What you consider “balanced” might actually be severely imbalanced to your employee’s and recent surveys suggest that the gap between managers and employees is widening.
What does work-life balance mean to you? Is it having enough time to enjoy your hobbies outside of work? Is it being able to bring your kids to work because your daycare provider has strange hours? Is it being able to work some hours at home as opposed to the office? Free food at work?
Recent research about work and life balance has suggested that not only is this a moving target for leaders but that the views of how “balanced” their employee’s lives are is skewed as well.
According to research from Office Team, 63% of senior managers said their company is “very supportive of their staff’s efforts to achieve work-life balance.” However, only 34% of employees agreed with this statement.
This is a departure from a similar work-life survey conducted 10 years ago in which 45% of senior managers characterized their company as very supportive, while 53% of employees did.
So, why is there such a disparity between leaders and employees? One reason could be generational.
Research into the habits of millennial’s at work has highlighted a need to have a more varied and flexible work schedule. They desire to work remotely more often, but still prefer to have an office to anchor themselves to. This mindset is partially responsible for the age of The Freelance Economy.
So, which work-life related benefits are found to be most beneficial? Time-related benefits topped the list of most requested benefits with other more traditional benefits rounding out the list. Here are the top 5:
1. Flexible Work Schedules: 44%
2. Generous Vacation Time or Sabbaticals: 33%
3. Telecommuting or Work from Home options: 12%
4. Health and Wellness programs: 8%
5. Onsite Services (e.g. daycare, food, dry cleaning, gym): 2%
Once again, there was a disparity amongst leaders and employees because even though nearly 44% of the respondents chose “Flexible Work schedules” as the most desirable work-life balance benefit, only 37% felt that the option even existed in the first place.
Brandi Britton, district president of Office Team, has highlighted some key reasons on why there is such a divide amongst leaders and their employees:
Lower awareness. “Executives who are closer to the decision-making processes,” Britton said, “may have more insight and awareness [than employees do] into all the options their companies offer.” This makes a lot of sense for me as I talk to leaders who struggle with communicating simple options in employee benefits packages, let alone more in-depth options like flexible work hours.
Higher expectations. Regarding expectations, Britton cited what could be called a Millennial mindset. “Today’s workers are busier than ever in their personal and professional lives and expect their employers to support their work-life balance,” she said. “Younger workers especially have high expectations when it comes to perks and benefits, and are used to things like flexible schedules, telecommuting, and on-site services which weren’t as prevalent even 5 to 10 years ago. They may feel like these options should be standard offerings.”
What should you do? We asked Colby Coash, a Corporate Culture trainer and professional speaker on his top 3 ways leaders could add elements of “work-life” balance to their employee’s day.
Start by soliciting feedback: Simply asking employees to define their definition of “work-life balance” is an easy way to start this process. This transparency also lends itself to building trust amongst employees. Another crucial element to overall employee engagement.
One size won’t fit all: If you think you could have one policy and strike this balance for all employees – you’re dead wrong. After soliciting the feedback, select your top 3 and work through how to incorporate these into your benefits packages.
Don’t be afraid to fail: The number one reason why leaders can’t make sustainable change in the workplace is because they fail to even try. It’s like Mom always said, “You don’t know if you don’t try”. This is exactly the case in the corporate world as well. Put a plan in place, vet it amongst your team and be willing to change if you’re not seeing the desired outcomes.