Is A Work-Life Balance Possible in Today’s Hyper-Competitive Economy?

The phrase Work Life Balance (WLB) has been touted in organizations to highlight the various benefits offered within the workplace to balance a staff member’s professional and personal life. These include benefits such as paid paternity and maternity leaves, flexible working arrangements (FWA), and, more importantly, family-friendly environments to support a work-family culture.

Can we truly consider paternity and maternity leaves as WLB?  One may argue that these are related to work entitlements/rights for everyone based on the organizations’ employees policies.

If we looked closely at FWAs however, which include different starting and ending work times outside of the normal working hours, and working from home which in most organizations are at the discretion of managers; this could easily be classified as one of the ideal forms of WLB, since it is NOT an entitlement.  There is the perception that some workers see WLB as merely ‘family-friendly policies’ that benefit employees with children, however with FWAs, this view can easily be discarded since any employee can benefit.  Consequently, it is the level of management support of the FWA that determines its success.

At the IDB Barbados Office, staff members are allowed to telework two days a month from home while observing official working hours. For me, telework increases my productivity, since I can delve deeply into my work without interruptions, with the exception of the one-off bird that sings lustily on my back patio.  Additionally, there is no commuting time, no battling with the mini-van drivers and those workers who are already late for work but wish to make-up time on our busy roads.

Teleworking is only one of the flexible working arrangements offered by the IDB.  At the Bank there are also:

  • Flexible Working Schedule (FWS): Staff members are allowed to begin working prior to the Bank’s official working hours, with a stopping time after eight hours exclusive of authorized time for lunch.
  • Compressed Working Schedule (CWS): Staff members work eighty hours biweekly in nine consecutive workdays at the official work location, resulting in a scheduled non-work day every ten working days.

Several studies highlighted the importance of a supportive culture by managers in allowing employees to balance work and life, thus resulting in more productive and satisfied employees. In my experience employees who have flexible work schedules are more engaged in their work compared to others who do not have this option.

What does work-life balance mean to you? Maybe it is having work flexibility available if and when you need it.   What can you do to have a better WLB?   Today there is no need to sacrifice one for the other; progressive organizations have come to the realization that to harness the best talent there must be WLB.

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