Work-life balance is defined as the process of achieving priority between career and ambition in comparison with family obligations, spiritual development, pleasure and leisure. The volatility of today’s economic world coupled with the desire to bow to social obligations has created a clear distinction between work and life. As a result, achieving a balance between family commitments and work responsibilities has become a public predicament for many people. (Work-life Balance.com, 2003)
The increasing cost of life characterized by high inflation rates, global credit crunch, poverty and the encroachment of informal settlement in the midst of our society has also created a lot of pressure on people to devote major attention to work responsibilities than family affairs. However, there should be a greater emphasis and need to give priority to family affairs as well. The purpose of this paper is to help advance the knowledge of the reader in understanding the concept of work-life balance by exploring inevitable features inherent in the matters forming the theses for critical discussion. (Mayo clinic staff, 2008)
The introduction of information technology and the resulting competitive work environment have led to a substantial increase in work. Consequently, organizations have been compelled to put more pressure on their employees to produce more by working for long hours. The man force especially the unskilled laborer has typically fallen prey as they try to adhere to their masters in order to secure elongated job tenures.
This implies that much more time is spent at work than at home. Work-life balance has generated a heated debate topic which in turn has attracted quite a number of professionals and experts. Most managers have now identified and singled it as a topic on its own and that there are several training modules specifically designed for employees. The objective of this paper is to help identify how work-life balance can be managed in the workplace. (Mayo clinic staff, 2008)
About Magadi Soda
Magadi Soda Company is an Indian-owned manufacturing corporation registered in Kenya that specializes in producing Sodium carbonate and salt. It was founded in 1911. The company is located at the heart of Lake Magadi, one of the few lakes found along the Great Rift Valley formed as a result of faulting. The survival of Magadi Soda Company is entirely dependent on the presence of this salty lake.
The company’s Mission Statement is to provide its customers with low-cost quality products and excellent service.
The company’s work/life programs
Magadi Soda’s work-life balance program has always come under fierce criticism. The whole program is characterized by the following features:
- Employees work full days from Monday to Friday with half-day work on Saturday.
- There are no shifts
- There are no part-time work schedules
- Offs are very rare and may only be given on how best one is related to the boss
- The working hours are not flexed for parents as well as the old age.
Objectives of the proposal
To enhance individual productivity, responsibility, and dedication so that an organization is able to achieve some of its key objectives.
To enhance harmony and team spirit through the creation and formation of teamwork and communication channels.
To improve the workers’ morale by creating a platform on which organizations can accept that employees also have a commitment to their personal lives. (Work-life Balance.com, 2003)
Benefits of the proposal to an individual
- The individuals will have more meaning, value and balance in their daily life.
- There will be a better understanding of everyone’s individual work life and balance.
- There will be increased productivity.
- Individuals will develop good relationships both on and off the work.
- There will be a reduction of stress in personal life.
As has been discussed above, conditions in a mining company are likely to be pathetic; the organizations should be able to create an atmosphere that is likely to ignite staff morale while at the same time taking care of their personal as well as family life. The framework of this project is to ensure that there is no gap between the employee’s family life and his/her work responsibility. Stress occurs when the organization begins to issue too many job instructions and tight work schedule such that an employee remains completely subordinate and therefore has no or little time for his personal life.. (Work-life Balance.com, 2003)Following the discussion that we had during our brainstorming session, it was found out that:
First, for parents to keep their minds at work Magadi Soda should build a kindergarten within the company’s premises. This was seen as a strategy to reduce stress from employees who kept on dreaming and thinking about their kids at school. This eliminated the possibility of parents wanting to report to work late and leave early due to children’s commitments. The same thinking was shared across the meeting with the immediate senior deputy operations manager giving it a hundred percent okay. (Whaples, 2001)
Magadi Soda is a mining company that specializes in extracting soda ash. Soda ash is widely used in the building and construction industries as well as in the chemical manufacturing industries. During recession periods it was recommended that the company relaxes its working hours. This was to allow employees to pay more attention to their family affairs. This was also found to boost the morale of most of the employees. According to the opinion polls conducted privately on Magadi Soda, most respondents agreed with the suggestion and the performance for the first three-quarters of the company during the introduction of this policy was on an upward trend. (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2007)
The economic depression resulted in Magadi Soda retrenching many employees. This created intense pressure on the remaining employees to take up additional job responsibilities. The end result was unfathomed stress. The group decided that it was important that jobs are shared; this was instrumental in reducing stress as people worked in groups and teams. The working environment created by teams produced powerful results than when individuals are working separately. (Whaples, 2001)
Ethical work schedules
There have been several complaints about which days should be preserved as the worship days. Most employees are governed by their traditional and religious beliefs and practices. It follows that the Jewish communities prefer Saturday as the Sabbath. On the other hand, the Muslim communities worship on Fridays with the rest worshipping on Sunday. This created a lot of controversies. At Magadi Soda, the research found out that employees were forced to work seven days a week including Saturday that the Jewish prefer as their Sabbath Day. The sessions concluded that ethical work schedules are likely to achieve a work-life balance. (Wide Variation in European Maternity Benefits, 2007)
