In this speed –possessed age, each one of us shoves too many things in every minute to sprint through life. Each one of us has sensed it, the utter enervation that swathes us as we rush through the day, finalizing domestic chores at home front, meeting deadlines in office and multitasking. More so with the emergence of 24 x7x365 service operations in the present age, has left us with pint-sized personal space. At the end of the day we comprehend that we have matched up the pace of time, but lost a lot in the bargain, whether it is peace of mind , bedraggled, stressed and worn out our health . This feeling can be attributed to our hectic work schedules which leaves us with little or no personal time. There is therefore, a need to maintain an equitable balance between work life and personal life.
There has been a transition of work from the “Industrial Age” to the “Information Age”. Each one of us feels blessed to have the benefits of new ways of working. No longer are we shackled to centralized operational locations. Irrespective of the type of industry we work in, somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of all trade and industry activity is information based and therefore electrically transportable. The new-fangled work place is one where employees are more connected to their jobs beyond the traditional workday and workplace. This economic fact represents an enormous opportunity to reinvent not only what we do, but also how we do it. Our Information Age is the era where we make the most of new technologies, but at the same time the wonders of modern technologies are upsetting our work life balance. It’s invigorating our personal space. People have emails, laptops, cell phones, Black Berry, internet which have made life easier for them, increased their output and enabled good work performance and aided them in staying connected with their work at any point of time. This implies that people retort to official work while being in the non-work domain. People have become more accessible on one hand and on the other end these facilities have disrupted their lives outside office, mostly enabling him/her to carry the workload home. Thus, we see that the frontiers of traditional workday and workplace have thinned. The more the borderline is blurred, the higher work-to-life conflict. This leads to several health disorders such as work related mental stress, anxiety disorders, depression, and ageing to name a few. A stressful job could make us old and sick before time. The Human Resources department in organizations play a large part in how their employees deal with work-life balance. According to Association of Executive Search (AESC) survey, two thirds of companies are developing programs to help top candidates increase their family time without sacrificing their careers.” The objective is to think about what is really important for employees and demonstrate our ‘care’ for them through our work life effectiveness offerings,” as said by Preethi Madappa, at Intel Technology, India Pvt. Ltd.
Her views are shared by, Peter M Felix, CBE, President, AESC as he states, “Work life balance today directly impacts the retention of top executive talent. An unhealthy work life balance leads to increased stress, strain on personal relationships and lack of personal fulfillment. All of these factors will push executives towards greener pastures.” An attempt is made in this article to explain the methods of Green HRM towards work life balance and portray how a few companies of India have addressed this aspect to bring in sustainability for the organization and the employees. It is exploratory research intending to find more insights in to the subject matter of discussion and hence no primary data is collected. The reliance is on secondary sources drawn from research articles found in popular data bases like Proquest, Springer Link, newspapers and journals etc. This article brings to light some of the green initiatives undertaken by well- known corporates in India aimed towards achieving sustainable growth of the organizations through Green HR practices taking into consideration the need of the employees who are a part of 24x7 work environment.
Work Life Balance
Work -life balance denotes to the equilibrium between an individual’s work and personal life. It does not imply that we divide our time equally for personal and professional commitments. This sounds rather impractical and unworkable and unrealistic approach because life is and should be more fluid. It means that you have to be capable to respond to any existing state of affairs and make room for it , so that you can keep doing what you want to do. In factual terms, it is being able to finish up with what is in your list and still get things done. Work routines cannot be rigid and unchangeable; this means that you as the doer should be able to bring in flexibility in juggling between work and personal space. If you are serious about having work life balance, this means that you must be decisive enough to do what you are to do in any point of time.
The perfect balance for you today will probably be very diverse for you tomorrow. This is so because life is very dynamic and our priorities and responsibilities ‘change’ accordingly and ‘change’ is inevitable. The right balance for you when you are unmarried will be altered when you marry or if you have children, when you start a new job versus when you are moving towards retirement. Nevertheless, at the core of an effective work life balance are two key concepts ‘accomplishment’ and ‘peace’. One cannot value life without these two elements. Life will not be meaningful and complete without these two aspects. Life will be more pleasant when we actually enjoy and accomplish every single day in all the important dimensions of personal well-being i.e. work, family friends and self.
Researchers have defined work life balance to be an individual perception and that work and non-work activities are compatible and promote growth in accordance with an individual’s current life priorities. This point of view validates that work life balance to be an individual concept whereas the work ecosystem is ignored. Organizational policies and procedures, culture, nature of work, peer groups, competition at work all have profound influence on the occupational health and this is beyond the control of the employee. Hence, organizations too have a significant influence towards maintaining the effective work life balance for employees. This fast emerging sustainability initiative has a profound bearing on employees work-life balance and is termed as Green Work Life Balance.
