Friday, June 21, 2013

Work/life balance in the development of HRM strategy

The modern lifestyle has brought about many changes within organizations as well as in the society. The contemporary society has become more demanding and most families prefer having dual wage earners to enhance their living conditions. Both spouses are normally engaged in employment leaving very little time to attend to family issues. This has led to an increase in work/life conflicts in most parts of the world. Work/life conflict refers to a situation where the role pressures of life and work domains are mutually incompatible. This is a situation whereby participation in one role becomes difficult by virtue of participating in another role (Kossek et al, 1999). The conflict between family life and work is a very critical issue for individuals and organizations as it normally has negative consequences. Balancing between work and other life issues such as family is beneficial to both the employees and the employer. Organizations should always ensure work/life balance when developing a human resource management strategy. This will improve employees’ commitment to their work which consequently leads to improved performance. This essay seeks to critically analyze the importance of work/life in developing of HRM strategies.
Increased competition and harsh economic conditions have put more pressure on organizational managers as well as employees. Every business organization is looking for ways through which it can increase productivity and profitability. Most organizations are working around the clock to ensure higher productivity. Employees are forced to work for extremely long hours without enough breaks in order to achieve strict targets and deadlines imposed on them (Kossek et al, 1999). Employees that fail to meet set targets are forced to work some extra hours to accomplish their tasks or laid-off to pave way for more productive workers. This has led to the lack of balance between family life and work. More concerns have been raised in recent years over issues of work/life conflicts. However, little seems to be done about this problem due to the high demand for employment. Employers are taking advantage of desperate employees to exploit them. The lack of a balance between work and personal life negatively affects both the organization and individual employees (Bakker et al, 2009).
The human resource strategies should therefore seek to balance between work and personal life of the employees. Employees are the most valuable resources for any organization and they play a very significant role in ensuring that the organization achieves its objectives. The planning of the human resource aims to sustain a stable workforce in all times of the conduct of business. This is regardless of the economic times which are prevailing, be they favorable or otherwise. This is highly beneficial to the organization as it helps save on un-necessary employment costs and other liabilities pertaining the employees.
A stable workforce serves to increase the employee morale and improve their output and in the process adding more value to the organization (Armstrong, 2008). This is attributed to a feel of job security on the side of employees who have the secure feeling and thus dedicate much more to the organization. Proper planning by the HR serves to prevent a high rate of turnover. Work/life balance is a core consideration for employees and when they achieve it in high levels, there is a low rate of employee turnover in a firm and the output is high. Effective planning by the HR department ensures that employees are comfortable both at work and away from work. This is important for their psychological well-being which enables them to attain higher performance.
The work/life conflict leads to several negative consequences such as increased absenteeism, decreased performance, poor mental and physical health as well as increased turnover (Lambert, 1990).). The conflict between work and other personal issues in life negatively affects both organizations and individuals. The conflict can occur when work experiences interferes with family life such as extensive, inflexible or irregular working hours, work overload, interpersonal conflicts at the workplace, career transitions, extensive travel or unsupportive supervision. Things such as unexpected evening meetings may prevent a parent from picking his or her child from school thus resulting in a work-family conflict. A conflict can also occur when family issues interfere with work life. Taking primary responsibly for young children, interpersonal conflict in the family, elder care responsibilities and unsupportive family members are examples of family issues that are likely to cause conflicts. A parent may be forced to take some days off from work so that he or she can attend to sick child.
According to research findings, work responsibilities are more likely to interfere with family issues as opposed to family issues interfering with work roles (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). This is because employers in most cases expect employees with families to have someone else tending to their home duties thus leaving the worker unencumbered. However, both types of conflict have negative consequences to the organization as well as individuals. People`s lifestyles have changed in recent days leading to a new trend whereby most families are dual earning. None of the parent is left home to tend to family issues. This has led to increased conflicts between family life and work roles. Most of the organizations have busy working schedules which consumes most of the employees time. This prevents most people from attending to family issues resulting into a conflict.
A workaholic habit can have adverse effects on a person’s relationship with his or her partner. This can affects one`s private life because involves exclusion of other important activities such as spending some time with spouses that is significant for a happy and healthy relationship. Over indulgence on work related issues may cause stress to both partners which makes them less supportive to one another (Krouse & Afifi, 2007). Work/life conflicts have led to increased misunderstandings within relationships. Several marriages have been broken as a result of these conflicts which hinder some partners from performing their responsibilities in the families. The current business world has become more competitive and organizations are working round the clock to increase their output. Some organizations lock up their employees for long hours with an aim of increasing productivity. This has contributed to the breakage of many marriages across the world. Over engagement in work related issues leads to forfeiture of important family roles which negatively affects many marriages.
Lack of balance between work and life causes stress to employees which lead to psychological disturbance (Cox et al, 2000). The conflict between family life and work roles have contributed to more than one third of strain cases among men. Issues such as interpersonal conflicts, work overload and unsupportive supervision can affect the employees psychologically. Similarly, family problems such as sickness among family members and interpersonal conflicts within families can also cause psychological disturbance to an individual. This reduces the performance of employees within the organization since they are unable to concentrate on their work. Motivation can help employees to overcome the challenges and improve their performance. Supportive policies should therefore be implemented by organizations to motivate workers. The human resources managers should seek to balance between employees’ personal life and work when developing HRM strategies for the organization (Armstrong, 2008). Managers and supervisors should inspire their subordinates and give them moral support. Leaders should listen to individual problems and help them find a solution.