Employee assistance programs
The sessions suggested that in order to reduce more stress associated with the hard nature of mining that normally takes place under the scorching sun, it was necessary that employees be subjected to assistance programs. These problems were designed to look specifically into the welfare of employees especially in the glass division. The particular areas in question were psychology and emotional behavior. Since the staff was much more susceptible to stress resulting from long periods of work. This could have led to fatigue. The study proposed that an organization should have at least a psychiatrist whose main function would be to study psychological behavior, especially at work. (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2007)
Stress seminars and time management
Tight schedules and the desire to complete the work within the required time frame may lead to an employee spending more time at work than at home. This may lead to prolonged stress and consequently boredom. Where this happens, productivity per employee will reduce proportionally. It is important that staff are given opportunities to attend stress and time management seminars so that they get to know different ways in which their workmates in other places do manage their time. Good time management was essential in ensuring that employees strike a balance between their work and family life. This was identified as a positive move towards increased productivity. (Wide Variation in European Maternity Benefits, 2007)
It was discussed that there should be time out for family obligations. This was said to be once a month. The reason was to spend more time at home with family members. This practice is increasingly gaining tremendous speed within some big and developed organizations. A typical example was found in Germany where medium and small entities are now realizing that achievement of the organizational goals is broader than the company. It requires that employees are not only motivated by extrinsic rewards but also by looking at their emotional behavior and personal life. This includes family and daycare. (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2007)
Telecommuting and sabbaticals
Telecommuting provides employees with the most flexibility and freedom. Quite a several studies show that people like freedom and flexibility than pay. This is mostly experienced by professionals and academicians. The truth of the matter is that the skilled labor force does not easily accept pressure and tight schedules. (Whaples, 2001)
At Magadi Soda, it is not easy to allow employees to work part-time but due to the development of modern technology, it is increasingly becoming common. People can be assigned tasks to work on. Where people work at home they feel relaxed. Despite Magadi being a mining company, still it can allow its employees to work at home. Clerical and administrative work can be sent through the websites and employees work on their laptops. This can reduce stress significantly. (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2007)
Working in the mine for the whole day throughout the week was very cumbersome, especially for parents. Parents with children aged six years and below must be given more flexible working hours. Along with this, the session proposed to establish a children’s daycare next to the company where young kids below school age could be taken. This was seen to be instrumental in uniting parents with their kids and helped ease the home hangovers.
Even though the cost of living has soared high and that organizations are also under pressure to achieve and maintain sustainable competitive advantage, a desirable work balance must be achieved. This is so because employees are social beings who apart from extrinsic rewards are also psychologically motivated and therefore a balance must be attained between work and personal life. (Wide Variation in European Maternity Benefits, 2007)
A big gap between employee’s work and family life is likely to lead to stress. Continued stress is likely to cause depression and anxiety which have been found to be the biggest inhibitors of performance. Good managers are people who constantly carry out appraisals to determine whether employees are meeting their performance targets or not. Due to the prevailing economic circumstances, any underperformance is likely to cost the company adversely. The mining industry is associated with heavy industrial work right from extraction up to the point of sale. Staff morale becomes a critical factor and therefore much attention should be paid to employees’ affairs. (Whaples, 2001)
These are leaves that are provided by a country’s labor laws and are enforced by the industrial courts. These leaves include Family medical annual leave, maternity leave, Small necessities Act, and wage and hour laws, annual work leave, etc. the session also provided that all these statutory acts be reviewed regularly so that employees are given more time to be with their family members. (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2007)
This paper provides an overview of the topic and introduces the reader to understand the concept of work-life balance. It’s understood that there is a positive correlation between employee’s productivity and morale. By critically analyzing the social factors which affect the performance of an employee in the workplace, this paper provides a ground on which managers can use to increase the performance of employees by highlighting factors necessary to achieve a desirable work-life balance within an organization. Finally, it gives recommendations on the way forward for corporations on matters related to work-life balance.
Work-life balance should always feature as a prominent topic in every organizational setup. The performance of employees can be seriously affected by stresses that come from work. A well-coordinated work environment should ensure that employees are not turned into machines. On the other side, if employees spend too much time on their family affairs, the organization can suffer too. The fact is that stress is an inhibitor to performance while absenteeism is also an inhibitor to organizational success. The responsibility of the management should be to constantly review the work environment and recommend necessary changes.
Mayo clinic staff. Work-life Balance: Ways to restore harmony and reduce stress. 2008. Web.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. U.S. Department of Labor. 2007. Web.
Whaples, Robert, ed. “Hours of work in U.S. History.” 2001. Web.
Wide Variation in European Maternity Benefits. HRM Guide. 2007. Web.
Work life Balance.com.Work-life Balance Defined-What it really means! 2003. Web.