Work life balance initiatives in current economic scenario Essay Example
Work life balance initiatives in current economic scenario Essay Example

Work life balance initiatives in current economic scenario Essay Example

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  • Pages: 10 (2482 words)
  • Published: August 12, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The recognition of the importance of work-life balance by employers in the latter half of the twentieth century was prompted by increasing work demands encroaching on personal and household time. Work-life balance programs saw significant growth from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, but this progress has been disrupted due to the current economic downturn. Many organizations are now considering or have already reduced their work-life balance facilities as a means to cut costs. This paper examines the evolution of work-life balance discourse and presents a macro-level model that analyzes proven and anticipated benefits, justifying organizational initiatives during this economic downturn. Keywords: Work-life balance, model, domains, departments, benefits.

In today's fast-paced world, achieving a better work-life balance is crucial for both men and women who face daily challenges that create instability between their professional and persona


l/family lives. This lack of equilibrium negatively impacts performance at jobs and personal lives alike. Therefore, it is vital for organizations in the current economic climate to have employees who can effectively handle challenges and increase productivity through maintaining a better work-life balance.
This paper aims to analyze changes in the composition of work and household life domains over time and discuss various theories on work-life balance. It also explores the benefits of implementing work-life balance initiatives at an organizational levelFigure 1 demonstrates the different stages of changing the composition of work and household life domains. These include phase one, which occurred during the early old ages of communal life when the entire family worked together for subsistence. Phase two took place during the pre-industrialization period, where there was a partial separation between workplace and household life due to the growt

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of trade and business industry. In phase three, during the industrial revolution in the mid-1800s, there was a strengthened segregation between workplace and household life as mass production using machines led to mills being established away from home. During this time, men dominated the workforce in mills while women primarily focused on household chores (Voydanoff 2006).
Moving on to phase six, which spanned from the 1950s to the early 1980s, advancements in engineering and the implementation of work-life balance installations resulted in a reversal of gender division at workplaces (Carlson et al.2005). Finally, phase seven encompassed years ranging from the 1980s to 2008 and witnessed an increase in women and mothers joining the global workforce along with significant growth in work-life balance installations (Carlson et al.2005).During the current recession period, which started in 2008 and is currently in phase eight, there has been a rise in challenges related to balancing work and family responsibilities. This has been accompanied by a decline in work-life balance installations (Carlson et al.2005). In phase six, which occurred in the latter half of the 20th century, gender roles underwent a shift due to technological advancements and automation. These advancements allowed more women to enter the workforce and reduced reliance on physical labor in mills (Snooks 1996).

In response to this change, companies began offering work-life programs specifically for working mothers during the 1980s and 1990s. These programs later expanded to support employees with other life commitments by the early 21st century.

From the 1950s until now, socioeconomic factors have significantly impacted both work and personal lives. These factors can be categorized into three main groups: family and personal life, work-related factors, and

other influences (refer to Figure 2). The text explores various factors that have influenced changes in work patterns.

Family and personal life-related factors include an increase in women with children entering the workforce, dual-career couples, single-parent households, growing responsibility for childcare and senior care duties among employees as well as considerations for health and well-being.The text discusses work-related factors that contribute to stress, such as long hours, unpaid overtime, time constraints, demands for shorter working hours, an increase in part-time workers, and intensified workload. These factors are influenced by the increasing participation of women in the workforce, which has led to a rise in care responsibilities for both children and seniors among employees. This has resulted in longer working hours, unpaid overtime, changing work schedules, and increased work-related stress. The conflict between work and personal life is worsened by the 24x7 work culture driven by the service sector industry's demands, technological advancements aging population demographics, and declining societal support.

Research on work-life balance began in the 1930s with acknowledgment of the impact of socioeconomic factors on various aspects of life. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that studies started exploring how work and personal life intersected under changing conditions. One early example was when the W.K. Kellog Company implemented a plan in the 1930s to reduce on-the-job hours by having employees switch from three eight-hour shifts to four six-hour shifts. This change resulted in improved morale and productivity.During the 1960s, there was a specific research focus on working mothers and dual-income households due to an increase in women entering the workforce (Lewis et al., 2007). Rappaport and Rappaport (1996) analyzed the impact of work on family life

in agricultural societies and discovered that the industrial revolution caused a separation between work and home life. This shift occurred as production shifted from families to factories and cities, with the help of electricity and machines. Although their primary focus was on how work affected families, their findings served as an important starting point for further research.

