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Work-Life Fit: A Stronger Organization through Improved Employee Engagement

I’ve always been intrigued by work-life research, especially now as the work-life interface changes in response to increased demands and expectations, as well as new ways of working. Work-life research evolved from studies on person-environment fit and work-family. Person-environment fit focuses on outcomes that result from the interaction between employees and some aspect of their work environment, whereas work-family research focuses on outcomes that result from the interaction between the work and family domains. Many researchers have moved away from the term work-family to work-life in order to include all employees and not just those with children. These studies have established some compelling links between work-life fit and employee satisfaction, so it is important for employers to know what work-life fit actually is and how to achieve it.


Work-Life Balance or Work-Life Fit?

Work-life balance is a popular term that has come out of this area of research, but is work-life balance achievable? By definition, balance implies equality in terms of importance and the rate at which things occur in one’s work and personal life. When you think about work-life balance, picture a balance scale and work being on one side of the scale and your personal life on the other. In order to achieve balance, equal weight must be placed on both sides of the scale. For most, this seems nearly impossible. Furthermore, work and one’s personal life are often not that distinct and separate for many employees.

Some days I feel like a 5,000 piece puzzle is a better representation of my work-life interface. The puzzle pieces represent all of my work and personal demands, and how I am able to fit all of the pieces together represents the personal and work resources I use to meet those demands. Thus, I like to think about the work-life interface in terms of work-life fit (i.e., how compatible an employee’s work is with his or her personal life, or how well the two piece together). Work-life fit moves us beyond balance and reinforces the fact that we are always making decisions regarding our work and our personal lives and how everything can best fit together.

Work-life fit is strongly associated with important outcomes like psychological well-being, job satisfaction, employee engagement, turnover intentions and, to a lesser extent, physical well-being. As a result, many organizations are incorporating work-life strategies into their total rewards program to help employees achieve success both at work and at home.

Achieving Work-Life Fit

It is important to know how to make work-life fit part of your employee engagement best practices. Below are some steps that employees and managers can take to enhance work-life fit:

Strategies for Employees

  1. Prioritize your current responsibilities, goals and interests, and then write them down. What are the most important things in your life right now? What do you find meaningful? Thinking about these things and seeing them in writing can provide clarity and serve as a powerful reminder of where you want to focus your energy.
  2. Create a plan and get organized. Once you understand your priorities, it is important to develop a plan and get organized. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is often true and can be applied to many aspects of life. As you develop your action plan, be sure to include some time for yourself. We often put ourselves last, but it is important to make yourself a priority too.
  3. Utilize your resources. Don’t try to be a superhero and carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Utilize your resources to avoid feeling overwhelmed and burned out. Lean on others for emotional and social support at home and in the workplace. Trustworthy childcare and eldercare resources can help immensely, as well as a supportive workplace and manager who understands your needs and desires.
  4. Reevaluate your circumstances as they change and reformulate your plan accordingly. Your situation will likely change over time, so reevaluating and reformulating your plan will help you be as effective as possible.

Strategies for Managers

  1. Get to know your employees. In order to help your employees be effective at work and at home, it is important to get to know them. What are their needs and interests? How does their work affect their home lives and vice versa?
  2. Provide them with workplace flexibility. Employees are able to achieve greater work-life fit when they (as opposed to their managers) are able to determine when, where and for how long they perform work-related tasks. Providing workplace flexibility gives employees the autonomy to manage work and personal demands.
  3.  Hold them accountable to expectations and results. Creating a culture of accountability can help ensure that meeting one’s personal demands does not come at the cost of the organization’s interests. Communicating clear expectations and making progress toward goals is essential when it comes to holding employees accountable.

These are just a few ways to enhance work-life fit and build a stronger organization. Contact SilverStone Group’s HR Consulting Team to learn more about this and other employee incentive and retention strategies.

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