Green Work Life Balance
Green Work life balance refers to Green HR initiatives that are aimed at creating sound occupational health and organizational health. It encompasses two key elements ‘sustainability’ and ‘operational efficiency’. These holistic approaches are designed to create a comfortable workplace for employees so that they can be more efficient and productive in their ways of working and in turn improve the organizational health at large. Green work life balance practices are highly commendable in the present context to sustain the intellectual capital in the organization and it can be instrumental in creating a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer at large. We in India are heading towards a green economy where the concept of going green is no longer a fad or a mere public relations tool in organizations. It has become a way of life in most organizations because it contributes the feel good factor at work. Jyorden T Mishra, Managing Director Spearhead InterSearch aptly opines,” ecoconsiousness “ or the color ‘green’ is rapidly emerging in every dimension of our lives and workplaces are increasingly displaying an organized response to this challenge by bringing in ‘ professional consciousness’ at an institutional level as well as individual employee level .”
Green HR practices for work life balance help employees to gain personal gratification, and helps them to concentrate in their workplace better, Moreover, they imbibe a feeling of belonging for the organization and they tend to be more productive since happy employees are more productive employees. For instance, work from home revolution that aims at reducing the carbon footprint helps employees and organizations in more ways than one. It not only reduces operational costs of the organization via reduced absenteeism and lowered transportation costs, but has become a value added retention tool. Employees get rid of nerve-wracking commutes and are able to balance work and life.
Indian Corporates lend Green Initiatives
The Indian corporate sector has encompassed the concept of green work life balance to facilitate employees balance work and life. This concept has percolated across organizations, as they look for cost effective ways to attract, retain and manage talent efficiently and effectively. Indian corporates have adopted a slew of measures to ensure employee well- being.
Women friendly policies
Some companies such as Y- Axis Overseas careers has positioned itself as a women friendly company to cater to the requirements of its sizeable population of women workforce. The company website states that 70 % of their workforces are women. Most of them are mothers and Y –Axis cares. The website flashes, “ Most of these are working mothers Y-Axis understands that you may need to take time off for your child's sports day or if he is sick or you need to stay home as your babysitter didn't come in or if you child has his final exams. Our Admin department will make allowances for all these reasons and you can compensate for this time off, on your designated days off. We are flexible when it comes to issues of the family and home.”
Safety and comfort at work
NIIT Technologies ensures safety and comfort for its employees. Rosita Rabindra, Executive Vice- President and Head HR states” We have standard policies for work- life balance and have a few additional ones for women like Little NIITian Care Leave to help new mothers slowly transition back to work. We also offer paternity leave in our efforts to ensure that all our policies are aligned to the needs of both sexes”. The company website mentions that it endeavors to provide an environment that’s focused on creating a work-life balance for employees and considers this to be an “important goal for NIIT Tech”. NIIT Tech ensures that it never misses a birthday, a wedding anniversary or even the crossing of a momentous milestone. Even lil’ NIITians are key members of the extended NIIT family. Further, team building exercises, outings, picnics, are organized to forge a bond amongst employees. Also, events like Annual Day are organized “by, for and of NIITians” to celebrate achievements and plan the road ahead. This initiative aims towards bridging gaps and bonding as a family which gives employees a sense of belonging and social security.
Health at work
Jindal Intellicom has undertaken a swing of measures to ease the stress levels of its employees .Ergonomic seating arrangements, installation of noise reduction systems, team outings, wellness programs like yoga, fitness camps, free health checkups, cultural and sports events, grievance handling desk called “I- Care” that caters to employee grievances and also provides counseling services.
Synopsis India encourages its employees, more specifically women employees to work from home to enable them to enhance their work productivity and de-stress them at the same time. Rekha Gade, Regional HR Manager & Practice Lead, Synopsis India, “Having a work from home option reduces stress. The stress of commuting in bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour is counterproductive and can lead to disgruntled workers who are already exhausted and worn before they have even begun their day. Flexible options also remove stresses and distractions at workplace and allow working independently in their own preferred environment at their own pace. Professionals are often a lot happier and a lot more productive.”
Intelligroup has launched a novel initiative called “WIN”( Women of Intelligroup Network) to look into the needs of the women employees. This is a forum which enables all women employees to share their thoughts and get assistance from group members in making right choices and inputs on work related issues. Tanuja Abburi, Director- HR, Intelligroup says, “A working woman assumes many roles every single day. Things become easier if her organization is empathetic and offers her flexibility, better control over time, less commuting and hence less stress. In such an environment, even if the woman is not coming to office everyday, her dedication and commitment towards that organization will be higher. It is important to offer enough flexibility to the associates to manage their workload especially at managerial levels. We have formalized strategies and programs which are tailor made to address the unique challenges women face in workplace and this forms a core component for our acquisition and retention strategy also.”
