Quality of work begins with quality of life
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Two of the biggest challenges employers face today are retaining employees and keeping them engaged at work. To address these challenges, firms have sought to incentivize employees with additional financial rewards, such as profit-sharing and commissions.
They also have increased their benefits offerings to include wellness programs, financial counseling and assistance with student debt. But what most employees really want is a better quality of life.
For their part, employees are struggling with demanding work schedules, long hours, and bosses who expect that they are available 24/7 via their mobile devices. It has been said that baby boomers lived to work.
But that is not true of today’s workers, especially those age 35 and younger. While they are dedicated to their jobs and want to advance in their careers, they do not want work to consume all their time.
According to human resource studies and our experience in my firm, more than salaries or wellness perks, today’s employees are highly attracted to firms that offer more flexible work schedules and policies that improve their quality of life.
A survey of hourly workers conducted earlier this year by Shiftboard, a scheduling software provider, found the No. 1 driver of worker satisfaction is work-life balance (chosen by 77% of respondents). More than half (57%) said they would trade pay for more control over their schedules, and nearly all (97%) said scheduling flexibility is necessary for job satisfaction.
Results of a 2018 study undertaken by global human resource and financial consulting firm Mercer show more than half of employees (51%) wished their company offered more flexible work options. Employees in companies that do allow more flexibility, such as variable schedules or telecommuting, report a more positive sense of work-life balance.
While employees appreciate benefits like medical, parental or personal leave, they much prefer to have permanent flexibility options to have more control over meeting both their work and personal obligations. This is especially so for working parents and younger employees who are getting married and starting families, greater flexibility and work-life balance are high priorities in what they look for in an employer.
Allowing employees more flexibility can take many forms, the most common being flexible work schedules, telecommuting, remote working on occasion if need arises, and a four-day work week or alternating four- and five-day work weeks. Flexibility can even extend to reassigning tasks or personnel when unexpected events occur that require an employee to take time away from the office.
Other ways firms are looking to improve employees’ quality of life include policies that allow them to bring their dog to work, providing or subsidizing commuter passes to reduce the stress of commuting, and hosting an occasional happy hour to break up the work routine.
Many employers now encourage good wellness practices by paying in part or full for gym memberships, exercise or yoga classes, and standing desks. In addition, some companies have instituted policies that permit workers to ignore after-hours or weekend emails or texts.
Employees prefer greater flexibility, but what’s the benefit for employers? Some firms have found flex-time options to be disruptive, but most have adjusted successfully. The Society for Human Resource Management states evidence indicates that “companies that offer better quality of life, by giving workers a high level of flexibility and permission to unplug, have employees who are more engaged, more satisfied with their jobs, less likely to leave, and in better physical and mental health.”
That, in turn, as studies have shown, results in higher productivity and creativity, lower rates of absenteeism, and less friction among employees. When workers feel better about their quality of life, they deliver a higher quality of work.
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