For years, employees and managers struggled with the concept of work-life balance. It seemed the harder an employee tried to achieve that elusive balance between the work they enjoyed and the demands of a home life and other priorities, the more they found themselves frustrated with the situation. Recently, however, there seems to be a realization that balance is not the right way to look at the two sides of our lives. Today, with advances in technology and the ability to be always on (or at least in stand-by mode) work-life integration, or a blurring of the lines between personal and professional is more the norm. It also seems to be easier to achieve than balance, which insinuated that you had to have equal parts of each.
With work-life integration, the goal is to get your work done and achieve the goals and objectives agreed upon between employee and manager. When this happens, and on a regular basis, the careful management of an employee’s time becomes a thing that managers and organizations no longer have to worry about because the employee takes ownership for his/her own time and knows what needs to be done to accomplish the work and be seen as a high performer.
Employees have wanted this for a long time, and smart managers who have seen benefits of this type of approach have been adopting the practice for quite a while. As usual, the last to embrace the new way of looking at work are the organizations, but slowly, they are starting to come around. This is important because once the practice of work-life integration hits the organizational level, it allows more employees to flourish. Unfortunately, there are still far too many Theory X managers out there in the world who believe that people really don’t like coming to work and the only way we get them to be productive is to stand over them and make sure they are working. This leads to worrying about how much time a person spends at work rather than whether they are getting things done in the time they are there and the belief that if a person has more flexibility they will only take advantage of it.
This is why companies that are starting to see the value of allowing more freedom for employees to decide when and where they work are realizing the benefits of a more productive workforce and lower turnover. Deloitte recently announced that they were expanding their family leave program to 16 weeks of paid leave for employees to spend time with a new child, but also to allow for time to focus on other family needs such as caring for a sick spouse or aging parent. Small shifts like this remove the stress from employees who either had to use vacation time, in essence choosing care over relaxation with the family at another time, or to work and worry whether their family member was receiving the needed attention.
Vacation and paid time off (PTO) are also starting to see philosophical shifts. As recently as a year ago, if you read about a company changing to an unlimited vacation time policy, it was big news. Today, more and more organizations are adopting this mindset and it’s starting to impact the talent pool as employees see the benefit of this flexibility and begin to look workplaces that offer this benefit as a desirable place to work. The opponents to unlimited vacation have long thought employees would abuse the privilege. The opposite has happened, as most employees actually take less time off than they did when there was a policy mandating the number of days available. In fact, Hubspot’s policy is called the “two weeks to infinity” vacation policy. They want there employees to take at least two weeks a year off in order to be fresh and ready for the challenges that face any organization. That’s right. Funny as it may sound, they mandated time off in the other direction. That’s unique.
The bottom line is simple here. Work-life integration means that employees understand what needs to be done, both at work and at home. By allowing them the freedom to achieve those objectives in the manner that best suits their situation and time, you will improve the engagement and dedication of your employee base. Seems like it’s worth giving it a try.