Before the 1970s, work and family were generally seen as separate entities (Blunsdon et al., 2006). However, Kanter (1977) emphasized the interconnectedness of work and family by highlighting how each aspect influences one another. Pleck (1977) examined both male and female roles in work and household settings. He observed that women often experience spill-over from their household responsibilities into their professional lives, while men may experience spill-over from their work obligations into their personal lives.

Supporting Pleck's "spill-over theory," Staines (1980) noted that it can have positive or negative effects on various aspects of life. Additionally, Staines introduced the concept of "compensation theory," which suggests that individuals compensate for deficiencies in one area by investing more in another area.Greenhaus & Beutell (1985), as cited by Pickering (2006), introduced the work-family conflict theory, which explores how conflicts arising from simultaneous demands at work and within the family can impact individuals' well-being. According to this theory, individuals with multiple roles divide their limited time, attention, and commitment between family and work responsibilities. The conflicting expectations in both settings result in work-family conflict. The primary causes of this conflict are identified as time pressure and lack of time for family and leisure activities (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985). Strain-based conflict arises from feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and tension, while behavior-based conflict occurs due to

a mismatch of behavioral expectations between work and home life.

Initially in the 1980s, work-life policies primarily focused on women with children (Lockwood, 2003). However, during the 1990s there was an expansion towards including married and single men as well as women with or without children. This expansion led to the introduction of "work-family" and "family-friendly policies," contributing to a larger discussion on achieving "work-life balance" (Lewis et al., 2007). The theory of boundary work highlights different approaches to attaining work-life balance.There are two categories of workers: "segmentors" and "integrators." Segmentors view their professional lives separately from their personal lives, while integrators experience a clear distinction between the two. Between these extremes, there is a range of experiences that involve finding balance and enrichment (Nippert-Eng cited by Warhurst et al., 2008; Blunsdon et al., 2006). A study on work-life balance conducted by Blunsdon et al. (2006) and an overview of five related theories provided by Guest (2002) contribute to understanding this topic. This summary presents a comprehensive model for work-life balance, organizing and structuring these theories in Figure 3. The model depicts various aspects of an individual's life including family, finances, social life, self, spirituality, health, and hobbies. It also acknowledges the roles of both males and females in their personal and professional lives. While qualifications and job titles determine professional roles rather than gender, traditional gender-defined roles still exist in areas such as childcare. As male involvement in family work increases, achieving work-life balance becomes more complex for both males and females.Gender may not determine roles in various aspects of life such as finances, social activities, self-care, religion, health, and hobbies. The suggested model acknowledges

that there are distinctions between different sections of life and work but also recognizes that these sections often overlap and integrate. Women encounter difficulties in fully separating their roles because societal norms expect them to participate in both work and childcare responsibilities. Similarly, a single father who lacks access to childcare facilities may be equally engaged in work and family duties. In households where only one person earns income, the male head of the household is responsible for managing both work obligations as well as saving and investing on behalf of the household using his earnings.

The relationship between work and life can differ depending on the circumstances; they can be separate or intertwined but also have the potential to complement each other. If one aspect is unsatisfying, individuals may seek greater satisfaction in another area, creating a reciprocal relationship between work and life. This relationship is influenced by the spill-over effect - positive or negative experiences in one area affecting the other. For instance, someone who works long hours under intense stress may experience adverse effects on their personal health. Conversely, a promotion or salary increase could positively impact their self-esteem and social life.Establishing clear boundaries between work and family can lead to a better balance between the two. When an employee effectively divides their time, energy, and effort between these areas, conflicts are reduced. However, achieving this balance in today's competitive world is challenging for some individuals who struggle with setting boundaries. Integration of work and personal life has become necessary due to increasing demands at work. Those who have high segmentation between work and personal life have limited opportunities for compensation compared to

