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.
- Eve Tahmincioglu: Quest for Work-Life Fit Isn’t Self-Indulgent! (huffingtonpost.com)
- Work-Life Balance – Dream or Reality? (glasshalfmindful.com)
- Finally Get a Handle on Work-Life Balance (inc.com)
- Work/Life Balance: A 2-Way Street? (themarlincompany.com)