Literature Review

Topic and Construct Definition This Literature Review focuses on the implementation of work -life balance policies and the effects they have on organisations. As defined by Lockwood (2003) work-life balance is “a state of equilibrium in which the demands of both a person’s job and personal life are equal. ” This paper will review the consequences work life balance policies have on organisational performance, weighing up the cost and benefits for the organisation when introducing a work life balance policy. It is important to determine if the net impact is positive, and if it is beneficial for organisations to implement work life balance policies. A firm will only implement such policies if it has a positive return on investment. The benefits to firms include; reduced absenteeism and stress, improved recruitment and retention rates, and greater employee satisfaction and productivity (Dex and Scheibl, 1999). The costs include; administration costs, disruption to operations, unlimited demand by employees, and cost of equipment and facilities (Drew & Murtagh, 2005). Theoretical Review The imbalance between work and personal life is not only having an effect on individuals but on organisational performance. Organizations can implement various work-life balance initiatives which include the following: flexible working hours, job sharing, part-time work, compressed work weeks, parental leave, telecommuting and on-site child care facility (Hartel et al, 2007). An employer’s commitment to work-life initiatives is influenced by the perception of whether or not such initiatives have a positive return on investment. In recent years, employers increasingly realize that the quality of an employee’s personal and family life impacts work quality and that there are concrete business reasons to promote work and family integration (Lockwood, 2003) The literature reviewed for this paper indicates that the following benefits can result from the implementation of work-life balance policies: • Reduced staff turnover rates and lower recruitment and training costs (Dex and Scheibl, 1999; Evans, 2001; Lazar, 2010; Lockwood, 2003) • Reduced absenteeism (Dex and Scheibl, 1999; Byrne, 2005; Lazar, 2010) • Greater staff loyalty and commitment (Dex and Scheibl, 2001; Lazar, 2010; Lockwood, 003) • Improved corporate image, which can lead to greater sales and attract and retain greater number of job applicants (Dex and Scheibl, 1999; Lazar, 2010) • Improved productivity (Dex and Scheibl, 1999; Byrne, 2005; Lazar, 2010; Lockwood, 2003) All these aspects are associated, in turn, with costs savings, higher customer satisfaction and implicitly higher levels of organizational performance (Lazar, 2010). For employers it is important because they benefit from having a more motivated, productive and less stressed workforce, that feel valued, which when combined enhances the productivity of the business (Byrne, 2005). The underlying assumption is that work–life balance can be achieved without threatening the economic success of either party, possibly even promoting it for both. However, this assumption is not self-evident. There may, for example, be other practices that employers regard as important for their own success which may exacerbate the work–life balance problem (White et al, 2003). While companies are conscious of potential benefits for their employees, they regard these as diffuse, difficult to quantify and outweighed by administrative costs and disruption caused to their operations. Employers also tend to raise concerns that the general availability of such policies will lead to unlimited demand. Associated with this is a fear that some employees will take advantage of the policy, regarding flexible working as an entitlement for which no return to the firm is required (Drew and Murtagh, 2005). The literature indicates that the following costs are associated with implementing work-life balance policies: • Direct costs of policies which involve payments, such as childcare subsidies or paid parental leave (Dex and Scheibl, 1999) • Costs of increased facilities (Evans, 2001) • Disruption costs for temporarily filling absent colleagues posts (Dex and Scheibl, 1999; Evans, 2001) • Temporary reduction in productivity from disruption (Dex and Scheibl, 1999; Evans, 2001) • Costs of implementing new work-life balance policy systems. This may include costs associated with changing processes or culture. Indirect costs also include loss of team spirit, perceived favoritism of certain employees over others and being branded as uncommitted and unmotivated if requiring the work life policies (Byrne, 2005). This list of costs and benefits is drawn from a number of sources. The exact mix of costs and benefits in an individual firm will vary with the work-life balance policies offered and the characteristics of the firm itself. Empirical Review The CBI has estimated that sickness absence in the UK costs ? 1 billion per year. Any reduction in sickness absence would represent a significant saving for organizations. The Chubb Group insurance companies reported a reduction in absences from 12,120 days per year to 10,549 days per year following the introduction of a paid time off policy for family illness (Dex and Sheibl, 1999). Research by Lockwood (2003) has documented that Johnson & Johnson “found that there was a 50% decline in absenteeism among employees who used flexible work options and family leave policies. It is important to note that both the rate of voluntary resignations and the absenteeism rate are lower where employees have access to a workplace nursery, and this could produce significant savings for the employer, outweighing the costs of lower labour productivity (Gray, 2002). Although some degree of job turnover is healthy for an organisation, reductions in turnover offer potential business gain. Glaxo’s introduction of flexible work and childcare services, which was self financing, saw the return rate for employees after maternity leave increase from 40 to 97 per cent. However one study also found part time