Work – life balance for women in organisations: emerging trends and strategies



Tanushree Sharma

Assisstant Manager

Talent at Ernst Young

Work life balance for women in organizations: Emerging trends and Strategies

 There have been many articles on work-life balance, theories, research papers etc. Yet 60 years of literature haven’t answered what makes an employee happy or satisfied. The demographics of the Indian workforce have changed in the last decade. The stereotype of the male breadwinner is no longer pertinent. But the wife still cooks and washes and runs the house. So, how does she balance her work with life at home?

Womennot only balance work and families these days, they also balance socializing, hobbies, taking care of parents or children, meeting deadlines in the office – exemplifying ‘multitasking’ at its best! However, women have lost a lot in the bargain. Lifestyle-related diseases have become commonplace, and young deaths, related to heart diseases or obesity, are so common it almost seems natural. The ‘new normal’ is spending as much as 12-16 hours every day in office, giving rise to terms like ‘corporate slavery’. This finally leads to attrition, as people quitfor greener ‘stress-free’ pastures.

Because of these reasons, work-life balance is now a top priority for companies everywhere. However, when it comes to work/life balance, a “‘one-size-fits-all”’ approach won’t help us. ’The shoe that fits one may pinch the other’. The preexistingfamily-friendly policies like work from home, mentoring, coaching programs, medical assistance or Fun Activities like: – Friday Fun, celebrating festivals at work aren’t enough to keep the employees happy.

The HR team, in consultation with business, needs to re-evaluate work itself, how is it structured and organized to accommodate the employees’ needs.Processes need to be re-designed to recognize that not all employees are the same and that employees’ needs may change over time.

For example: – Companies may realize the need to reduce the amount of work given to each employee. To accomplish this, employers can hire new people, reduce time spent in work-related travel, and allow for job sharing.

Next, in order to create, a truly pleasurable work environment, the top management or the immediate supervisors need to be empathic towards employees (men or women).Here are some simple ways to make employees happy: –

  • A re-design process to eliminate non-value added activates –The managers need to set priorities for all work. Help employees plan their workweek&weekend activities, depending on the comfort levels of the employees.
  • Train supervisors to recognize signs of overwork and re-distribute work by creating an employee work schedule, which not only, meets the business needs, but also, takes care of an employee’s family life and personal career growth.
  • Offer flexi-time specifically for women – give employees a chance to communicate their preferred work hours.
  • Offer on the job training solutions or allow employees to take leave for community service or CSR projects.
  • Do not try to fit square pegs in round holes – Encourage entrepreneurial instincts. Let the top-talent employees choose their own career path.
  • Encourage innovation and be open to change.

Satisfaction, contentment, happiness and a sense of well being, is equally, or more important, than money, for all ‘Gen X’ employees. It is to enjoy all their rights, irrespective of their gender, to express their needs freely, to make their choices freely& to equal respect.

I’ll share an example of an HR initiative taken by a company. The HR team removed all restrictions on the days of leave for a particular process. This meant that the employees could take any number of days/weeks off by simply informing their managers & ensuring it doesn’t affect the work. Now, you’d think this would lead to a lot of leave approvals. However, counterintuitive to that, employees barely took any days off, as there was no pressure of ‘using’ the leave quota by the end of the year. The idea behind this flexibility was trust.

We need to re-engineer processes to map the daily work to the employee’s expectation of ‘meaningful work’ and trust them to get the job done.Organizations need to step up to protect an employee’s personal time and to make an effort to tip the balance in their work-life hours for building a truly engaged, happy workforce and remain competitive as a business.

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