Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
An investigation of the relationship between work-life balance and employee engagement
Article Type: Rewards From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 12, Issue 4
Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in rewards
Work-life balance (WLB) is an important concern these days; because people do not want to give as much time to their jobs that may result in neglecting families/other commitments. The issue of WLB has come to the fore since the number of employed women has increased; however, it is not an issue faced by females only.
Generally, the term WLB is equated with “family-friendly” policies but the whole idea behind WLB is not merely family friendliness. It is about working “SMART” (Boorsma and Mitchell, 2011). This article discusses research carried out to investigate the possible relationship/link between WLB and employee engagement (EE). It measures EE levels and perception of WLB of employees from two UK-based organizations and compares their results.
The case organizations
The first organization – called Org A – is one of the largest building societies in the UK. It employs more than 19,000 staff with approximately 1,000 outlets throughout the UK and has a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility. It offers a wide range of WLB facilities to its employees. Management accepts that in the year it introduced its flexible benefits scheme certain job areas improved; for example, absenteeism and turnover.
The second – Org B – is a design-led retailer that sells a range of female clothing, jewelry and accessories. HR ensures that each individual feels rewarded and encouraged. Currently the main focus is on fair procedures in performance management. It offers a comparatively limited range of WLB facilities to its employees – see Table I for a comparison between the two organizations.
Table I Comparison of available WLB facilities/practices
The study encompassed 106 employees of different branches of both organizations. Questionnaires were used to measure levels of EE and perceptions of WLB facilities offered by the respondents’ employers.
A positive link identified
None of the respondents considered WLB facilities as “not important”; they were considered as either “very important” (70 percent) or as “important” (30 percent). Part-time employment, maternity leave and pay, and job sharing were the most preferred WLB facilities respectively. A substantial number of respondents from Org B (41 percent) were “not satisfied” with overall WLB facilities.
The overall research results showed a strong positive relationship between EE and WLB. Respondents from Org A showed considerably higher EE, compared to those in Org B. The more informed respondents were about WLB the more satisfied they were – the opposite was also evident. Most respondents from Org A were better informed and satisfied with the WLB facilities on offer than those from Org B – see Figure 1.
The findings revealed a clear positive link between EE and WLB. However, EE can’t be enhanced overnight and it is not the only factor linked to WLB. Enhancing EE is like climbing a mountain; including travelling from the “base camp”, going through all the camps and then reaching the summit (Forebringer, 2002). As with climbing, neglecting any “camp” or trying to skip a camp can result in a disaster; with EE, neglecting any of its antecedents/drivers (including WLB) is likely to adversely affect all earlier effort.
WLB would seem to be critically important in this regard as “even recession didn’t appear to affect people’s attitude towards WLB” (CIPD, 2010). Though maintaining WLB is not an easy task; for employers, for example, it is a costly and monotonous process to make a work rota of employees considering everyone’s timing priorities; but it may help prevent an organization from incurring other costs relating to poor retention, absenteeism, and/or disengaged workforce etc.
Following are some recommendations for both organizations.
1. Recommendations for Org A:
Most of the respondents from Org A scored quite high on EE and satisfaction with WLB facilities. Yet, a small proportion appeared as not completely informed about all available WLB facilities. A similar percentage also appeared to have doubts on the statement asking about “fair and regular recognition.” Enhancing communication channels can be helpful here, for example, using suggestions schemes, quality circles, etc.
Org A should focus more on the WLB facilities preferred by the majority of its employees, particularly part-time working, job sharing, shift swapping and flexitime, respectively.
2. Recommendations for Org B:
Team building exercises could be useful for Org B, as the research showed some mistrust among workers. In the EE questionnaire, a high percentage of employees felt that their job wasn’t important for the mission/purpose of the company and that their co-workers weren’t committed to the quality of their work. Focus group discussions and team briefings may also be helpful to combat this.
Despite offering limited WLB facilities, those that are on offer should be properly/effectively communicated to the employees.
Org B should also focus more on the WLB facilities preferred by the majority of employees, in particular part-time working, job-sharing and flexitime.
WLB a business case
Maintaining WLB can be used as a win-win strategy, helping employees to effectively handle their personal and professional commitments and employers to retain a wide mix of skilled and engaged employees. Therefore, WLB is more a business case now than an ethical one.
Beenish WasayIndependent researcher and freelance writer.
About the author
Beenish Wasay is an independent researcher and freelance writer. She has a Master’s degree in Psychology from a Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad Pakistan. In 2010, she gained her second Master’s degree (MSc) from the University of Bedfordshire in the UK. She is a graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. Beenish Wasay can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Boorsma, B. and Mitchell, S. (2011), “Work-life innovation, smart work – a paradigm shift transforming: how, where, and when work gets done”, available at: www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/ps/Work-Life_Innovation_Smart_Work.pdf (accessed 5 January 2013)
CIPD (2010), “Employee outlook emerging from the downturn?”, available at: www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/survey-reports/employee-outlook-winter-2010-11.aspx (accessed 5 January 2013)
Forebringer, L.R. (2002), “Overview of Gallup Organization’s Q-12 Survey”, available at: www.oestrategies.com/papers/gallup.pdf (accessed 2 January 2010)