Historically, employers have encouraged employees to strive for work-life balance.
However, over time the concept has lost its practicality. Thanks to technology and an increasingly globalized marketplace, we live in a 24/7 world. Long gone are the days of shutting off email at 5 p.m. or truly disconnecting during vacation. Instead, organizations are evolving the idea of work-life balance and starting to promote work-life integration. This is a good thing.
To keep up with today’s demanding pace, people need flexibility. As a result, organizations are encouraging employees to work remotely when they need to and adjust their working hours if that’s what works best…the idea being that as long as employees deliver on their responsibilities, when and where they do it from doesn’t matter so much.
This approach has great potential to yield positive results for both employees and employers. By reducing the pressure to juggle priorities, employees will feel less stress and ultimately, be happier, more productive and perform their best.
No doubt it’s a good thing that more organizations are embracing work-life integration. However, we still have a long way to go. A study by the Flex + Strategy Group found that while 96 percent of employees feel they have work-life flexibility, more than half (52 percent) said they received no training or guidance from their employer on how to best manage that flexibility.
Though the purpose of work-life integration is to empower employees and give them freedom, they still need direction on how your organization views the concept and how they can best put it to use. This drives home a point we often discuss here on our blog – employee education. As with any workplace initiative, your organization needs to designate guidelines and communicate to employees how it can work for them.
Where to start? Determine what you want work-life integration to look like at your company. What are you willing to be flexible about and what are absolute deal breakers? What tools and resources can you provide employees to help facilitate integration? You might implement a policy that employees can work remotely when needed, but they must be in the office at least three days a week. Or, you might decide to develop an onsite gym so that employees can more easily fit in a workout during the work day.
Once you have tactics in place, communicate the initiative to employees. Equally important, lead by example. If employees see senior leaders making time to work out during the day, they’ll feel comfortable to do the same.
No matter the specifics of your approach, find a way to help employees make work, work for their lives. People tend to be happiest with their job when they feel they’re allowed to be both employee and parent/spouse/sibling/friend/individual at the same time.