working increased administration costs, promotion became very complex and day to day management became very difficult. Concern was also expressed regarding the lack of continuity and limits placed on task completion (Dex and Sheibl, 1999). The negative relationship between productivity and part time work is supported by the fact that over the longer term they accumulate less experience and have reduced access to training which may have implications for the financial performance of the workplace. Offering financial help with childcare seems to result in the clearest benefits to the employer, as it is associated with above-average financial performance, labour productivity and the rate of voluntary resignation. This suggests that financial help with childcare is likely to produce benefits in terms of retention and raised productivity whilst providing no evidence of significant costs (Gray, 2002). Research has drawn a link between the provision of family friendly policies and increased staff motivation, which in the long term enhances productivity. Productivity at an insurance firm in Connecticut, reports that telecommuting increases productivity by 30 percent because the workers have fewer interruptions and could focus on the work in hand. Productivity gains are also reported from a compressed work week to enable employees to have weekdays off with the family by Hewlett Packard (Dex and Sheibl, 1999). Employees are more likely to feel loyal to an organization where there is home working or flexi time, and are more likely to report that they share the values of the organization. They are also more likely to say that they are proud to tell people who they work for where there is a workplace nursery, home working or paid time-off, and share the values of the organization (Gray, 2002). The results of the above literature seem to agree that the benefits to the organization of work life policies are strong and increasing. Research Gaps and Recommendations for Future Research The authors of the econometric studies generally caution that the associations between work-life balance policies and productivity are correlations and not proof of causation. Fallon (1997) also states “While the research does not prove a causal effect of these practices, it does provide a strong impetus for organizations to experiment with these approaches. ” The association between providing work-life balance policies and employee productivity may go either way, the policies may encourage a greater output by workers or the policies may attract more productive workers. However, it is almost impossible to set up a large econometric study to prove a causal relationship between work-life balance policies and productivity. Productivity has multiple causes and work-life balance policies can only be part of the equation. Ideally, firms would identify all the costs and benefits involved in implementing work-life balance policies, undertake some form of cost-benefit comparison and implement the policies if the net impact is positive. Obtaining an accurate measure of the savings gained from work-life balance policies is problematic. Benefits such as corporate reputation, public relations, improved community relations, increased employee loyalty, and enhanced recruitment are also difficult to measure (Lockwood, 2003). Some of the problems that prohibit adequate evaluation could be resolved by improved information gathering together with broader measures of productivity (Dex and Scheibl, 1999). As not all the benefits may have been identified or measured, the net impact of these policies are often regarded as negative, when in fact that may not be the case. Conclusion Work life balance policies offer both benefits and costs to the organization. Benefits include; reducing costs and enhancing productivity. However costs of implementing such policies both direct and indirect have a negative impact on the organization. The benefits of such initiatives are often harder to measure then the costs. Strategies such as information gathering and broader measure of productivity need to be implemented to ensure that the conclusion drawn from cost benefit analysis is correct. It is also important to note that positive correlations between work life balance policies and organization benefits do not imply causation. The topic of work life balance is increasingly important in managing employees stress and well being as well as providing the greatest productivity and profitability for firms. Further research and implementation strategies are needed to ensure that work life balance can create a win-win situation for both employees and employers. The evidence collected suggests there are strong and increasing benefits to the organization when implementing work life balance policies. References BYRNE, U. (2005) “Work-life Balance : Why are we talking about it at all? ” Business Information Review, 22. DEX , S. & SCHEIBL, F. (1999) “Business Performance and Family-Friendly Policies” Journal of General Management 24(4), pp. 22-37. DREW, E. & MURTAGH, E. M. 2005) “Work/life balance: senior management champions or laggards? ” Women in Management Review, 20, pp. 262-278. EVANS, J. M. (2001) “Firms’ Contribution to the Reconciliation between Work and Family Life” Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Papers. FALLON, B. J. (1997) “The balance between paid work and home responsibilities: Personal problem or corporate concern? ” Australian Psychologist, 32, pp. 1-9. GRAY, H. (2002) Family Friendly Working: What a Performance! An Analysis of the Relationship Between the Availability of Family-Friendly Policies and Establishment Performance. London: Centre for Economic Performance. HALL, D. T. & RICHTER, J. (1989) “Balancing Work Life and Home Life: What Can Organizations Do to Help? ” The Academy of Management Executive (1987-1989), 2, pp. 213-223. LAZAR, I. , OSOIAN, C. & RATIU, P. (2010) “The Role of Work-Life Balance Practices in Order to Improve Organizational Performance. ” European Research Studies, 13. LOCKWOOD, N. R. (2003) “Work/Life Balance Challenges and Solutions. ” Society for Human Resource Management. WHITE, M. S. H. , MCGOVERN, P. & SMEATON, C. M. A. D. (2003) “High-performance’ Management Practices, Working Hours and Work–Life Balance. