In an effort to respond to a workplace demand for more work-life balance, many companies took an approach that actually increased the imbalance for most workers. This ironically encouraged more workaholic tendencies.
Below is a list of some of the ironic solutions that companies came up with to improve work-life balance in their companies:
- Bring in a corporate chef that prepares meals for free or inexpensively – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Started a daycare within the office building – with hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Created a games room with foosball, ping pong and pool tables – open from 6 a.m. to midnight
The problems with these initiatives are that they sent the message “stay at work longer” and did not help create a balance between work and downtime with family, friends, hobbies, and other personal pursuits. Hiring a chef to cook corporate breakfasts to be served at 6 a.m. meant children were still sleeping when their parents left for work. The single person that could take a foosball break when working a 12 hour day may have given his eyes a rest from the computer screen but he didn’t have the time or energy to connect with friends or paint a picture.
When creating a work-life balance program, companies need to consider the purpose of the program. The purpose should be to find ways to allow workers to come to the job free of worries that their responsibilities at home are taken care of and that they have the time to pursue the areas of interest that bring them joy outside of their work hours. The other important component of programs that work is that all employees from the front line to senior management participate fully. If managers and senior executive continue to demonstrate workaholic tendencies, it will set a bad example.
Good Examples of Work Life Program Ideas
- Daycares with the hours of 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and an accommodation for drop-in childcare when childcare arrangements outside of work fail or during school holidays.
- Onsite healthcare services open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for emergency medical issues.
- Eldercare initiatives such as assessments, referrals to support services, etc.
- Leave of absence policies for educational, volunteering or family leaves.
- Training and development programs offered within the regular work hours, onsite.
- Incentives to allow spouses to travel with their partners for frequent corporate travelers.
- Ways to reduce overtime or at least to compensate employees with time off in lieu of overtime.
It is imperative that the message behind work life balance programs is “we know there is more to life than work”. Creating a work-life balance program that will allow workers to focus on their work for the eight hours they are on the job and have time and energy to pursue other interests will increase productivity, morale, retention and engagement.