Pleasurable work atmosphere
Nielsen India has launched an initiative called’ Radio Friday” to bring an element of fun and joy at work. Through this programme employees can communicate with their seniors and subordinates and express their views on how to make the work environment better through an in house music and conversation show. Nielsen offers programs that help employees manage work and life better and these include: Adoption Assistance program, College Savings Plan, Dependent Care Spending Account, Educational Assistance, Employee Assistance Plan, Financial Education, Legal Plan, and discounted voluntary insurance products (auto/home, pet insurance, long-term care insurance, and others.) Apart from this it has introduced “Wellness programs” to help employees and their families lead healthy and productive lives both at work and at home. These are: programs such as Healthy Measures, Get Healthy Rewards (a fitness and weight-loss reimbursement program), health coaching, advocacy, and medical second opinion services, and a variety of onsite wellness-related programming.
Supporting the learning curve
Broadridge India believes in providing ample scope for learning, growing and adapting to the changing trends. It provides employees opportunities to pursue their hobbies, stay connected with friends and work at the same time.” Work life balance today is no longer restricted to work and home. The whole phenomenon of “my own space” seems to be the flavor of the day, especially for Gen Y. Connecting with friends, pursuing hobbies or interests is a top priority. Jobs are one of the many things that gen Y wants to do”, Rajita Singh, Head HR- Broadridge India. Broadridge India has introduced Child Care Back up Programme for its employees that enable them to manage kids’ education and health while at work. It also has an online consultancy service called ComPsych that provides support to employees on various confidential personal issues, information on legal and financial matters. Employees also have the opportunity of Flex- Work by way of telecommuting, alternative work schedules, flexible summer hours and job sharing.
Some feasible solutions for Green Work Life Balance
Numerous work life balance strategies look worthy on paper, but if not executed, will not serve any purpose. The ensuing measures would prove fruitful in accommodating the personal goals of employees and keep them engaged and aid in the process of work life integration. The following balancing methods deserve implementation:
· Reduce workplace rigidity: The impetus on TAT, deadlines, targets at workplace needs to be reduced as it pressurizes the mindset. There should be reasonable if not ample cope for allowances such that it does not affect the work life balance. Strict work deadlines make employees lose focus on professional intents while under constant stress, mental fatigue and employees unable to match up often lose vigor and confidence to work not only in them but also in their employer.
· Tendency to promote work alcoholics should go down: Most of the present performance management systems are based on quantitative achievements. Performance incentives, perks, rewards, recognitions promotions etc. are all based on the number game. The higher the figures the better. This approach of judgment promotes work alcoholism thereby creating a work culture wherein the employee is unable to think of anything beyond work. Therefore, performance management systems should be redesigned to help employees accommodate work and life.
· Take into account family circumstances: Organizations need to put forward a humane approach for the employees and take into consideration their family circumstances while deciding on codes of work, since it is imperative to connect with employees family commitments to some extent. This would create loyal employees and keep them productively engaged.
· Timely and proper evaluation of job contents: Job contents need to be appraised and evaluated over a period of time. This would measure the level of contentment employees have towards their job and it would give an insight into job aspirations that employees have. This would facilitate to pinpoint the “gaps” and work profile can be restructured to ensure that there is enough scope for the employee to perform in his present job in sync with his aspirations from the current job profile. This would suffice the job aspirations and foster intellectual growth; thereby keeping them motivated enough to perceive and pursue their jobs in a new light with diligence and commitment.
· Lack of Transparency of Reward and Recognition Systems: Rewards and recognition systems should be clearly visible, known and understood and implemented in all fairness. The absence of which keeps the employee guessing and confused of what he/she is expected of thereby adding to performance related stress.
· Consistency of Work Life Balance Policies: Many of the Work Life balance policies lose their sheen in the long run. This is because they are framed by the top management who are naïve to be able to feel the pulse of the employees, particularly the lower level of employees. A corrective method would be to involve Line Mangers in policy making since they are more close to ground realities and hardships encountered by the workforce. Such policies if implemented with seriousness would actually help create a difference in maintaining work life balance for employees of all cadres. In essence, an element of consistency in work life balance policy implementation should be incorporated.
· Spirituality at work: Most wellness programs like team outings, sports, camps, for employees are designed to improve the physical well-being with little or no importance to the mental and spiritual health. Training sessions on spiritual management will sponsor healthy living at work and such engagement programs would sell the organization better inside and outside.
· Encourage to have more and more family get together: Organizations should encourage more family get together on events like Annual Days, and other festive occasions so as to bond not only with the employees but also with their families. This would create a sense of belonging and such social concerns nurture employee commitment towards the organization.
· Time Management: Proper time management by all concerned will help to maintain work life balance. People do not prioritize their work as a result of which they have to face the music. This again leads to work place stress.
· Time –Out Zone: Organizations should allot time out zones spanning for about 30- 45 minutes for employees so as to enable them to pursue activities of their choice while at work. This would ensure a happy mood for the employees.
The emphasis on improving work life balance for employees using Green HR practices appears promising for both the employees and employers at no extravagant costs, rather it reduces operational costs. Organizations can actually work towards chalking out a concrete and feasible plan of action for work life balance so that employees don’t get frazzled at work. This would not only reduce attrition rates, it will help mitigate problems of absenteeism and help create motivated employees who can essentially improve productivity.