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 41, pp. 175–195. YASBEK, P. (2004) “The business case for firm-level work-life balance policies: a review of the literature. ” Abstract 1. BYRNE, U. (2005) “Work-life Balance: Why are we talking about it at all? ” Business Information Review, 22. This article discusses the development of the concept of the ‘work-life balance’ as a means of tackling the problem of increasing amounts of stress in the workplace as people try to juggle a wide range of factors in their life/work environment, including: work; family; friends; health; and spirit/self. It is argued that, of the factors involved, work is the one which is most elastic and can be managed in such a way as to avoiding jeopardizing the other factors. A major driver of the trend towards achieving work-life balance is the fact that younger people are not prepared to work in the same way as their parents, wanting greater control, and a bigger say in the structure of their jobs and what they could potentially offer in the future. The search for work-life balance is a process in which people seek to change things in accordance with changes in their own priorities, physical, psychological or both, and these can be triggered in their turn by factors such as: age; changes in working conditions; the demands of new technology; and poor management. Employees benefit through: having a greater responsibility and a sense of ownership; having better relations with management; avoiding bringing problems at home to work, and vice versa; having the time to focus more on life outside work; and having greater control of their working lives. The achievement of better worklife balance can yield dividends for employers in terms of: having a more motivated, productive and less stressed workforce that feels valued; attracting a wider range of candidates, such as older part-time workers and carers; increased productivity and reduced absenteeism; gaining the reputation of being an employer of choice; retaining valued employees; achieving reduced costs; and maximizing available labour. The author considers some of the issues which might arise when implementing a work-life balance strategy and offers advice on implementing such a scheme. . DEX , S. & SCHEIBL, F. (1999) “Business Performance and Family-Friendly Policies” Journal of General Management 24(4), pp. 22-37. Some organizations have developed working practices which allow flexible and reduced hours’ working, periods of time off work to care for children or sick and elderly relatives, or voluntarily provide financial assistance or help with arranging child care. Taking working arrangements separately, 9 out of 10 employers in 1996 provided at least one family-friendly arrangement. The same study reported that voluntary provision 4 categories of family friendly initiatives (maternity benefits, paternity leave, childcare arrangements and non-standard working hours) was found among just 5% of employers; the study called this minority group “model employers”. The question which this paper seeks to address is whether there are clear business benefits from adopting such policies, and if so, “What are they? ” Answers to these questions, as far as this is possible, are provided by reviewing the published literature on this topic. The review of mainly British and US sources found that there are many positive benefits of family-friendly policies to report and a few disadvantages in some cases. 3. DREW, E. & MURTAGH, E. M. (2005) “Work/life balance: senior management champions or laggards? ” Women in Management Review, 20, pp. 262-278. Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the experience of, and attitudes towards, work/life balance (WLB) by female and male senior managers in a major Irish organisation for which WLB is now a strategic corporate objective. Design/methodology/approach – Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected using an electronic questionnaire survey designed to obtain the views of female and male managers on strategies that would contribute to a better gender balance, promote diversity and raise leadership capacity in the organisation. Work/life balance emerged as a major issue in impeding the career progression of female managers. All female managers and a sample of male managers were surveyed. This paper oncentrates on the responses of the two senior management grades below Executive Director on the issue and strategies to promote work/life balance. Additional qualitative data were drawn from interviews (with eight women and five men) and three focus group sessions with all male, all female and mixed gender groups. Findings – The greatest obstacle to achieving WLB is seen as the “long hours” culture in which availing oneself of flexible options (e. g. working from home/reduced hours/flexitime) is incompatible with holding a senior management post. Many of the senior men have followed the “breadwinner” model by being able to delegate family and caring activities to their wives. This option has not been possible for the majority of women in senior posts. Hence, men seek WLB to resolve commuting/working time issues. Women want to avail themselves of more flexible arrangements for family/quality of life reasons. Both men and women in senior management recognise that their own careers would be seriously jeopardised by taking up WLB arrangements. Originality/value – In the absence of role models willing to display any contrary behaviour there is a pragmatic need to align corporate policy and practice with prevailing and future family structures and demonstrate, by senior management example, how WLB can work and provide assistance for managers/staff who seek to avail themselves of it. WLB policies are not enough in themselves to ensure take-up and acceptance. It will require trust, courage and a range of interventions to