Five Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance

Linda Dulye's picture
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work-life balance.jpgThis is the second of a two-part article on Work-Life Balance written by our friend, colleague and team member, Calvin Schmid of The Ronin Consulting Group. Part one appeared in last month's issue of SFW and you can find it here.

What can companies do to implement a practical and workable "Work-Life Balance" in the workplace? Let's start by changing the term from "Work-Life Balance" to "Work-Life Control". This would be the first step in changing the mental (and emotion) expectations of both the employees and the company.

The reality is that there will probably never be an "even split" of time between our work and our personal lives. But, we can have a "blending" of work and personal time that can give both the employees and the company what they want and need. Work-Life Control is a more thorough and sophisticated form of "work flexibility". Work-Life Control gives employees the personal accountability about where and when their work gets done and, therefore, the flexibility to manage many of the personal needs that can create stress and distraction when in conflict with "official" workspace and time.

In this culture the "work" is not limited to the desk, cubicle or office on the company's property. If someone has a doctor's appointment during the "work day" the employee has the autonomy to keep that appointment with the understanding that he/she has the responsibility and accountability to meet his/her goals on time and with the same quality as if the work was done during "normal work hours."

The employee might complete the work at home or the employee might return late to the office or the employee might catch up over the weekend.

When and where the work is done is under the control of the employee as long as the employee completes his/her responsibilities and assignments as negotiated with the manager and on time.

How can companies change and create realistic, practical and successful "Work-Life Control" systems? For most companies this will be a culture shift.

  • Step one: The company needs to define "Work-Life Control" in a way that will work for their organization. What will it look like if it were working for them? They have to take into consideration the type of work they do, the logistics of their workforce, are they unionized, etc.

  • Step two: The company needs to review their current HR policies. Does the company need to modify or create policies and procedures that will formally support their definition of "Work-Life Control"?

  • Step three: The company needs to communicate, communicate and communicate. The company needs to communicate the definition of "Work-Life Control", it's philosophy and intentions behind their definition and provide as many examples of what it would look like as practically possible.

  • Step four: The company needs to train their supervisors and managers not only in the Work-Life HR policies and procedures but also in skills that will be required, e.g., how to manage virtual workplaces (employees no longer in their line of sight), how to write goals and objectives that can be supported within the organization's work-life policies and, how to track and measure work in the virtual workplace. Many globally managed companies with matrix organizations manage their virtual functions and teams in this manner. So today, I recommend that even "local" managers need to learn to work as if they're in global virtual teams.

  • Step five: Organizations need to ensure that managers are not "punishing" employees who exercise their options under these guidelines. "Punish" can mean not supporting employees' development, performance or promotion opportunities. And on the other hand, managers who model and support good "Work -Life Control" behaviors should be recognized and rewarded.

As mentioned, for many companies this is a significant culture shift in how they allow work to get done and how they track and measure it. It also means that supervisors and managers would treat employees as adults who are personally and professionally accountable and trained to work in virtual work environments.

Common sense has to prevail. While much work today involves "intellectual" transformation -- and therefore the flexibility for the work to be done away from "the office" -- not all employees have work tasks and responsibilities that can be done away from company property.

And, of course, union contracts and Federal and State laws are not superseded by the company's work-life policies.

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