MANILA, Philippines—“We work to live not live to work” has been a popular phrase for employees who try to balance priorities in life. This means juggling work demands and nonwork priorities as well as considering work-life balance when choosing a career and company to work for.
Finding harmony between the professional (work-related concerns) and personal (nonwork related concerns) life is at the core of an employee’s work-life dilemma. It is common to find employees struggling to successfully achieve work goals while maintaining job satisfaction and good health plus a happy family or social life.
The need to work longer hours, get an extra job to compensate for financial needs, having inadequate or incompatible organization benefits package, lack of reliable child care support, tons of other household responsibilities are but a few examples of how and why employees experience work-life dilemma.
As the search for work-life balance (or harmony) continues, employees tend to look at opportunities that organizations can and will provide. Policies and interventions that aim to respond to employees’ work-life dilemma are called work-life initiatives. Organizations are encouraged to provide interventions that will increase work nature awareness and encourage better interpersonal relationships (Pavia and Tabio, 2000).
Examples of these initiatives are values formation workshops, coaching and counseling programs and working in teams.
Studies showed that work-life initiatives not just enhance job performance but increase commitment and consequently decrease employee turnover. Organizational commitment is described as having strong adherence with the goals and values of the company, willingness to exert effort to achieve organizational success and having a strong desire to stay in the organization.
One of the researches done on work-life initiatives was conducted by Jay Ramos. He surveyed 243 Filipino employees to determine the relationship between employee attitude toward company work-life initiatives and their commitment to the organization.
It was found that employees were generally satisfied with their organization’s work-life programs as evidenced in their positive perception of their respective company’s retirement plan, home plan, healthcare and insurance plan.
Among the list of work life policies surveyed, results also showed that the following are more likely to affect organizational commitment: travel expense reimbursement, club membership, open resourcing, training programs, sports activities, compensation, car loan, gym and aerobics classes, social outreach programs, employee clubs, vacation houses, company sponsored party and stress in the workplace program.
Results support the positive relationship of work-life policies and organizational commitment. It also showed that employees’ attitude on work-life programs and organizational commitment responds to three levels of need: (1) security, (2) socialization or belongingness and, (3) professional and personal growth. Consequently, satisfaction with work-life initiatives lessens the tendency of employees to leave the organization.
Implications: Aligning work life programs to employee needs
Aligning organizational work-life programs and interventions to employee needs and preferences is of great importance. Exerting effort to look at the demographics and considering employees’ profile should be a critical step in designing policies and programs.
For example, if the organization has more women employees, work-life policies that respond to and that are sensitive to the needs of women would be prioritized. However, to enhance fit between the individual needs of employees and work-life initiatives, the organization may opt to offer a flexible benefits program where employees are empowered to choose benefits that suit their individual needs and preferences.
Building a culture that values work-life balance, a company may consider building and nurturing an organization culture that values work-life balance. With this, the leaders would play an important role in establishing flexible yet efficient work cultures.
Systems and processes must be aligned and leaders must model the behaviors that are consistent with and supportive of this kind of culture.
Evaluating work-life programs
The effectiveness of work-life programs is best measured through periodic evaluations. Through these, organizations may see changes in the needs and preferences of employees and identify needed improvements.
(The author is the Program Officer for Research at Ateneo-CORD and a graduate student under the Master in Counseling Psychology program of the Ateneo de Manila University. The article is based on the thesis of Jay Ramos, a graduate of the MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology program of the same University. For feedback about this article, e-mail [email protected] or call 4266065/4266282.)