Do you think that work-life balance programs are fair? Should they be ethically obligatory for employers?

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An effective work-life balance program seeks to improve employee performance by helping employees to feel more in control of their time. Research indicates that 77% of Americans will experience burnout and that 94% of those in the professional service industry, for example, work more than fifty hours a week. This...

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An effective work-life balance program seeks to improve employee performance by helping employees to feel more in control of their time. Research indicates that 77% of Americans will experience burnout and that 94% of those in the professional service industry, for example, work more than fifty hours a week. This leaves less time for workers to spend with their families and can decrease employee health, as overworked people have less time for exercise and healthy eating. As workers become overwhelmed, they are more likely to leave their positions, increasing the turnover rate and the costs involved for companies as they continually train new people to take over those positions.

Companies who have turned to work-life balance programs offer various types of support to try and improve morale and production:

  • Flexible leave policies
  • Engagement with the community
  • Healthy work environment
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Family-friendly work environment
  • Creative time allowances to foster new ideas
  • Educational support

Work-life programs have been shown to lead to increased sales, higher employee productivity, better customer satisfaction, and higher retention. It therefore seems that such programs are a fair use of company resources as long as programs do not place an undue burden on the company. For example, allowing employees the option to work from home doesn't make sense if employees can't provide a much-needed reliable internet connection or if the needs of the job require an in-person presence for customers. Allowing paid leave for dependents is certainly beneficial for working caregivers, but parameters are needed to ensure the company doesn't face an undue burden of being unable to meet its own obligations due to employee absences.

There is ample evidence to indicate that such programs should be ethically obligatory for companies, but not all companies are able to offer the same level of support for their employees. Large companies, for example, may have the resources to offer things like in-office gyms, emergency back-up childcare, and flexible scheduling—while a small company which only employs a handful of people may not have the financial or structural resources to manage such support. The success of such programs also depends on a supervisor who is capable of maximizing employee performance while allowing for an appropriate work-life balance. Therefore, a work-life balance program should certainly be a consideration in a company's structure, but the degree to which those programs are available will vary based on the size, needs, and management of any particular company.

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