This month at exaqueo, we’ve been talking a lot about work-life balance. It’s something many of us seek, yet it eludes us too. A member of #teamexaqueo recently shared an interesting story. As professionals, she said, we each have fours balls we are constantly juggling: Family, Health, Spirit and Work. The first three balls are made of glass. The last one, rubber. If you drop one of the first three, they could break. The work ball will always bounce back.
This story struck me rather profoundly. It’s not to say that work isn’t important, rather it’s points out just how fragile the other three can be if neglected.
Here at exaqueo, we are a virtual, flexible company. We all work remotely 100 percent of the time. We get our work done when our clients need it, but we’re flexible on how, when and where. We work hard so we can own our balance. We structure our schedules to be available for our clients and still balance life priorities when we need to. And personally, it’s through remote work that I am able to better juggle family, health, spirit and work.
Remote Work Increases in the U.S.
In Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report, the research states the percentage of employees “working remotely in some capacity has grown from 39 to 43 percent since 2013, and those working off-site spend more time off-site.” Employees participating in the study who work remotely, some but not all of the time, are cited as:
- Having higher engagement than individuals who never work in a remote capacity.
- Being more likely to agree they feel more productive because they work from home.
Additionally, a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that from 2003 to 2014, the average time employed persons spent working -- on days that they worked from home -- increased by 37 minutes per day. So, remote workers are more engaged and productive, and work longer hours.
Seems like the direction all companies should go. Or should they?
Working from Home: It’s Not for Everyone
In 2013, Marissa Mayer controversially banned Yahoo employees from working from home. She’s gone on the record saying, "People are more collaborative, more inventive when people come together." And while some employees disagreed with the change, others agreed that change was needed.
Yahoo certainly isn't alone in its call to bring employees back to the mother ship. Reddit, Best Buy and IBM have all cracked down or gotten rid of flexible work programs citing reasons such as:
- Needing to make changes to the company culture
- Fostering greater collaboration
- Increasing their competitive edge
- Creating greater access to resources and in-house expertise
- Improving communication between individuals and teams
- A need for closer supervision
Data and trends versus executive decisions and business need. What does all of this mean for human resources?
Flexible Work Options: Perspective and Policy
At exaqueo, we appreciate benchmarking and geek out over data. However, we also know these broad trends won’t necessarily matter to or impact your organization. What we would encourage you to do is think about how (or if) these trends and data are applicable to your organization’s goals, as well as your business and talent needs.
Don’t just follow the trends in the market. Find out what makes sense for your organization. > Click to tweet!
We speak with human resource (HR) leaders and employees all the time, and work-life balance conversations are among some of the most interesting. Even when employers provide balance and it is appreciated by top performing employees and not under scrutiny by managers, HR hesitates to talk about it internally or use it as a selling point externally. Seemingly, there is a stigma that people who seek remote or flexible work are lazy.
As HR leaders, you do need to discuss work-life balance.
What’s most important -- regardless of your company’s work from home or flexible work arrangement perspective -- is that you are clear about your policy. What does work from home mean to your organization? Do you offer jobs that are purely remote roles? Or do you offer the flexibility to work from home on specific days of the week or for specific job functions? Do you have a written policy in place? Or is working from home up to a manager’s whim?
Workplace Flexibility Requires Consistency
According to The State of Gender Equality in the Workplace study conducted in 2016 by Fairygodboss, “the degree to which work-life balance exists for a given employee most often comes down to the individual manager. Flexibility, which is a prized feature of any job, is rarely consistently or formally supported. Flexibility, which is a prized feature of any job, is rarely consistently or formally supported.”
Your employees need you to be really clear about your remote work policy, so they aren’t confused as to when working from home is acceptable. If your organization doesn’t offer remote work or flexible schedules, fine. Just communicate and carry out the policy consistently.
The same thing goes if you do offer these flexible options. People need to know how the work ball bounces, so they can juggle the life part of work-life balance.
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Shannon Smedstad (@shannonsmedstad) is a Principal Employer Brand Strategist for exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research and recruiting strategy offerings.