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March 11, 2014
Study finds some employees reluctant to use work-life balance programs

You may be surprised to learn why some employees are saying “no thanks” to programs intended for their well-being. Keep reading to learn what one expert believes may be the reason.

According to new university research, job insecurity is still a concern for many employees in the wake of the Great Recession, and it may be affecting employees’ participation in work-life programs. (Examples of these are meditation classes, flextime options, seminars, employee assistance programs, telecommuting, and compressed workweeks.)

Notes study coauthor T. Brad Harris of the University of Illinois, “Feelings of job insecurity can be harmful to employee well-being and, moreover, they may also prevent employees from using workplace programs aimed at improving their well-being. It’s a vicious cycle that merits more attention.” According to Harris, some employees fear that participating in these initiatives could further undermine their job security.

The irony is that job-support initiatives may go unused by the employees who could benefit most from them. Harris says that to counter this, organizations should actively work to make employees feel more secure in their jobs and communicate that using support programs does not have a negative connotation.

He said employers can help validate the benefits of work/life balance programs as valuable and contributing to better employee performance and fewer turnovers.

Harris notes that the perceptions of managers carry a lot of weight for workers. “If they fear their supervisors’ opinions might be negatively swayed by the use of a particular support program, they will probably refrain from using it,” Harris says.

Tips to improve work/life balance for your employees

As an employer, you can help employees learn how to manage their work/life boundaries. Here are five steps you can take.

  1. Be flexible. If it’s practical for your business, offer alternative work arrangements such as modified schedules or job sharing.
  2. Reduce their commutes. Give personnel whose jobs can be done remotely the option of working from home one or more days a week.
  3. Watch the clock. Avoid contacting staff outside of office hours unless the matter is urgent and cannot wait until the next business day.
  4. Take a breather. Remind workers to take breaks and vacations. Set a good example by doing so yourself.
  5. Bring in reinforcements. Encourage employees to seek help when they are overwhelmed with projects. Use temporary professionals when necessary to alleviate workloads.

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