Evaluating Balance Between Work and Life: A Worthy Effort by Lisa Moore and Sy Islam

We’re Lisa Moore, an I-O Psychology Doctoral candidate at the Florida Institute of Technology and Consulting Research Intern, and Sy Islam, Principal Consultant with Talent Metrics, a data-driven consulting firm. Frequently we say, “What gets measured–matters, and vice versa” to imply that as both professionals and people we want to know that our invested efforts (time, incentives, programming etc.), especially in terms of Work Life Balance (WLB), will achieve the intended outcome. Further, if you randomly asked ten people, “What’s work life balance?” you’d have ten different definitions and they’d all be right—for them. Often employees ask, “Balanced? According to who?” Some may recall a 2012 piece in The Atlantic magazine by Anne Marie Slaughter, “Women Still Can’t Have it All” in it implying women can’t have both a fulfilling career and family life, (she noted that men can’t have it all either in a later interview). WLB is effectively managing the juggling act between people’s important paid-work and non-paid work activities. Employees experiencing effective balance aren’t feeling that stressful conflict between the two (Bryne, 2005).

Broad Work-Life Balance Programming? With WLB needs being individualized, some question the pursuit of broad WLB programming at all. Findings from a 2018 Federal Work-Life Survey report by US Government Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported employee satisfaction with five traditional WLB programs (Figure 2). Consider schedule flexibility or telework to start the WLB conversation in your organization.

employee satisfaction with five traditional WLB programs table

Hot Tip #1: Fight the temptation of the quick fix/off the shelf solution. Use techniques like focus groups, surveys, and exit interviews to collect WLB specific data to know your employees’ needs and to tailor your programs. Aligning your WLB program offerings to your employee needs-analysis findings will make translating your programs selection into impact, and the later evaluation much clearer.

Hot Tip #2: When evaluating WLB programs, decide what impact the program might have on important target populations. For example, when evaluating the effect of a childcare program on low-income working parents (women), survey their ability to attend work or their concerns around childcare overall. By translating these programs into specific impacts, it’ll make the broader evaluation much easier.

Lessons Learned: Use a pre and post survey strategy when evaluating WLB programs. Consider both objective/subjective indicators of broad WLB issues among your employees. Identify indicators of WLB success (i.e. job satisfaction, and lower absenteeism). A strong example of WLB viewed as organizational wellness can be found in this PubMed article summary: Organizational Wellness Programs: A meta-analysis.

Rad Resources: Learn more about Work Life Balance.

http://www.siop.org/WhitePapers/WorkLifeBalance.pdf

Julie Zhuo Product design VP @ Facebook. https://medium.com/the-year-of-the-looking-glass/the-mystery-of-work-life-balance-b8cf09c140f8

Full OPM Work Life Survey Report: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/federal-work-life-survey/

Byrne, U. (2005). Work-life balance: Why are we talking about it at all?. Business Information Review, 22(1), 53-59.

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