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How Work/Life Balance Drives Employee Engagement

July 27, 2011

I recently attended an HCI webinar “It’s Five O-Clock Somewhere”- Increasing Employee Engagement by Improving Work/Life Balance.  Work/life balance is something we all need to maintain; it’s also strongly connected to employee engagement. Employers who do not effectively manage balance fuel burnout and demotivation- the enemies of engagement!

Kevin Sheridan, the presenter and Chief Engagement Officer and Chief Consultant of HR Solutions, began the webinar by defining employee engagement.  He classified our desire to be part of the value that an organization creates into 3 categories: engaged, ambivalent and disengaged.

  • Engaged:  “highly engaged and committed to the mission, vision and values of the organization”
  • Ambivalent “not apt to go the extra mile”
  • Disengaged “negative energy, they focus on problems”

According to his research, only 27% of employees are actively engaged while 60% are ambivalent/ not engaged and 13% are actively disengaged (HR solutions’ International Research Institute).  Sheridan attributes much of this disengagement to a lack of respect for work/life balance on the part of employers.  He supported this claim with some research:

  • 86% of male employees and 67%of female employees work more than 40 hours a week (The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict, 2011).
  • 74% of people say it is important to them that their organization consider and, where possible, support flexible scheduling arrangements or job sharing (HR Solutions Research Institute).
  • 87% of employees say it is important to them that their organization allows employees to choose from a variety of benefits to meet their individual needs  (HR Solutions Research Institute).
  •  In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of children live in households where both parents are employed (The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict, 2011).

The presenter also emphasized the importance of flexibility and outlined three possible strategies.

  1. Providing alternative work options for employees
  2. Recognizing and respecting work life balance as an important trend
  3. Supporting virtual teams to minimize employee stress levels

Here are a few tips that have been inspired by Sheridan’s cardinal three;

Allow Employees to Work from Home Once a Week: Being more flexible with employees means you exhibit a high level of trust regardless of where they are working from. Allowing employees to work from home once a week also means that they no longer start off their day with the hassle and stress of a commute and they can work in a comfortable environment. This helps to strengthen the employee/ employer relationship.

Adopt Emailing Hours: It is more difficult for workers to draw a line between work and home given technologies that provide 7/24 access. In the same way that employees have set working hours (i.e. 9-5) employers should introduce emailing hours and refrain from contacting their staff past a mutually agreed upon time. This will make it easier for employees to create a division between work and home.

Equip Employees with Stress- Relief tools: Stress is an inevitable. Rather than trying to eliminate it, it is important to help employees manage it. Managers and leaders should equip their staff with tools to deal with stressful situations. Perhaps it means encouraging your staff to take a few minutes at the start of each day to walk through a guided meditation or sending them a funny cartoon, video, quote or story to get them laughing and relaxing. What is most important is to show them that you have an interest in their wellbeing.

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