those who integrate both aspects. Segmentation, integration, compensation, and spill over can have positive or negative outcomes in each domain. The theoretical model suggests that factors such as segmentation, integration, compensation, and spill over have varying effects on an individual's work-life balance - both positive and negative ones. Achieving work-life balance occurs when the total sum of these influences becomes positive or at least not negative.The research and implementation of work-life balance programs have experienced growth since the 1950s due to various benefits for employers and employees. These advantages go beyond social and psychological aspects and also include economic benefits. As a result, forward-thinking global organizations have utilized these programs to improve productivity, profitability, and employee engagement. McDonald & Bradley (2005) have identified several advantages resulting from work-life balance initiatives such as accessing a wider talent pool, facilitating earlier return of mothers after maternity leave, reducing absenteeism, enhancing employer branding, improving employee performance, increasing retention rates, promoting better physical and mental health among staff members, and fostering job satisfaction. Further literature reviews by Hudson (2006), MWLBI (2006), WLBP (2006), Byrne (2005), Hewlett et al.(2005), and Hudson (2005) have demonstrated numerous qualitative and quantitative benefits for both employers and employees. Figure 4 illustrates the significance of work-life balance initiatives in benefiting both parties. Overall, the text emphasizes the importance of these initiatives for both employers and employees.Employers can benefit from various advantages, both qualitative and quantitative, by implementing work-life balance initiatives. Qualitative advantages include the retention of valuable employees, attracting diverse candidates, reducing recruitment expenses, improving workplace relationships, and gaining greater control over their workforce's working lives. On the other hand, employees also benefit from these

initiatives as they experience improved management of their home and work responsibilities while being valued in a supportive workplace.

Furthermore, there are quantifiable benefits associated with work-life balance initiatives. These benefits encompass cost reductions related to absenteeism, health insurance premiums, decreased productivity levels, direct medical claims expenditure, staff turnover rates, recruitment costs incurred while replacing departed employees,and maintaining client satisfaction levels. The implementation of such initiatives at the organizational level directly impacts job satisfaction, work engagement and productivity for employees. This improvement in employee performance contributes to overall success in employee administration.

It is crucial to effectively implement these initiatives to prevent various financial losses as emphasized by literature findings. For instance,in 1989 it was estimated that job stress cost the US $150 billion per year which included expenses related to absenteeism, health insurance premiums,reduced productivity compensation claims,and direct medical costs.In Canada,the direct cost of high work-life conflict amounts to $3-5 billion annually due to absenteeism.Taking into account indirect costs, the amount increases to $4.5 to $10 billion. The UK's Department of Trade and Industry found that employee absence costs ?4 billion annually. By implementing family-friendly policies, organizations can decrease financial losses by reducing or preventing employee absence. Achieving a better work-life balance also benefits organizations financially.

British Telecom is an example where the individual financial benefits of work-life balance were assessed. In 2006, British Telecom had 102,000 employees with 75,000 working flexibly. These flexible workers experienced an average productivity increase of around 21%, resulting in a monetary value between ?5-?6 million. Additionally, British Telecom's annual staff turnover decreased significantly compared to the industry average (less than 4% versus as high as 17%). Home workers at British Telecom

had an average sickness absence rate of less than three days per person per year.

The positive impact of work-life balance initiatives at British Telecom is evident through increased customer satisfaction. A study by Work-USA (2000) showed that organizations with such programs saw higher employee commitment and subsequently achieved a return to shareholders of 112% over three years.Companies with low employee commitment had a 76% return, while those with average commitment had a 90% return (Watson, 2002 as cited by Reed and Clark, 2004). Watson further emphasized the benefits of promoting work-life balance, stating that companies supporting flexible work arrangements like flextime, teleworking, and job sharing experienced higher market value and growth. These findings align with Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For," which consistently outperform the S&P 500 index in terms of annual returns since 1998 (10.6% vs. In the face of economic challenges, organizations are hesitant to introduce work-life balance initiatives as a way to control expenses and prioritize short-term survival. However, extensive research confirms that work-life balance is crucial for both the organization and individual employees. Companies that implement these initiatives receive direct quantitative and qualitative benefits such as increased productivity (Watson, 2002 as cited by Reed and Clark, 2004). Despite this, many organizations currently hinder the existence and growth of work-life balance globally. In this economic downturn, organizations disregarding employee work-life balance will ultimately experience decreased productivity, making it harder to overcome recessionary challenges.Hence, it is essential for organizations to continue promoting initiatives that prioritize work-life balance. This is crucial to recognize the significance of employee engagement and productivity in the long term. If employee engagement and productivity decline while recessive forces

increase, it will pose greater challenges to the organization's sustainability in the medium and long run.

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