Work Life Harmony, Rather Than Work Life Balance
Work/ life balance as we know it at present isn't working, because it's based on conflicting demands of employer and employee for a share of the 24/7 day. There simply isn't enough time to achieve everything and its getting worse.
Work life balance suggests people are living two lives, one at work and one away from work. But people don't 'work' for five days or more and 'live' for two days or less. Work is just one of many roles that people perform in their week. No matter where they are or what they are doing, day or night, people are carrying personal baggage, problems, responsibilities, personal goals and work goals. Separation of work and personal life roles has become a blur and, to many of us, almost a seamless link.
Family friendly policies are now only one aspect of the work life balance issue. Work life balance has become a key factor in attracting and retaining good staff, male and female in a buyers market generated by a shortage of quality skilled staff. People want more than money. They want quality of life, of which a quality working environment forms only one, albeit important, part.
This situation has arisen for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was because businesses in western society found permanent staff to be too expensive and resorted to downsizing and outsourcing. Workers had to learn to manage their own lives; work life balance is now finally determined by the employee rather than the employer. To be effective, it of course cannot be decided unilaterally but by co-operative agreement between employee and employer.
Globally, business has had to come to terms with the fact that, while economic growth depends on the work ethic, employees are now opting for what I call a life ethic. Features of this ethic include:
• working to live, rather than living to work,
• personal goals being a higher priority to the individual than the employer's corporate goals and
• emotional needs as the determinant of material needs.
Business therefore is finding it has to seek ways of harmonizing corporate goals of economic growth with individual philosophies of “I'm here for a good time, not a long time”. This seeming dichotomy is frustrating older managers greatly, but emerging generations of employees don't see it as a problem. They still see work as important but only as a means to higher, more personal, ends.
Harmony is drawn from diversity. A choir or orchestra is a mosaic of unique individuals who come together periodically to produce a pleasing sound. Business has to find ways of maximizing the unique interests and potential of employees to achieve its own pleasing sound, usually in the form of a quality service to customers and a satisfactory financial bottom line.
Sustained long term business success is going to increasingly depend on employers and employees working together to develop a workplace culture that encourages a harmonious relationship between the personal goals of individual employees and the corporate goals of the employer.
Here are some initial steps you can take towards developing a Work Life Harmony strategy in your business.
For the purposes of the strategy, regard the organization as a totally flat structure with all people on the same line and of equal importance regarding work life harmony issues
Arrange round-table discussions between groups of people from all levels of the organization, on issues that are presently inhibiting a satisfactory work life harmony culture in the organization,
Group recommendations towards a strategy that sets out actions in the order of issues that can be most readily resolved with the least effort and cost, and more difficult issues that require more time, effort and cost to be scheduled for attention in an agreed order and over a period of time up to, say, three years maximum.