Encouraging the elusive work-life balance – are we all talk?

by Nicola Middlemiss29 Jan 2015
Most employers encourage a healthy work-life balance but do we really mean what we say? One leading expert has suggested too many companies offer nothing more than lip-service.

“I have a large amount of cynicism around the sincerity of many companies,” admits management and strategy expert, Dr. Linda Duxbery. “They talk balance but quite frankly they want people there and they want people working – it’s shareholder value, its saving tax-payers’ dollars.”

Duxbery is noted pioneer in the field of organizational health and professor at the Sprott School of Business. She’s earned a variety of awards that recognize her research, teaching and her contribution to public and private sector work places.

According to Duxbery, “We’ve created a culture of the belief that the dedicated worker, the hard worker, the committed worker is the one who works the long hours and the people who push back are worried about getting ahead or even keeping their job in an environment like the one we have now.”

But Duxbery acknowledges that this is very likely going to change as millennials begin to make up the majority of the workforce.

“They put a much higher priority on life,” says Duxbery. “They’ve seen their parents on stress leave, they’ve seen their parents get divorced, they’ve seen their parents have drinking problems, on Prozac. They will not stay working for an organization that just gives lip service and doesn’t provide balance.”

Ahead of the trend 

But not all companies can be branded with the same ‘lip-service only’ label – HRM Online spoke to Julie Einarson, VP of Culture and Communications at Benefits by Design.

BBD actively encourages all employees to pursue personal interests and offers two annual subsidies to every worker – one $200 grant to cover any costs related to health or fitness and a second to support non-sports related hobbies.

According to Einarson, 93 per cent of employees used the full subsidy on offer. “We’re not just talking about these programs, we’re actually making sure people use them,” she insisted.

“We have a commitment to promoting a health work-life balance,” said Einarson. “Life shouldn’t just be about work.”

BBD’s work week is just 35 hours and every employee is given one paid day off a year to spend contributing to a charitable cause.

Not only that, but the company encourages charity in-house too with back-to-school food bank drives and collecting shoes to ship to Haiti.

“We give them ways to be involved,” said Einarson.  “It might not necessarily connect directly with the bottom line but we support them as individuals and help them make the world a better place.”


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