HR’s Role in Making Work-Life Balance

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photo credit: Kathy Colaiacovo

Work-Life Balance. Its on the mind of your managers and employees, especially now that we are on the brink of summer. I’ve always thought that people think of “work-life” balance as options for working from home or the freedom to “come and go” as you please. Its really much more than that to me. Its the opportunity to work and recharge at my pace and with some flexibility in regards of what is meaningful to me. While I think that ultimately it is up to the individual to strike the right accord in regards to work-life balance, I do think that HR professionals have a role in helping to set the standard.

 Lay the Foundation

Laying the foundation of programs that offer better work life balance and flexibility may be easier said than done. First off, one size does not fit all. We all come from different industries and businesses — half days, working from home, flex schedules, job sharing will not work for everyone. Even within a single organization one option will not work for all jobs. I think that the biggest mistake in starting these types of programs is that managers or HR come up with a list of possibilities for flex programs and find that its poorly received. It could be due to the rollout or the change management — but I think its even bigger than that. Ask your employees what do they want and value. What helps bring balance to them? It may be volunteer time, on site day care, a concierge service — its not always in the bucket of “how do you get people time away from work to do other things.” Several years ago, as recognition of work that I was doing on a large project implementation, I got two weeks worth of prepared meals. Talk about bringing some balance back to my life! The convenience allowed me to put my time and energies elsewhere when I was at home with my family and to this day is one of the best rewards that I’ve received. Not having to get groceries, meal plan, or prepare meals went a long way to my “balance” during that project. If someone had just given me time off, I wouldn’t have gotten the same relief or feeling of balance at that time.

 

The point is, HR should do a thorough review, including a survey of employees’ desires, to help create a program for managers and employees to follow. One more note — lay the foundation means just that — help get things going, but allow employees and managers actually build the program. It will be much more successful if the program is developed by the people and not just another HR thing. Be a champion of work – life program options.

 

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and who owns what — does HR still have a role or is it squarely on employees and managers?

 

Andrea Devers (@thegirlinhr) is an expert in HR Technology, HR process and programs, HR Service Centers, Shared Service, change management,  project management, and six sigma. Feel free to connect with her on her blog, The Girl in HR, or follow some of her musings on Twitter.

 

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