Role Of HR Professionals In Employee's Work Life Balance
Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on December 28, 2011
There is a word buzzing in today’s employer branding, something which every employee wishes for and a prime theme in the Great Places to Work survey. It is not very mystic to guess this enchanted word to be ‘Work life balance’. This single phrase can raise the wave of enthusiasm but it’s a tougher concept to travel with just like balancing a stick while walking on a rope with career & ambition on one side and health and family life on another side.
As per the HT and Synovate survey, Nov 2010 in Mumbai, maximum number of participants rated work life balance as one of the important features of a job. It is a consciously emerging trend, requiring involvement from different stakeholders (employees, bosses, employers, customers, etc). The success of any such initiative ultimately depends on employee and his/her boss’s commitment and HR professionals can play a vital role in this process through a variety of interventions. There has to be clear communication from the HR professionals in any employer branding campaign about the work settings to set realistic expectations from the employee’s side.
HR’s role can fall in to five brackets Policies, Benefits & facilities, Training, Change Management, Counseling as shown in the figure.
Organizations which like to stay ahead of changes in the external world will have to frequently fine tune their employee benefits programs. In this direction HR professionals can introduce a variety of options which can influence the work life balance of the employees. Only when there is a highest degree of coordination between line and HR managers Work Life Balance (WLB) is possible.
Companies have different types working conditions depending on the project and the associated client. Certain projects require additional effort from employees including long working hours. Such employees may be given additional leaves and sponsored vacations once a heavy task is accomplished. HR managers in collaboration with line Managers can design customized benefits to each employee to balance the work and life as much as possible. Sabbaticals for eligible employees are also a good remedy to prevent burnout of employees.
Initiatives such as -- Doctor on-site, Crèches for employees’ children, adult care center, laundry service, take away stores, vegetable stores, and common assistant personnel to a group of employees in the office premises, etc. can increase the quality time available to the employees. A single day family outing sponsored by the employer once in 3 months can enhance the employee engagement resulting out of increased work life balance.
Organizing classes such as aerobics, yoga will improve the metabolism and concentration of employees leading to higher productivity and improved efficiency in meeting deadlines leaving additional personal time for employees.
HR’s can also design various company sponsorship plans for employee health diagnosis. This can detect early the possible maladies and treating them early will reduce absenteeism and avert the possible workload on fellow employees and the employee himself. Spouse referral and relocation programs can increase the time spent by the employee with his/her spouse if both of them work in the same premises.
Many companies offer flexi time these days especially in IT and ITES sectors. Along with this there is an emerging idea to move to a third party work location which is away from both the employee’s home and office but nearer to employee’s house. This can reduce the travel time and offer higher flexibility to employees. Recently wireless employee tracking systems are available in the market which can remove the reporting hassles of sales executives and employees who work away from their desk. Keeping in line with such latest developments, HR managers can frame policies accordingly.
Training & Change Management
Many times it so happens that the employees spend most of their time in peripheral activities outside their job due to inter team conflicts, politics, miscommunication and end up working for longer hours. HR professionals can act as change agents by resolving conflicts, conducting team building activities and deploying different interventions to increase harmony between different teams and hence free up more time to employees so that they can concentrate on their core work and finish tasks early.
HR professionals in learning and development arena can track the performance appraisal data of employees, talk to supervisors and design training programmes for employees in time management, assertive communication and negotiation skills, stress management. Once employees gain expertise in these skills they can plan their activities well and give maximum output in minimum time.
The onus is on HR professionals to reduce the red tape in organizations so that real burning issues gain maximum attention. This could be accomplished through proper communication and feedback mechanisms. HR professionals can also act as counselors when employees face workplace troubles. They can help employees in relocation and cross rotation when there are genuine issues with WLB.
A glimpse at real stories
IBM India has various Work Life Balance policies such as flexible workweek schedules, work from home, counseling for family, part time employment, and leave of absence programs, etc. They have sabbatical programs, recreational activities, programs helping employees cope up with life changing activities. Work life balance is strategic HR tool used by the company for talent management. Now and then, the HR in the organization reiterates its commitment to achieving employee work life balance.
TCS in addition to offering flexi time with mandatory hours of work and a five day week conducts sessions on nutrition, stress management and better living conditions.
Zensar Technologies provides child care facilities along with crèche and has a well-known programme called ‘Madat Online’. This service is offered to employees to take care of their daily personal activities like dropping cheques, paying children’s school fees, cash withdrawal etc. Employees are given information on housing and educational facilities for children. The company regularly arranges stress management programs, fun at work, family days aimed at employee work life balance.
Another inspiring story is of the famous multinational company ‘Shell’. Like many companies Shell gives flexi time and work from home benefits to it employees. Every year the company conducts Global People Survey which gauges the employee’s perceptions on the company’s status on how far the work life balance is achieved and what are the steps needed. Working overtime and on weekends is discouraged in Shell and one striking factor is that leaves cannot be encashed or carry forwarded. The HR executives in the company put focused efforts to frequently update the various work life balance programs.
Despite the rising consciousness about Work Life Balance (WLB) initiatives and their contribution to productive workforce, many organizations in India yet do not have formal work life balance programs. Reasons include slower change in socio demographic structure, employer’s attitude and little or no initiatives to show return of investment and fewer empirical studies. In future we can witness majority of the companies in India introducing WLB HR initiatives as it is a source of long term benefit to employees and a strategic advantage to employers.