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March 30, 2012

HR Fact Friday: How Flexible Is Your Workplace – Part 1 of 2

Following is Part 1 of 2 from HRN”s March HR Industry White Paper. Part 2 will post on Friday, April 6.

Typically HRN refrains from posting our White Papers on our HR News & Views blog but this one is just too good not to share. Thanks to our very own Joyce Campbell for doing the research and writing.

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How Flexible Is Your Workplace?
Work-Life Balance as an Effective Tool for Retention

Have you thought about how flexible your workplace is?  No, we’re not talking about how many yoga poses your employees can perform, but flexibility in terms of offering flexible schedules, job-sharing, telecommuting, etc.  As summer approaches, you may have requests from employees to work a flexible schedule due to changing day care arrangements; or you may have employees transitioning to a different phase in their work-life where they would prefer a part-time schedule.

As the challenge of balancing work and personal life is a reality for most working families, employees are attracted to companies which provide some flexibility in the workplace.  Although not a new challenge, the increase in dual career families, single parents, the “sandwich” generation of employees caring for both children and aging parents, and a stressed economy has accelerated the challenge into the forefront.  Work-life balance (WLB) has become an area of concern for both workers and their employers.  For employers, it can be a key component in attraction and retention of employees.

Based on recent surveys, work-life balance is desired by employees.  However, according to an online survey conducted by StrategyOne in August 2010, more than 89% of Americans surveyed say work-life balance is a problem.  The recession hasn’t helped with this issue either as 31% of workers indicated it has upended the adequate balance they once had.  Other findings:

  • 54 percent of survey respondents call work-life balance a “significant” problem
  • 43 percent of workers do not think their employers are doing enough to address work-life balance issues
  • Of the 37 percent of workers who do not have adequate balance indicate time with family is the first thing that suffers followed by personal time spent reading or relaxing

The problem for some lies in the fact that many employers still view the “ideal worker” as one who works long hours and is supported by a spouse who takes responsibility for child rearing and other family issues.  But let’s face it, June Cleaver has traded her apron for business-casual attire and Ward is finally learning his way around the kitchen.

For others, technology has become a dual-edged sword.  Although computers and remote access have allowed us to work more efficiently, they have also blurred the boundaries between home and office.  Surveys indicate that workers do 21% of their work at home, and executives and professionals do 31% of their work at home.

The stress of balancing work and personal life impacts employees in all industries, all economic groups, and surprisingly, all age groups.  For example, more and more older workers are looking for phased-in retirement or part-time work as an alternative to a permanent separation from their jobs.

The reality is, when true balance between work and non-work is achieved, both employee and employer benefit.  For employees, a balance means higher job satisfaction, less anxiety, and a satisfying personal life.  Reduced turnover, better attendance, employee engagement, and improved morale are just a few of the benefits that employers may recognize.  Based on a survey released by WorldatWork, the higher an organization rates itself on flexibility offerings, the lower the organization’s voluntary turnover rate.

. . . To be continued

Part 2 will post on the HR News & Views Blog on Friday, 4/6/2012.

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