The effects of stress on different workers are diverse and varied; the most common is that the stress will affect the physical and mental health of the employees in question. For most part workers who are stressed find it very difficult to relax or pay attention to their organizational tasks. The stress causes them to think illogically and make very poor decisions as compared to when they are in their normal state. Stressed employees are also on record as being very irritable and snappy (Leka et al, 2003). They rarely get enough sleep at night and are always sleepy or extremely tired when they report to their work stations. These effects of stress on an employee will ultimately affect the organization in which they work. As a consequence of the stress that they are going through, there will be a reduction in the productivity and creativity of the workers translating to a reduction in the estimated profit margins for the organization.

Balancing between personal life and work is very important to both employees and employers. Both parties should be committed on ensuring that there is harmony between work and personal life. The blame for work/life conflicts is normally placed on different people depending on the prevailing circumstances. Some people blame their work while others blame their families. Individuals who blame their work for causing the conflict end up being frustrated which negatively affects their performance. Likewise, family matters can also lead to stress hence reduced performance. It is therefore important to avoid conflicts from both home and work fronts. Unexpected visits by relatives and last-minute meetings at the office are some of the most common causes of work/life conflicts. There are changes in expectations about self-fulfillment and the changes in the meaning of success which have forced many employees to commit most of their efforts on work-related issues.

The work/life conflicts can be reduced through establishment of family-friendly policies within the workplaces (Lambert, 1990). This can be achieved by developing flexible schedules whereby employees are able to control their work schedules. This will give employees a chance to choose work schedules that suits their lifestyle and strike a balance between personal issues and work roles. Telecommuting and telework policies can also be implemented to allow workers perform their duties from home. Employees should be allowed some time off from their work to attend to family issues (Swanson et al, 1998). Parental, Maternity, paternity and sick leaves should be given to employees so that they can settle their family issues before embarking on work. An organization can also opt to provide child care options which may include establishment of an on-site child care center, supplemented child care fees and provision of insurance. The supervisors and mangers should be supportive to the employees and ensure that family friendly policies are implemented to the letter. Modern technology can also be used to minimize the effects of work/life conflicts. There is an increase in connectivity which enables people to communicate easily with their families without necessarily being together. The use of cell phones, the internet and other gadgets allow family members to stay in touch with their loved ones.

According to this research, the modern business environment has become more competitive putting more pressure on both employees and employers especially during economic downturn. Employees are forced to work extra hard in order to maximize their output and improve the company`s competitiveness. The changes in the demographic layout within the current organizations have also led to more women getting involved in employment. The new hiring practices have led to increased diversity in the workplace which is considered as a positive trend. However, involvement of both genders in employment has led to an increase in work-family conflicts in the modern world. These conflicts greatly affect individuals suffering from them, their employers as well as their families. It is important for both the employer and employees to prevent occurrence of work-family conflicts.
A comprehensive and robust model explaining how the conflicts arise should be established to prevent the negative consequences associated with them (Frone et al, 1997). Over indulgence in work-related issues prevents an individual from performing family responsibilities which causes a conflict. Similarly, paying too much attention to family issues can negatively impact of an individual`s work performance. It is therefore important to balance between work and family issues for the benefit of both employees and employers. It is the responsibility of both the employer and the employee to minimize work-family conflicts. Implementation of flexible work schedules and the use of modern technology such as telework, and telecommuting can help in reducing these conflicts. Supporting and participative leadership also help in minimizing work/life conflicts. Employees should be allowed some time off duty to attend to family issues. Parental, Maternity, paternity and sick leaves are important for the employees` well being. Balancing between work issues and family matters gives the employees a psychological satisfaction which enhances their performance.

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