Magazine article Workforce

They Want More Support-Inside and outside of Work

Magazine article Workforce

They Want More Support-Inside and outside of Work

Article excerpt

The new word from employees is that their commitment hinges on employers helping them integrate their personal lives with their work lives.

Fifty years ago, if you used the term "work/life balance," most businesspeople would have looked at you funny. Back then, there was no such phrase let alone a concept No one acknowledged the fact that people had life issues to balance. If you worked, there was an unwritten rule that you didn't let your home life interfere with your work life. After all, what did employees' personal lives have to do with work, anyway?

Fast forward to 1998, and it's obvious the thinking on the work/life issue has changed dramatically. Or has it? That's the question thousands of employees across America are asking these days. And the answer, at least according to employees, is that although the bigger question of work/life balance has been addressed, they're now saying that businesses can still do a better job of addressing the work/life question in an everyday context.

According to the 1998 America@Works"` study conducted by Aon Consulting Worldwide Inc., an HR consulting firm based in Chicago, today's employee commitment is most strongly correlated with management's recognition of the importance of personal and family life, and the effects of work on workers' personal lives. In general, employees are crying out for more appreciation of their extra effort on the job, and how that often impacts the rest of their lives.

Workers want more supportive workplaces.

In Aon Consulting's workforce commitment study, the biggest driver of employee loyalty is having managers recognize their need to balance work with home life. But employees also value their co-workers' support of their personal lives in relationship to their work lives. Additionally, people want balance within their jobs, too.

Correlating the results of Aon's 1995 "Survey of Life-stage Needs" with its current study, we see that the amount of time workers are losing from their jobs because of personal distractions appears to be increasing. For example, in 1995, workers missed 13.6 days a year because of personal matters, but now lose an average of 15.1 (a 10 percent increase) because of the same types of distractions-which include everything from stress to caring for elderly dependents. Not surprisingly, many of the employees who miss time for one personal reason, also miss time for other personal reasons. This is especially true for time off due to stress. More than 80 percent of the employees who missed time due to stress also missed time because they had no elder-care provider or for other personal matters. And while the average time missed for stress has increased 36 percent since 1995, the percentage of employees who reported often feeling burned out by personal stress in their lives is virtually unchanged. However, the percentage of employees who report often feeling burned out by job stress has increased from 39 percent to 53 percent in 1998.

And here's the part where HR people need to perk up their ears: Increased time at work may play a part in this additional stress for workers. In 1998, 23 percent of employees reported working an average of more than 50 hours per week, compared with 13 percent of the 1995 respondents. Remember how the new employee commitment deal involves employees working harder? Well, they are, and here's the effect: Though Aon's study finds there's no correlation between missed time and employee commitment (both committed and non-committed employees have to deal with personal issues), there is a correlation between job stress and employee commitment. The 53 percent of respondents whose job stress often causes them to feel burned out are much less committed to their employers. The 28 percent of the workforce whose personal stress often causes them to feel burned out are also less committed to their employers. And the "1998 Business Work-Life Study" from the Families and Work Institute in New York City found that the better the quality of a person's job, the more committed he or she will be. …

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