Barriers in achieving work-life balances

Barriers in achieving work-life balance Implementing of work-life practices for organizational effectiveness may be compromised by lack of use these practices. Research conducted amongst organizations in the UK suggests that employees often remain unaware of their work-life entitlements following the implementation of work-life balance practices (Kodz et al, 1998). For example, in a survey of 945 employees in six different organizations across three sectors of employment (local government, supermarkets, and retail banking), found that 50% of employees were unaware of the familyfriendly practices offered by their organizations. (Yeandle et al 2002). Five distinct aspects of work-life culture have been identified from previous studies (McDonald et al 2005), all of which should be considered by organizations when attempting to improve employees’ work-life balance. These are outlined below: 210 European Research Studies Volume XIII, Issue (1), 2010 Managerial support is consistently emphasized in discussions and studies as a factor influencing work-life balance. Managers play an important role in the success of work/life programs because they are in a position to encourage or discourage employees’ efforts to balance their work and family lives. Where supervisors enthusiastically support the integration of paid work and other responsibilities, employees will be more likely to take up available work-life programs. On the other hand, it has been suggested that even in ‘family-friendly’ organizations, managers may send negative signals indicating that the use of flexible benefits is a problem for them, their colleagues and the organization as a whole (Hudson Resourcing, 2005) Career consequences: The second factor associated with a barrier to the successful implementation of work-life practices is the perception of negative career consequences. In a study of 463 professional and technical employees in biopharmaceutical firms, ( Eaton 2003, 145) found that the provision of work-life practices improved employees’ organizational commitment, but only to the extent that employees felt free to use the practices without negative consequences to their work lives—such as damaged career prospects. Similarly, (Cunningham, 2001), cites an American Bar Association report that although 95% of American law firms have a part-time employment policy, only 3% of lawyers have used it due to fear of career derailment. The perception that using work-life balance practices will have a negative impact on their career prospects appears to be a powerful demotivator for employees’ use of these practices (Kodz, Harper, Dench, 2002). Organizational time expectation: Another factor that influence the uptake and overall supportiveness of work-life policies is organizational time expectationsthe number of hours employees are expected to work; how they use their time (e.g., whether employees are expected to take work home); In several studies, however, long working hours have been identified as a signal of commitment, productivity and motivation for advancement. One study, based on interviews with engineers in a Fortune 100 company in the US, concluded: “If one is to succeed, one has to be at work, one has to be there for long hours, and one has to continuously commit to work as a top priority. To be perceived as making a significant contribution, productivity alone is not enough. One has to maintain a continual presence at work.” This is particularly the case in organizations with “presenteeism” cultures where those who succeed are the ones who come in early and stay late as a matter of course. Known as “face time” being visibly at workplace, often for long hours—is seen as a sign of commitment, of loyalty, of competence and high potential ( Beauregard and Lesley 2008, 9-12), but also is seen as a major barrier to achieving work/life balance. Employees who do not give the maximum amount of time possible to the organization are often defined as less productive and less committed, and are therefore less valued than employees working longer hours; We consider that the shift to evaluating performance on the basis of outputs rather than time spent physically at the workplace is, however, an essential part of developing a culture that supports work-life balance. It is very difficult to implement The Role of Work-Life Balance Practices in Order to Improve Organizational Performance 211 flexible work arrangements in organizations where the focus is on hours rather than output, and presence rather than performance. This means that organizations that want to increase work-life balance need to introduce new performance measures that focus on objectives, results and output. To do this, they need to reward output not hours and what is done, not where it is done. They also need to publicly reward people who have successfully combined work and non-work domains and not promote those who work long hours and expect others to do the same. Genders perceptions: Perceptions that work-life policy is developed only for women are the fourth factor related to their use. A review of men’s use of family-friendly employment provisions argues that barriers to men’s use arise from three major sources. First the culture of many workplaces casts doubt on the legitimacy of men’s claims to family responsibilities. Second, the business environment, imposing competitive pressures to maintain market share and increase earnings. Third, the domestic organization in employees’ own homes often precludes men from taking up available work/life options. Some work-life provisions, such as paternity leave, are intended specifically for men and aim to foster a greater sharing of responsibilities between men and women. Thus, encouraging more men to use opportunities for flexible work is important but clearly this requires a supportive work environment as well as changes in attitudes and expectations in the wider community. Co-worker support: An increasing amount shows that workers who make use of work-life practices suffer negative perceptions from colleagues and superiors. An experiment (Beauregard, Lesley, 2008) found that employees who used worklife balance practices were perceived by co-workers as having lower levels of organizational commitment, which was thought to affect the subsequent allocation of organizational rewards such as advancement opportunities and salary increases. Some staff that use flexible arrangements have reportedly experienced ‘familyfriendly backlash’ or resentment from co-workers In other organizations, employees without dependent care responsibilities (in this paper, defined as time spent performing childcare, eldercare or care for a disabled dependent) interpret “family friendly” as favoritism and complain that they are being “unfairly” or inequitably treated. We consider that such employees feel that their colleagues with childcare or eldercare responsibilities are “getting away with less work” and that the needs of childless employees are being ignored, but this kind of attitude should be changed. This backlash against “family friendly” makes it harder for organizations who wish to address the issue. In conclusion regarding such perceptions, it is therefore not surprising why work-life practices tend to be underused by male employees, single employees and career-oriented mothers; and that apprehension of negative career consequences for using practices has been associated with increased levels of work-life conflict.

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