Article: “Work-life balance” to “Work-life integration”: a long way to go

Employee Engagement

“Work-life balance” to “Work-life integration”: a long way to go

The rapid adoption of new age communication technologies within office spaces has led to the blurring of the work-life boundaries. What does this mean for HR professionals who are dedicated towards scripting a good employee experience?
“Work-life balance” to “Work-life integration”: a long way to go

David Solomon, the global co-head of Goldman Sachs once said, “today, technology means that we’re all available 24/7. And, because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks.”  This was way back in 2014. Three years down the lane, as we begin a new revolution around the sun, not much has changed in essence. With access to real-time communication tools becoming more easily available, companies often end up demanding more for their employees.

To establish a more realistic connection to kind of work structure employees often face today, the often used “work-life balance” is now being slowly chucked for “work-life integration”. With blurring personal and professional boundaries, the term has become catchy phrase for managers and HR professionals alike as they seek to make employee friendly practices that ensure productivity while keeping employees healthily engaged. But this doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of helping employees manage work and personal life in manner which doesn’t hamper either their productivity or their personal well-being. As a recent Forbes article points out, simply renaming the term wouldn’t help change the fact that what employees are still looking for a meaningful engagement with their workplace. As Jae Ellard, founder of Simple Intentions, shares, “It doesn’t matter what we call ‘work-life balance’ because there is no such thing. Call it work-life harmony, integration, flexibility, flow, work-life fill-in-the-blank.” Over the last eight years, Ellard has spoken with thousands of people across 50 countries and she has found, “that most people share a simple and similar desire to create easy joy and meaningful engagement between the interconnected roles, relationships and responsibilities that make up their lives. And this is what they mean when they talk about work-life balance.” 

Repackaging an age old problem into something that contextualizes it in the modern sense is rarely the solution. Given the increased levels of connectivity, HR professionals need to work closely with department heads and managers alike to ensure that the companies, in search for their share in sun the these competitive times, don’t end up burning out the passion and creativity of their talent. In these times of flux the following can help HR professionals set the right base for future employee engagement programs that it plans to implement.

Streamline processes

A lot has already been said on the need for companies to streamline their various business processes (of which people management processes are often an ignored subset) to make work easier and more efficient for both the employers and employees alike.  But the need of such streamlining has become even more acute in the space of people management. As workplaces undergo rapid transformations, it becomes even more necessary for HR professionals to look closely and clearly define the manner in which employees across the organization engage with it. This definition needs to go beyond the simple creation of roles and responsibilities. It has to go beyond the mere creation of rules and regulations and hoping employees will eventually will fit into the system. The streamlining of people process should be done in a manner that it results in employees having a better clarity of their actual engagement with the organization. This forms the bedrock for providing employees the option of managing their life within the boundaries of work, and the life outside of it, as efficiently as they humanly can.

Create a company culture that supports excellence

In addition to streamlining the ways through which employees interact with their work within companies, HR professionals often realize that processes often have tendency to get complicated by virtue of human interventions. To further enable employees to have a better say over their work styles, HR professionals need to bring in changes in the culture of the company. Most companies often pride themselves with the fact that their focus is on quality—and not quantity— of work done. But as business scenarios become more challenging, it is something that organization has to ensure gets translated as a working reality for its employees. This shift is clear in Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka’s recent address to the company’s employees. 

By creating a corporate culture that doesn’t believe in sycophancy and enables managers to design their performance reviews that are genuinely merit-based, help employees perform better while enabling them to manage their lives better. It also helps the company weed out inefficiencies and redundancies with various functions.

This again would only be effective if done in conjunction with various managers and employees alike. Which brings us to the last point that HR professionals should carefully look at to ensure that they provide a healthy employee experience.

Bring stakeholders onboard

Involving stakeholders to create people processes that help employees navigate their work and non-work related commitments with equal vigour, often become an imperative. But most of the times HR departments ends up working in isolation; leaving the people management of various talent intensive functions within the company at the discretion of line heads and managers. Although managers are often equipped to ensure productivity of their respective departments, they rarely are the best when it comes to ensuring the proper execution of the companies people management policies. This isolation often means that employees are constantly in a state of ambiguity when it comes to understanding their role within the companies and its boundaries. Involving managers and across the organizational hierarchy is a vital step before HR professionals begin creating “work-life balance” policies.

 

With companies entering the new year, it becomes necessary to pay a close attention to how our access to 24x7 communication devices is evolving the expectations from an employee. Only by understanding its impact can we focus on creating failsafe measures that help employees manage their lives better. This becomes even more necessary for a country like India which recently fared quite poorly in the “2016 list of most empathetic countries” With a direct impact on employee productivity and retention, a greater focus on this would help more than just renaming a term every few years.  

Topics: Employee Engagement

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