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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Duxbury gives us a recipe for a supportive workplace

by WFC Resources

Jobs Vacancy, Employment, Employment Jobs


Canadian researcher Linda Duxbury has been responsible for some remarkable and powerful work-life research. In 2001, she and Chris Higgins surveyed 32,000 thousand employees and concluded that job stress and work overload are seriously harming the health, family life and future of Canada’s workforce. Employees were so stressed and overloaded that they were abandoning or putting off plans to raise a family. They reported that both management and organizational culture were unsupportive. In many companies there were no supportive policies that employees were aware of, and in others they were there, but either unclear or unequally applied, and there was no accountability with respect to their use. Too much change and too much travel exacerbated the stress, and temporary or part-time employees reported no benefits, insecure jobs and little control over their work. Many had eldercare, financial or other personal problems that spilled over into the workplace.

More than 10,000 respondents wrote comments at the end of the survey, and those comments have formed the basis for a new report called Voices of Canadians: Seeking Work-life Balance.

Here's a summary of their conclusions – and suggestions for solutions. We think they're a comprehensive recipe for a new kind of workplace – one that works for everyone.

Employers, they say, need to focus their efforts on increasing the number of supportive managers within the organization; providing flexibility around work; increasing employees' sense of control; and focusing on creating a more supportive work environment.
They must improve the "people management" practices in their organization. Managers at all levels must be given not only the skills and the tools that will enable them to be more supportive, they must have the time they need to manage this part of their job. People management has to be seen as a fundamental part of a manager's role, not just as an "add on" that can be done in one's spare time.

Managers also need incentives to focus on the "people" part of their job. Rewards should focus on recognition of good people skills and it should be part of promotion decisions, hiring decisions, etc.

Employees must have more flexibility around when and where they work. The criteria under which these flexible arrangements can be used should be mutually agreed upon and transparent. There should also be mutual accountability around their use – employees need to meet job demands, but organizations should be flexible with respect to how work is arranged. The process for changing hours or location of work should, wherever possible, be flexible.

Organizations that want to increase employees' work-life balance need to move away from a focus on hours to a focus on output; performance measures should focus on objectives, results and output, and rewards should be based on output, not hours. People who have successfully combined work and non-work domains should be rewarded and promoted. Those who work long hours and expect others to do the same should not.

The policies in place must be communicated regularly, along with how they can be accessed and any restrictions on their use. Encourage their use by having senior management model appropriate behavior, conducting information sessions, discussing how others are using them successfully, etc. Employees must be made to feel that their careers will not be jeopardized if they take advantage of supportive policies. Measure their use and reward those sections of the organization that demonstrate best practices in these areas. Investigate those areas where use is low.

Give employees the right to refuse overtime work. Some organizations may want to give management limited discretion to override the employee's right to refuse overtime (i.e. emergency situation, operational requirements), but this should be the exception rather than the rule. Implement time-off arrangements in lieu of overtime pay.

Provide a limited number of days of paid leave per year for childcare, eldercare or personal problems.

Make it easier for employees to transfer from full-time to part-time work and vice versa. Introduce pro-rated benefits for part-time work, guarantee a return to full-time status for those who elect to work part-time and allow an employee's seniority ranking and service to be maintained.

Examine workloads. If certain employees are consistently spending long hours at work (i.e. 50 or more hours per week), determine why this is occurring (e.g. career ambitions, unbalanced and unrealistic work expectations, poor planning, too many priorities, lack of tools and/or training to do the job efficiently, poor management, culture focused on hours instead of output) and how workloads can be made more reasonable.

Says Duxbury, "Employers need to realize that this is a very complex issue and that many employees blame them when their lives aren't working; that policies will not work if the managers do not walk the talk and if the culture within the organization does not change; that work-life conflict is not just an issue for women or employees with young children, but a problem for us all. It just looks differently at different times in our lives. Work-life professionals need to help employers integrate work-life into the mainstream of their business, and realize this is not a feel-good issue. This is a business issue."

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