments. In 2008, 66 per cent of families were led by dual-career couples and employed single parents, compared to 40 per cent on 1975, according to the Shriver Report.
Companies offer a range of benefits to assist employees with work-life balance. Flexible working options, such as flexitime, telecommuting, compressed workweeks and job sharing, allow employees more control over scheduling their job-related and external commitments. Additionally, paid or unpaid leave may be available to cover vacation, sickness, personal days and voluntary work. In some companies, employees even have access to onsite services such as direct deposit, ATMs, postal services and dry cleaning, which helps save time on non-work chores. Career or personal development can also be enhanced through funding or loans that enable employees to study for qualifications.
Employee satisfaction is a measure of how positive employees feel about the tasks they undertake, the company and their working conditions. According to an article published in the "Journal of Financial Economics" in January 2010, employee satisfaction has a measurable, positive impact on shareholder returns. The Society for Human Resource Management 2010 Job Satisfaction research report states that 46 per cent of employees consider work-life balance flexibility a very important contributor to job satisfaction. Improving employee satisfaction through work-life balance programs can benefit a company's bottom line.
For a work-life balance program to succeed, it must fit the context of the business and meet the needs of employees. The program must be supported by supervisors, as a lack of supervisor support can lead to conflict when employees seek to alter their working patterns. A one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance is likely to fail, as individuals have different needs and circumstances. Ideally, work-life balance programs should allow for an element of negotiation and tailoring to individual circumstances. Uptake of work-life balance policies is likely to be higher if they are widely communicated and available to all employees.
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- "Journal of Vocational Behavior"; A Meta-Analytic Review of Work-Family Conflict and its Antecedents; Kristin Byron; October 2005
- "Journal of Vocational Behavior"; Family-Supportive Organization Perceptions, Multiple Dimensions of Work-Family Conflict, and Employee Satisfaction; Laurent M. Lapierre, et al.; August 2008
- Executive Office of the President; Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility; March 2010
- Center for American Progress; The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything; Heather Boushey, et al.; 2009
- Society for Human Resource Management; 2010 Employee Benefits; Shawn Fegley, et al.; June 2010
- "Journal of Financial Economics"; Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices; Alex Edmans; January 2010