The critical need to ensure an adequate work-life balance for employees in the downturn is
largely being neglected by employers as more and more pressure is put onto employees.
In 2006, 53% of employees felt they had a good work-life balance; that number fell to 30% in the first quarter of 2009.
-Corporate Executive Board, 2009
Despite concerns that the global recession would cause employers to limit or eliminate workplace flexibility, new data from the Families and Work Institute reveals that 81 percent of employers are maintaining current levels of flexibility, and 13 percent have actually increased the flexibility they offer.
Several organizations have implemented flexible options as an alternative to layoffs. It is important to offer these options in an environment of trust; some employees are skeptical about the perception of commitment that goes along with the utilization of flexible policies and are hesitant to put themselves at risk.
An Increase in Fear and Less Risk-Taking
According to a recent survey from the Center for Work Life-Policy, face time obligations more than doubled between June 2008 and December 2008, from 22% to 55%. Although policies may exist, many professionals worried about their job security don't feel comfortable asking for a staggered workday or a telecommuting arrangement. Instead, they're chaining themselves to their desks to prove they're indispensable.
Employees Believe Productivity Negatively Impacted by Layoffs
Nearly half (40%) of employees whose workplace experienced layoffs in the past year feel that the overall productivity of their organization has been negatively affected, according to a survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute.
Opportunity to Increase Corporate Agility and Reduce Costs
In January 2009, accounting giant KPMG unveiled its new Flexible Futures program for its 11,000 U.K.-based employees. The options include: A four-day workweek and a 20% reduction in base pay; a four- to 12-week sabbatical with a 30% reduction in base pay; a combination of the two options, or sticking with the status quo. This program was devised as a cost-cutting measure as an alternative to layoffs.
In a similar vein, Citigroup is lifting up flexible work with Citi Work Strategies. The program has two elements: Flexible Work Strategies encourages job sharing, flexible start and end times, and compressed work weeks. As of February 2009 it is complemented by Citi's Alternative Workplace Strategies, a push to provide a greener workplace through office-sharing and remote work. Citi hopes these programs will reduce the company's need for office space by 15% over the next several years.
Flexibility is Currency for Attracting and Retaining Talent
In the current economic environment, work–life balance now ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes —second only to compensation, according to research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board among more than 50,000 global workers. And employees who feel they have a better work–life balance tend to work 21% harder than those that don’t. (Corporate Executive Board Improve Returns on Work-Life Balance Investments)
Sloan Work and Family Research Network
This Policy Brief on Recession and Work-Family discusses the impact of the recession on Work-Family policies in U.S. businesses.