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We all know, the world of work is changing in the 24/7 society; customers expect service at times that suit them. More and more people have to juggle responsibilities at home and in the workplace. The reasons why work-to-life balance (hereinafter: W-L balance) has become an issue of great concern can be found in the following most obvious facts: more working women – an increasing number of couples depend on both partners earning (there is less than 15% of “traditional family structures” – Veiga 2004), increase in lone parenting (it will reach 25% by 2010 in the UK), ageing population and the overall population changes (several millions people need to take care of the elderly), increase in working hours, technological advances (continuous accessibility; one in three partners say it affects their personal life) etc.

W-L conflict is a type of inter-role conflict where demands of the work roles and demands of the non-work roles are mutually incompatible (Parasuraman & Greenhaus, 1997).

How Can Organisations Help?

Organisations can use numerous different strategies to help their employees maintain their W-L balance such as time-based strategies (flexible work schedules), information-based strategies (seminars), financial assistance (vouchers), direct services (on-site facilities) (Sutton et al).

The CIPD offers several brilliant ideas to consider: extended leave and other off-work arrangements (sabbaticals, study leave etc.), increasing levels of support (employee assistance programmes, childcare loans/allowances, workplace-based crèches, medical centre …) and encouraging wellness to improve health (health screening, on-site exercise facilities, fitness tickets etc.).

Most certainly, employers need to be increasingly open and creative in their employment practices. If they are not, they will neither attract nor keep the people and skills they need.

Business Cases Illustrating Benefits for Employers

Lambert’s study (2000) proved that the more useful employees find W-L policies, the more likely they will demonstrate high organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB). According to Organ (1988), OCB is defined as “individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and in the aggregate promotes the efficient and effective functioning of the organization”. In accordance with the Social Exchange Theory and the Norm of Reciprocity, if employers treat employees well, employees will feel the need to compensate by engaging in OCB behaviours.

British Telecom, for example, found that after introducing flexible working, they get more flexible workforce, employees are happier and more responsive, retention is improved (98% of women return to BT from their maternity leave), absenteeism is reduced, productivity is increased (they noticed an increase of 15-31%), customers are happier (easier to serve their needs 24/7), costs are reduced (office-based workers are more expensive), and improved retention saves £5m a year on recruitment and induction.

Another example is Lloyds TSB where an online job-sharing website has helped to transform the bank’s traditional long hours culture, enabling managers to focus on individual productivity not the hours spent at the workplace. Seniority is no longer seen as a barrier to flexible working, and flexible working is no longer seen as being reserved only for mothers.

A possible policy agenda for the future could begin by recognising that all conceptions of human flourishing depend on health as a primary good and that work can have a positive or negative impact on health.

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