Before we begin on this ever-lasting debate around work and life and the significance of finding the right balance, it is crucial to understand that this may not be so much of a choice in itself in reality.
Of the 24 hours of an average working executive, regardless of their gender, about 9 to 11 hours are spent away from home to cater to the demands of our work. It’s therefore apparent that our work is the single most consuming environment where an average adult spends his time. With that, we need to realize that it’s not so much a matter of work-life balance but more of work-life integration that organizations need to address.
In order to address this concept of work-life integration, today’s bosses need to be cognizant of the following to drive the organization culture and more pertinently, need to make note of the following to assist the group that gets most impacted by this misconception of a required work-life balance – women.
Outcome And Not Hours
Unlike systems where employees’ attendance would, to a great extent, be a measure of their effectiveness and professionalism, more and more organizations are moving towards a goal-oriented method where employees and line managers have the autonomy to operate their teams as per every team’s unique dynamics.
Teams with more millennials and GenZ for example would choose flexibility over supervision, whereas teams with GenX would look towards maintaining a more coherent unit with the team’s work driven in a more structured approach.
Women, in particular, are most helped when they are not bound by the logistics of the “one size fits all” office structures. As Indira Nooyi of PepsiCo was famously quoted that for women, “the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other”, it is imperative for organizations to explore ways and means of allowing women this flexibility or risk losing the time and money invested into grooming them to either a more welcoming competitor or to family ways.
Re-thinking Rewards &Benefits
The composition of an organization’s employee-base changes and so should its rewards & benefits.
Instead of using age-old reward programs to deserving employees, whom they risk losing once the benefits of these rewardare realized, organizations need to give employees what they intrinsically want – as a team and as individuals.
Instead of offering mega monetary bonuses, an adventure trip to New Zealand or an annual family holiday to Thailand could be far more effective in generating engagement and loyalty towards the firm.
In case of women in particular, other than the periodic rewards, companies also need to provide the grounds for them to be able to contribute to their maximum without worrying about their household responsibilities. On-site daycares and crèches, counseling on family management and other aspects go a long way in ensuring that the women feel connected to their organizations in more than just a professional manner.
Open Culture: Top Down or Not — An HR directive
A big mistake companies tend to make when trying to redirect the mammoth ship of “work culture” is that they entrust these transitions to the HR and subsequently to the line managers without making changes at the top.
Any systemic change however that has the potential to make a significant and lasting difference must come from the top echelons of the company.
Unless the CEO or other C-Suite executives recognize the importance, significance and modalities of what any organizational change means, it is sure to fall flat and cost the firm both money as well as resources.
In case of women in particular, there is a clear correlation in the women presence at the leadership level and perception of inclusiveness it presents not just externally but even to a firms own employees.
The Outlook For Women
The recently passed Maternity Benefits (Amendment) bill along with other laws passed in the not so distant past like the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013, are steps in the right direction but companies need to do more that just comply to reap the true benefits of these government mandated regulations.
In the midst of meeting the business demands, organizations tend to concentrate more energy on understanding the customers and competitors but an equal thought needs to be given in tandem towards understanding one’s employees as well. Unless companies can forge an effective feedback mechanism accompanied by a reasonable fluidity in its structure of rewards, management and supervision, they will not achieve or sustain the growth that is sought after.