WORK LIFE / BALANCE DEBATE - Part I: A BUSINESS, A HR, OR PERSONAL CHOICE?

Work/Life balance exists and is possible for privileged functions. It is undeniably  accessible at both ends of the spectrum: high- and low-end positions, and globally, to a certain extent. The difference is in income stability and real choices. Is work/life balance just empty words or an intellectual speech for some of us? In a SHRM article, it is defined as a myth. So true, it is a matter of priorities.
ACC Report- 2014 (on In-House Counsels)



TOUCH: THREE ASPECTS OF WORK/LIFE BALANCE

 

Until you know first hand through one way or another about a specific subject, it is just talk, intellectualized talk. If you have ever been in a French environment, you would know about dwelling into that intellectual talk. Somehow inexplicably satisfying.  So, flexibility, let's talk about it, really: you have to touch and feel it. Then you would be able to say that you know it, from an individual standpoint. There are three major faces of Work/Life Balance.

1- Work/Life Balance by Occupation


At one end of the spectrum is the face of life/work balance that is in essence available  to economically- or financially- privileged occupations. Many children of medical professionals have chosen to avoid the field because they feel that their parent(s) are too absent or too unavailable. The same goes for children of many business executives. By the same token, many professionals prefer to stay at the middle or lower management levels, by choice of lifestyle. But that's because those children or individuals only saw one aspect of the profession(s). In fact, some occupations offer life/work balance, in essence. You may choose your "life" availability by electing your profession in the first place. You still have the ability to balance your lifestyle and your work requirements by choosing your occupation. An emergency physician will be assigned, and should be prepared to honor, emergency hours; it will not be the same for a cosmetic surgeon, as simplistic examples. Somehow, you would have made the primary choice by choosing your field of action. Life/Work balance is in the eye of the beholder. Somehow, it can be pre-elected. At the other end of the spectrum is work/life balance by necessity.

 2- Work/life balance by Necessity

 

According to a Time magazine recent study and 2014 data 70 percent of workers "suffer from work-family tension." Yet, according to a Glassdoor study 25 companies have the best work/life balance policies.  Employees are happy. Is it a matter of profession, company, or sector?
If work/Life balance can be a matter of life choice to some, it is an imposed necessity to others. This article from Money Watch gives us so many examples of workers having to choose between their own livelihood and "flexibility" aka "work/life balance". It is presented as flexibility, yet, it translates into loss of income, increased instability, and/or loss of work, or even major sacrifices to workers. Yet, businesses and HR promote and advertise life/work balance, through telecommuting, flexibility and .com functions. It is now one of the major selling points of organizations to candidates. A "scheme" says Eikhof, "myopic" policies reinforces  Warhurst. This is the face of work/life balance by necessity.


 3- Work/life balance by "Claim"

 

Thirdly, there is work/life balance by claim. The claim that "women can have it all" is a matter of intellectual debate. No later than last week, this mother opted for a part-time position because she wanted to be more available for her daughter. Is that having it all? It is not exclusively a matter of gender, either.  More egalitarian societies have men encountering more issues with work/life balance.
With new technologies, work might have become easier but also more personally intrusive.
So here is the deal: Workers may claim that they have found work/life balance because they can juggle family and work in a happy fashion, in their fashion; and HR may claim that they have achieved the best work/life balance policies through teleworking and flexibility.

OPEN DEBATE

So, work/life balance policies are open to debate. The intellectual argument is about its volatility and superficiality. The practical debate is about its usefulness as an answer to the question "does flexibility really exist when one has to choose between working at more accommodating times or hours and losing income?" The business debate is: how can we engage workers and make them embrace the policies that we are compelled to design in order to optimize our compensation costs and gain a competitive advantage?

En Synthèse

Le débat life/work balance: rêve, réalité, nécessité, ou paradis? Comment rester zen?


En Synthèse


Tout un débat, n'est-ce pas? J'aime pour synthétiser les choses citer ce tout dernier edito de mes bonnes copines: rafraîchissant. Alors, life/work balance ou conciliation travail/famille pas seulement un rêve mais un paradis?

N'est ce qu'un mythe? En tous les cas, une réalité personnelle ou devrais-je dire personnalisée. Tout est justifiable, que ce soit de la part des individus ou des organisations. La flexibilité, la technologie, tant que cela n’empiète pas trop sur la vie et la survie des gens, oui. En tous cas, les conditions de travail et réglementations sur la flexibilité sont très différentes en France par comparaison aux  USA. En tous cas, tout dépend des pays.  Mais est-ce tout? Entrent en jeu le secteur d’activités et le genre de travail.

Moi, je définis la conciliation travail/famille sous trois aspects:
1- Par Profession: l'on choisit une profession et un poste avec les conséquences. Décision informée.
2 - Par Nécessité: l'on accepte les conditions imposées de flexibilité car l'on doit nourrir sa famille
3 - Par Forte Présomption Personnelle: l'on se dit que cela marche pour soi.
Car après tout, c'est une question de choix, que l'on le veuille ou non, que l'on y croie ou pas.  Quant aux entreprises, elles doivent faire marcher la roue, coûte que coûte.  Les RH sont plus "humains" dans certains pays que dans d'autres. A bon entendeur, salut!


Et pour la petite histoire du grand débat sur le sujet (ou un autre! :) ), et pour rendre à César ce qui est à César, je voudrais partager cet article destiné aux Américains qui est aussi proche de la réalité que jamais lu ni entendu autour de moi! Kudos à Dr. Guy Spielmann!







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