There are myths or assumptions about what the family-friendly workplace really means. Some of the commonly held myths and the corresponding reality checks are as follows:
- Family-Friendly policies are soft HR issues, mainly for women. Policies that increase employee health and well-being, foster employee commitment and support families, positively impact everyone (employees; men and women, customers and clients, families and communities.) In some organizations, it is women who have pushed for family-friendly policies since they are usually the primary caregivers, responsible for child care, eldercare and health care as well as primarily responsible for household management (shopping, meals, laundry, cleaning etc.) and are either major contributors to family income or the primary family breadwinner. Men and women at all levels of companies, in all stages of their career development and all stages of their life cycle are seeking flexibility to achieve a better work-life balance.
- Management will lose control. Some managers may have concerns about giving up control over their workforce by implementing supportive policies and practices, however they actually gain more control over outputs and results by giving control of time management to employees. By providing more control to their employees, managers can help establish a better working relationship. These employees, now more satisfied with their work-life balance, are more inclined to show loyalty to their manager and company. As a result, these managers will likely see a lower turnover rate in their departments.
- Flexibility is unfair and inequitable. Some managers consider that there needs to be a “one size fits all” solution to flexibility. The reality is that everyone has different needs and so the solutions will be very personal. Different people need different forms of flexibility at different points in their lives (i.e., when they have a baby or when they want to continue their education). Other people are content to work a more traditional workweek and prefer the stability and predictability of a standard work schedule. Solutions to employee needs for flexibility should be custom fits.
- Hours at work = results (notion of “face time”) In a traditional workplace, managers could always see their employees and so considered them to be working and productive. With employees exploring alternate ways to work such as telecommuting, managers may no longer see them. Some may have concerns about what employees are doing during the day if working from home. The keys to success are good trust, regular communication and clear performance targets.
- Only for non-managerial positions. This was the case when flexible work options were first introduced in the 1990’s. However, as more women have moved into senior management positions and more men are juggling their careers with fatherhood, this has changed. Many companies offer their work-life balance policies to employees at all levels.
- Participation in family-friendly policies is a career-limiting move. Research studies have shown that for most people, working a flexible work arrangement does not limit their careers, although it may slow down the career path, or reduce some options. For example, if an employee reduces their work hours, they may not be willing or interested in taking a position or promotion that requires extended travel. Employees need to assess the pros, cons and career impact when deciding whether a flexible work arrangement is for them.If however, the career impact is the result of unsupported assumptions (e.g., those who use flexible work arrangements are less committed to the company or unable to take on increased responsibility), you may need to take measures to dispel these perceptions. It is also one of the reasons, it is recommended to conduct follow-up assessments of your programs and policies. You could, for example, assess over time, the impact on promotions of those who use work-life options such as flexible work arrangements versus those in traditional work situations.
- Hard to measure impact on bottom line. Many companies now have access to solid statistics about how family-friendly policies positively impact the bottom-line. Through employee attitude surveys, focus groups and pilot tests, senior management know that employees with lower work-family conflict have less stress and anxiety about “doing it all” and are better able to focus on their jobs and their customers.
- It won’t work for jobs with direct customer contact. With more companies moving towards 24/7 operations, telephone call-centres and service provided at customer’s homes and offices, the need for flexibility has grown. Customers are looking for good quality service, and prefer to deal with a happy employee who is satisfied with their work.
More than ever before, we play many roles in our lives. We are workers, parents, spouses, friends, caregivers and volunteers in their communities. We also try and make room in our lives for taking care of our own well-being. Not surprisingly, achieving balance among all these competing priorities can be difficult. Here in Canada 58% of people report overload associated with their many roles.
While you can’t control all of the factors that impact your work/life balance, there are some things you can control. Life is made up of several parts working together to bring the balance needed for optimal wellness:
- Physical: nutritious food, safe water, healthy air, exercise
- Mental: intellectual challenges, knowledge, thoughts
- Emotional: feelings, belonging, security
- Philosophical: authenticity, spirituality, meaning, attitudes
- Social: relationships with others, friendships
- Career: finances, fulfillment
- Recreational: leisure, fun, sports
Finding the ideal balance between work and life is rare. The nature of that balance is different for every person, and can change over time. We shouldn’t try for perfection, but constantly be aware of making choices that will benefit all aspects of our lives. Achieving work/life balance is an investment – it takes time and effort to implement. But it’s worth the effort.
One only has to pay attention to the news to know there are still a lot of people looking for employment. Unfortunately, the factors which lead to their unemployment have reduced the number of jobs available. If you’re out there looking for work, you know how much competition there is for each job.
You’ve landed an interview. You’re nervous and inventing “what if” scenarios. With these 4 P’s, you’ll increase your chances of a successful interview.
Preparation is the first step toward a good interview. It takes time and work, but it’s crucial. Assess yourself to identify the skills you have to contribute to a company and job. Take stock, by listing on paper, your:
- skills and competencies
- values and needs
- personal characteristics.
Knowing your profile and what you want will give you more confidence and demonstrate to the interviewer you are purposeful and reflective—skills employers want employees to have.
Know the company
Learn all you can about the company you want to work for and the position you’ve applied for:
- Call or visit the company and ask for information: brochures, the latest annual report, the goals and direction of the company, and other publications that might be useful. Look for a company website—your might get all the information there.
