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Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
WHAT EMPLOYEES AND MANAGERS CAN DO ABOUT FINDING BALANCE BETWEEN WORK AND LIFE

By Ethel Cook, Corporate Improvement Group; and
Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

FRANK (THE ASSISTANT) SAYS:

"Sandy, I can no longer work late. I must pick up my daughter at the childcare center by 6:00 p.m."

SANDY (THE MANAGER) SAYS:

"Frank, I need you here! I work 90 hours a week and I need you here to support me."

DILEMMA:

The employee has personal needs that take precedence over his work. The manager is completely focused on work and is angry to be deserted by her competent assistant.

TYPICAL SCENARIO:
Frank is an excellent employee. Sandy has been very pleased with him for the two years he has been supporting her. Unfortunately, the work hours have gradually increased to 60 hours per week. For personal reasons, Frank needs to put limits on his work hours so that he can meet his family obligations.

SOLUTION: WHAT THE ASSISTANT CAN DO.

Frank genuinely likes his job and respects Sandy's capabilities. They make a great team. He would prefer to keep this job, but if necessary, is willing to look elsewhere. Frank can consider the following options.

  • State his needs objectively.

    Frank needs to clearly communicate his boundaries with Sandy. He also needs to communicate his willingness to support her in whatever way he can.

  • Be creative.

    Frank can offer suggestions on how he can still support Sandy. Perhaps he can set up a home office and work at home for two hours after his children go to bed. He and Sandy can take a good hard look at their output and decide what they can let go. Perhaps some of his workload can be shifted to another employee.

  • Stick to his guns.

    If he and Sandy cannot determine a mutually acceptable method of working together, then Frank needs to look for a position that better suits his life balance needs.

SOLUTION: WHAT THE MANAGER CAN DO.

Our employee survey research, with over 50 participating organizations, shows that almost half (43 percent) of the workforce feels they are unable to balance their work and personal lives to their satisfaction. In many cases, this is due to the lack of support they receive from their immediate supervisors. Sandy needs to consider the following ways to respond to Frank in this situation.

  • Be supportive

    It is unrealistic for Sandy to expect Frank to work such long hours unless this was part of their original working agreement. Sandy needs to tell Frank that she fully supports his need to leave by 6:00 and that she would like to work with him to develop solutions to the problem.

  • Develop improved work methods.

    Sandy needs to step back and take a look at how she can reengineer Frank's job so that the work can be accomplished before he must leave for the day. Undoubtedly, there are many things that can be completed before, rather than after, 6:00 PM. This may require new systems, procedures, or work methods.

  • Modify her own behavior.

    Sandy needs to realize that there are many things she can do to improve the workflow in the office. This will require her to develop improved methods for managing her time and how she conducts her work.

  • Ask Frank for suggestions.

    Rather than trying to develop the solutions herself, Sandy needs to ask Frank for his ideas about how the work can be accomplished in a more timely manner. Also, if the ideas come from Frank, he is more likely to implement them.

CONCLUSION :

Conflict between the demands of work and personal lives is a major problem in today's society. Employers need to continually work with employees to develop methods for improving work-life balance. This will help provide more productive work environments and healthier human lives.

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