Senior buy-in needed for better work-life balance

first_imgUnwillingness on the part of management and IT departments to activelysupport homeworkers is challenging HR’s plans to introduce flexibility to theworkplace, writes Quentin ReadeMany employers are struggling to successfully introduce work-life balancepolicies despite the benefits they can offer in boosting productivity andhelping to attract and retain key staff. New research reveals that efforts to help staff balance their work and homelives through such initiatives as flexible working hours, home working andcompressed working weeks often fail because of a lack of management and ITsupport. A report by the Institute for Employment Studies finds that althoughorganisations are increasingly offering work-life balance options, employeesare often reluctant to embrace them. Other research by Nextra claims attempts to introduce flexible working arealso undermined by unco-operative IT departments, which don’t offer enoughsupport for remote workers. Sally Dench, author of the IES report Worklife Balance: Beyond the Rhetoric,said HR and senior management must take the lead if employers are serious aboutempowering staff and making work-life balance part of their culture. It is onlywith support from the top of an organisation that line managers will have theconfidence to approve and encourage changes to traditional working practices,claims Dench. “There is a need to lead from the top. Both individuals and theirmanagers need support to overcome real barriers. If senior managers are seriousabout promoting work-life balance they need to take a more proactive stance; itrarely happens without positive leadership from above,” she said. The importance of managerial support for the effective introduction offlexible working polices is also highlighted by Roffey Park expert ClaireMcCartney. She agrees that having formal work-life balance policies isirrelevant unless line managers have the necessary skills and a commitment tointroduce them. McCartney advises HR professionals to carry out research within theirorganisations to discover what support managers need and then create guidelinesto help them. “The culture needs to be developed over the years and becomeengrained in the organisation,” said McCartney. The IES report finds that another reason for the poor take up of flexibleworking policies is that many staff are still getting used to the culturechange and are reluctant to break entrenched practices such as long-hoursworking and presenteeism. Dench said: “Rights to time off and flexible working are rarely enoughon their own. A change in culture and attitudes within the organisation isnecessary for the successful implementation of work-life balancepractises.” Fran Wilson, advisor at the CIPD, said the promotion of flexible working isheld back because many employees are concerned that adopting new work patternswill adversely affect their careers. “Sometimes people are scared that ifthey are not in the office they will be forgotten about,” she added. Wilson also believes that staff working from home often worry that theycannot prove how much work they have done away from the office – especially ifit is creative or thinking-based and does not have a specific end product. Wilson said HR, line managers and staff need to talk the issue of work-lifebalance through properly to ensure that mutual trust is developed. The introduction of progressive working practices such as working from homeare also often hindered by a lack of support from an organisation’s ITdepartment, according to research by telecoms company Nextra. Its survey of1,000 HR directors found that most are battling with their IT departments overthe amount of support flexible workers need. Only 4 per cent of respondents believe their IT departments promote flexibleworking in contrast to 42 per cent who report that their HR department does. The HR professionals polled believe there is a reluctance among ITdepartments to support work-life balance initiatives because they see it as anadditional drain on their time and resources. Barry Hartop, chief executive of Nextra UK, said: “IT departments arealready using their resources to the maximum supporting workers within theorganisation. Supporting remote workers brings a whole new set of headaches,especially in terms of providing the sort of 24/7 helpdesk support and hardwaremaintenance that flexible workers require.” Hartop advises firms to overcome these problems by having IT workersdedicated to supporting remote workers. Another solution is outsourcing IT support to a third-party specialist.”The survey shows that people who flexi-work are also likely to be theleast IT savvy within an organisation. This only emphasises the need for ITsupport to be constantly available as productivity gains – not to mentionreturn on investment in the technology itself – from flexible working will belost if the technology is not accessible,” said Hartop. Karen Janman, director of consultancy at Flexecutive, believes thatorganisations must ensure both their HR and IT departments are committed andworking together to ensure the successful introduction of work-life balancepolicies. She warned that problems of inadequate IT support or systems arisewhen flexible working practices are introduced without thorough planning. Janman believes that once initial IT systems are in place, supporting remoteworkers is not necessarily any more costly or time-consuming than supportingany other employee. “Once it is piloted the policy can be rolled outsmoothly,” she added. She said: “You need IT and HR directors on board. You need to look atthe whole issue of flexible working more strategically.” Senior buy-in needed for better work-life balanceOn 7 May 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. last_img read more