- Find out the company’s vision and mission statement. You’ll get a feeling for how the company operates and how it sees its employees.
- Be sure you know what the position requires. Ask the human resources department for a job description or find out more about the job from another worker in the company. Find someone who does similar work.
Knowing this information will show you’re interested in the company and motivated about the job qualities employers look for.
Know your contribution
With research done, you’re ready to anticipate questions you might be asked. Remember, the employer is trying to find out three things: can you do the job, will you do the job and will you fit the company’s style. Keep those things in mind during your interview and take opportunities to demonstrate how you will meet them. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
- Create a master list of accomplishments from your work, leisure and volunteer activities and include the results achieved.
- Review your accomplishments. Which are key to the position’s needs?
- Write down questions an interviewer might ask. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and think about what you would like a potential candidate to answer.
- Tap your memory for stories that illustrate your skills and successes. Use the Situation, Action and Result (SAR) formula. For example, you saw a problem in the manufacture of a product and you took the initiative to find a way to solve it, or you worked on or managed a difficult project. Using SAR, describe the situation, explain your approach and describe the results.
Employers want to know what your track record is in achieving results and how you will contribute to successful outcomes.
Practice, practice, practice. Practice what you’re going to say and how you will say it. Use video or audio tape to see and hear how you perform.
Don’t memorize questions and answers. Instead, develop key points, based on the preparation step, that you want the interviewer to know about you. These key points can be used to respond to a variety of questions. Get someone to help by role-playing an interview scenario.
It’s important that you ask relevant questions during the interview. Make a list of three or four things you want to know about the position or the company. (Make sure these are questions you wouldn’t be expected to already know from your research.)
The employer wants to know how you communicate and wants to hear how your skills, knowledge and expertise match the needs of the position.
This step is all about how to act in the interview.
- Are you fully involved? Do you appear to be motivated? Are you enthusiastic about the opportunity? Are you on your best behaviour?
- Sit with good posture, leaning slightly forward to show interest. Body language is important.
- Your tone of voice is key to communicating participation and perspective.
- Make good eye contact—interviewers will expect you look them in the eye with confidence.
- Watch the interviewer’s body language and expressions for keys to how you’re doing. Mirror some of the interviewer’s body language.
- Listen closely to the questions so you can answer them accurately.
- Be direct. Don’t ramble or go off topic.
- Take time to think before you respond.
Give your utmost attention to the interview and the interviewer—this tells the employer you are dedicated to your commitments.
Most people feel anxious when going on a job interview. You can choose to be positive and confident, even if you are nervous. It’s up to you. If you were the interviewer, what attitude would you prefer to see in a potential candidate?
Think of the interview as simply a meeting in which two parties are trying to find information which benefits each. This could decrease your anxiety levels. The employer wants to know if you can do the job, if you will do the job, and if you will fit into the organization, but it’s not a one-way exercise. You’re also trying to figure out if this is the type of organization where you want to use your skills and knowledge.
Your attitude is crucial to show the employer you are responsible to make your own choices.
Make your interview a positive and successful learning experience. By using the 4 P’s you might even enjoy the experience.
Take this Work/Life Balance quiz from the Canadian Mental Health Association. It will open in a new window. Once you have your results, come back here for some tips to help you manage the balance between work and life.
- Decide what is important. If you do not have a clear sense of your personal values, goals and priorities, you will not be able to determine which activities are important to furthering your life plan.
- Eliminate the unnecessary. Once you have a clear picture of your life plan, drop those things that do not move your goals forward. Learn to say no!
- Protect Your Goals and Priorities. Everyone will have an opinion as to how you should be living your life. Listening to opinions is fine, being dictated to is not. Live the life you want, not the one your parents or best friends or anyone else thinks you should be living.
- Don’t go it alone. Get the support of family and friends. Give your partner permission to remind you when things seem to be getting out of balance. Better yet, your partner should be involved in developing your life plan.
- Schedule brief breaks for yourself throughout the day. Your productivity and effectiveness will increase if you take short breaks every couple of hours. You will get more accomplished.
- At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available.
- Only respond to email once or twice a day. Then, shut off your email program to avoid being distracted as messages come in.
- Make a distinction between work and the rest of your life. Protect your private time by turning off electronic communications. Don’t be available 24/7.
- Address concerns about deadlines and deliverables early. As soon as you see that a deadline is unrealistic, communicate your concern to your employer – don’t wait until the deadline passes.
- Take all of your allotted vacation time. Taking vacation allows you to come back to work refreshed and more productive.
- Learn to say no!
- Create a buffer between work and home. After work, take a brief walk, do a crossword puzzle, or listen to some music before beginning the evening’s routine.
- Decide what chores can be shared or let go. Determine which household chores are critical and which can be done by someone else. Let the rest go.
- Exercise. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed.
- Create and implement a household budget. Start by setting aside some money from each pay cheque for the future.
- Make healthy food choices. Healthy eating will gives you and your family more energy.
- Pursue a hobby. Either with friends or family or for some quality time on your own.
- Learn to say no!
In Your Community
- Make choices. Social, community and volunteer obligations pull us in many directions. Choose the ones that are most fulfilling and learn to say ‘no’ to the rest.
- Manage expectations. Be clear at the outset about how much time or support you can contribute to community organizations or your children’s school events.
- Learn to say no!