champion WLB, not just at management level. Keywords Working patterns, Senior managers, Sex and gender issues, Equal opportunities Paper type Research paper 4. EVANS, J. M. (2001) “Firms’ Contribution to the Reconciliation between Work and Family Life” Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Papers. This paper is a first attempt to provide a comparative view of voluntary family-friendly work arrangements within firms across the OECD area. It is based on detailed surveys available in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, coupled with restricted, but more comparable evidence for the European Union. The evidence shows that the extent of familyfriendly arrangements is both limited and patchy. National patterns are compared with the extent of statutory provisions to help families. Both are found to correspond with recent attempts to classify countries according to their “gender contract”. There is a discussion of four possible “motors” for family-friendly arrangements: the business case, trends in human resource management policies, gender equity programmes and developments in technology. All are found to have ambiguous implications for the work/family balance. This leads into suggestions for ways in which this balance might be improved, in the context of national legislation and values. 5. FALLON, B. J. (1997) “The balance between paid work and home responsibilities: Personal problem or corporate concern? ” Australian Psychologist, 32, pp. 1-9. Balancing the demands of paid work and home responsib ilities has become a principal daily task for many employed adults. An overview of changes which havebeen occurring in the workforce and in the workplace is provided. An account of downsizing and relocation and their effects on individuals and families is considered. Three major areas of psychological research are discussed: stress, work-family conflict. and family-supportive policies and practices. An account of some of the methodological and theoretical issues concerning research and conceptualization in the work-family area is discussed prior to introducing the emerging view of organisational health. A challenge is presented for psychologists t develop new ways of addressing the issue of the balance between paid work and home responsibilities . GRAY, H. (2002) Family Friendly Working: What a Performance! An Analysis of the Relationship Between the Availability of Family-Friendly Policies and Establishment Performance. London: Centre for Economic Performance This paper uses the Management and Employee Questionnaires from the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS98) to consider whether the performance of workplaces which offer a range of family-friendly policies are superior to that of workplaces without such practices. It is found that in almost all cases where there is a significant relationship between the use of a family-friendly practice and workplace performance, this relationship is positive. In addition, it appears that workplaces which offer an extensive range of family-friendly policies are much more likely to have above-average performance than those with no such practices. The paper moves on to consider whether employers offering policies which enable employees with families to maintain a full-time presence in the workplace e. g. workplace nursery, have better performance than those which offer policies which result in reduced-visibility e. g. working from home, part-time work. The evidence from WERS98 suggests that this is indeed the case. 7. LAZAR, I. , OSOIAN, C. & RATIU, P. (2010) “The Role of Work-Life Balance Practices in Order to Improve Organizational Performance. ” European Research Studies, 13. Well known in the literature as work life balance, the quality relationship between paid work and unpaid responsibilities is critical for success in today’s competitive business world. The issue of work-life balance has been developed in response to demographic, economic and cultural changes. The purpose of this paper is to establish whether work-life balance initiatives and practices can be considered as strategic human resource management decisions that can translate into improved individual and organizational performance. The results of a number of studies reviewed in this paper show the outcomes and the benefits of implementing worklife balance practices not only for employees themselves, but also for their families, organizations and society. Despite the fact that work-life conflict has significant business costs associated with lack of engagement, absenteeism, turnover rates, low productivity and creativity or poor retention levels, there are some factors of organizational work-life culture that may compromise availability and use of these practices What are the challenges for research and practice in the future? In the end of the article we propose several suggestions (guidelines) in order to improve our understanding, choice, implementation and effectiveness of work-life practices. . LOCKWOOD, N. R. (2003) “Work/Life Balance Challenges and Solutions. ” Society for Human Resource Management. In organizations and on the home front, the challenge of work/life balance is rising to the top of many employers’ and employees’ consciousness. In today’s fast-paced society, human resource professionals seek options to positively impact the bottom line of their companies, improve employee morale, retain employees with valuable company knowledge, and keep pace with workplace trends. This article provides human resource professionals with an historical perspective, data and possible solutions—for organizations and employees alike—to work/life balance. Three factors—global competition, personal lives/family values, and an aging workforce— present challenges that exacerbate work/life balance. This article offers the perspective that human resource professionals can assist their companies to capitalize on these factors by using work/life initiatives to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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