Just Having Work-Life Policies in Place Does Not Mean They are Working


Topic: Work-Life Balance
Publication: Human Resource Management
Article: Work-life policy implementation: Breaking down or creating barriers to inclusiveness? 
Blogger: Rob Stilson

Many companies now have some sort of work-life policies on the books (flex-time, telework, leaves of absence, etc.).  However, research findings indicate that these policies may either have no effect or even a negative effect on attraction, retention, and productivity (Sutton and Noe, 2005).

So what do we need to do for these policies to work as intended? Ryan and Kossek lay out four conditions the organization needs to strive for in order to implement work-life policies effectively:

  • Supervisor Support (e.g., does the supervisor work with you on telecommuting, or do they schedule important meetings when you will be away?)
  • Universality (e.g., can everyone get a piece of the pie, or do you need to have direct reports before you are allowed flex-time?)
  • Negotiability (e.g., can all employees can request a reduced workload for caretaking, but only the top performers are granted this request?)
  • Quality of Communication (e.g., are all of these policies are supported by the organization, but nobody (or only a select few) knows about them?)

So be sure to include these four criteria when thinking about how policy implementation will break down or reinforce barriers, and the dynamic effects that can result from putting these policies in place.  Conduct a needs assessment to see how and where these policies will be used and if there are any unintended consequences.

In conclusion, there may be no clear work-live balance policy “best practices” to go by since each of these issues can be so individualistic. Talk to your employees and determine the best way to implement these policies so you get the results you were aiming for in the first place.

Ryan, A. M., and Kossek, E. E. (2008). Work-life policy implementation: Breaking down or creating barriers to inclusiveness Human Resource Management, 47(2), 295-310.