Work-Life Balance

Topics: European Union, Treaty of Lisbon, Council of the European Union Pages: 16 (4720 words) Published: November 1, 2008
Work-Life Balance…
A Case of Social Responsibility or
Competitive Advantage?
2002, Inc.
Human Resources Dept, Dr. Parsons
Georgia Institute of Technology
Prepared by: Sunil Joshi, John Leichne, Keith Melanson, Cristina Pruna, Nicolai Sager, Cathi Jo Story, Kevin Williams
The role of work has changed throughout the world due to economic conditions and social demands. Originally, work was a matter of necessity and survival. Throughout the years, the role of “work” has evolved and the composition of the workforce has changed. Today, work still is a necessity but it should be a source of personal satisfaction as well. One of the vehicles to help provide attainment of personal and professional goals is work-life benefits and programs. Implementation of these programs in the United States (“U.S.”) and the European Union (“EU”) countries differs, due to fundamental beliefs about the goals of such programs. Are work-life balance programs in existence as a result of a social responsibility to employees or to provide a competitive advantage to employers?

Before we can answer this question, we need to define what work-life balance is. Many people think of work-life balance only in the framework of what the company does for the individual. However, work-life balance is a two prong approach. The other prong of work-life balance, which many individuals overlook, relates to what individuals do for themselves. According to Jim Bird, CEO of Worklifebalance.com1, “Work-life balance is meaningful achievement and enjoyment in everyday life.” The primary way companies can help facilitate work-life balance for their employees is through work-life programs and training. Achievement and enjoyment at work is a critical part of anyone’s work-life balance. Furthermore, achievement and enjoyment in the other three quadrants of one’s life (e.g. family, friends and self) is critical as well (see Figure 1 in the Appendix).

1 is an international work-life balance training and consulting company. provides training and tools that focus on stress management in the workplace, time management, customer service, and change management. Jim Bird believes that to achieve better work-life balance, each individual needs to work smarter – to get more done in less time.

Work-life balance programs in the U.S. have become increasingly popular through the years. The following lists some of the more common work-life benefits: • Flex-time
• Telecommuting
• Child care
• Elder care
• Leave (e.g. paternity, etc.)
• Job-sharing
• Employee Assistance Programs
• In-house store/services
• Gym subsidies
• Concierge services
• Vacation
• Work hours
In addition to the work-life balance programs listed above, primarily due to the internet boom in the mid-90s and the growth in the economy, more companies offered other “perks” as well. Items such as company cars and a set number of free flights per year were normal for many companies. A four-day work-week as well as flexible hours and casual dress were common also. These perks were primarily instituted to attract, motivate and retain a superior quality workforce. According to a position paper published by Caux Round Table and written by David Rodbourne in 1996, “While many leading U.S. companies have extensive work-life programs, policies and practices, most have not yet changed their organizational cultures to support employees and managers who want to use work-life options.”2 This philosophy appeared to be widespread in the 1990’s, because work-life programs were in place, however if an employee wanted to be a manager, they were not allowed to work four day weeks. In light of the recent economic conditions, there has been a dramatic change in how corporations view work-life balance programs. Corporations are much more cost conscious about these...
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