About Work-Life Harmony

What is work-life harmony and how you can implement a work-life strategy in your organisation.

What Is Work-Life Harmony

"Work-life harmony" refers to a state where an individual is able to achieve both professional and personal goals. It views "work" and "life" as interdependent elements that are increasingly intertwined, given the changing demographics and increased pressures from work and family responsibilities.

Why It Matters

Employees who experience greater work-life harmony tend to be more motivated and productive in their work. Organisations can also expect the following business benefits:

  • Improved retention rates
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Higher levels of engagement
  • Lower absenteeism or sick leave
  • Increased ability to attract talent

How to Implement a Successful Work-Life Strategy

To help your employees achieve work-life harmony, you will need to successfully implement a work-life strategy. Your strategy should include work-life programmes that cater to your organisation’s needs, and an infrastructure to support the implementation of your new programmes.

Examples of work-life programmes include flexible work arrangements, leave schemes and employee support schemes. Follow our 4-step implementation model below to implement an effective and sustainable work-life strategy.

Step 1: Establish the Need

Work-life strategy is a business strategy. Do build this as part of your organisation’s workforce and talent strategy and obtain top management’s buy-in.

Many organisations have implemented work‐life programmes for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Attracting and/or retaining key talent
  • Increasing morale, productivity and commitment
  • Reducing costs (e.g. real estate and overhead expenses)
  • Responding to changing employee needs
  • Becoming an Employer of Choice

When seeking management support for flexible work arrangements, you should review essential business requirements and demonstrate how your team can meet these. Set realistic targets and a timeframe to achieve these targets.

Step 2: Assess Business and Employee Needs

Business needs include organisational values, business objectives and operational standards. Each business unit may have its own needs depending on the nature of its industry or work.

Employee needs depend on their demographic profiles (e.g. young parents will have different priorities compared to employees near retirement). As employee profiles will change over time, you should review your work-life strategy regularly to ensure it remains relevant.

Below are three common methods to determine employee needs, which can be used to complement one another:

 

Workforce Profiling

Workforce profiling involves mining information within an organisation, especially existing employee records. It indicates areas of priority for new work-life programmes, and yields information on trends or changes that might affect existing work-life programmes.

Some questions may include:

 
  • How many employees are/have
    • near retirement?
    • young parents?
    • parents of more than one child?
    • single parents?
    • elderly parents?
    • dependants with healthcare needs?
    • men or women?
    • married or single?
    • pursuing further education?
  • Which part of the business has greatest difficulty recruiting employees? What could be the reasons?
  • What are the existing health problems and costs?
  • What is the absenteeism rate?
  • How much medical leave is being consumed?

Employee Surveys

Employee surveys provide information on employee sentiments, which may be used to identify workplace concerns when tracked regularly.

Some areas to survey include:

 
  • Issues related to job scope and responsibilities. This may indicate employee stress levels and demonstrate a need for greater work flexibility options.
  • Non-work commitments and aspirations (e.g. number of dependents and plans to attain higher education). This can provide information about which work-life programmes to prioritise.
  • Existing or upcoming work-life programmes. This can provide information about which programmes are or will be popular.
  • Job satisfaction, motivation, engagement, or work-life harmony levels.

Conduct Focus Groups

A focus group is an organised group discussion led by a moderator. It typically involves interviews with six to ten people at the same time. Compared to employee surveys, focus groups allow moderators to dive more deeply into a topic (e.g. views and experiences on a particular work-life programme). Moderators play an important role in drawing out useful information and steering the group towards a productive discussion.

Step 3: Design Work-Life Programmes

Work-life programmes fall into 3 broad categories:

  1. Flexible work arrangements
  2. Leave schemes
  3. Employee support schemes
 

To ensure the successful implementation of your work-life programme, you should do the following:

 

Start a Pilot Study or Trial Period

If your arrangement will involve a significant number of employees, you are strongly encouraged to conduct a pilot study or trial period beforehand.

Your plan should cover:

 
  • Number of employees to be involved
  • Which employees to involve (e.g. based on job role or experience)
  • Duration of the pilot study or trial period

Develop a Communication Plan

The success of your work-life programme depends on effective communication to your employees. You should use a variety of communication channels based on your organisation’s norms, and a study of each channel’s effectiveness.

In addition to raising awareness of your work-life programme, communication channels can be used to sustain a work-life culture (e.g. through posters on work-life values), transmit work-life values (e.g. through handbooks on corporate values), and improve your work-life strategy (e.g. through online polls to evaluate existing programmes or monitor changing work-life needs).

To develop an effective communications plan, you should:

 
  • Define your short-term and long-term objectives (e.g. introduce a new work-life programme and develop a culture of flexibility).
  • Identify your target audience, including segments that might resist the new programme. This will help you to customise your strategy for buy-in and anticipate each segment’s concerns.
  • Craft key messages for each target audience segment (e.g. benefits).
  • Select communication channels for promoting the new programme.
  • Build in a feedback mechanism to review the communications plan.
  • Create a measurements framework to evaluate the effectiveness of your communications plan.

Obtain Visible Senior Management Support

Support from senior management is crucial for the success of your work-life strategy. Supervisors and employees of all levels will feel more comfortable supporting, participating and utilising your work-life programme if they can see visible leadership support.

Set Clear Policies and Guidelines

Before implementation, your management should meet with the HR team to agree on the details of the work-life programme (e.g. eligibility criteria and operational details). This should be circulated among employees and direct supervisors.

Your work-life programme’s policies and guidelines should also:

 
  • Address employee concerns.
  • Stress mutual benefits to both the organisation and its employees.
  • Encourage an approach of mutual trust and accountability in developing and implementing work-life programmes.
  • Value employees for their contribution to the business, not their choice of work arrangement.
  • Include an objective, outcome-based monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

Step 4: Evaluate Work-Life Programmes

After implementation, you should evaluate the entire programme. Two key issues to consider are how well identified business objectives have been satisfied, and whether employee needs have been met.

You may use the following quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate your work-life programme.

Quantitative

  • Key performance indicators and performance outcomes (e.g. adherence to timeline, quality of deliverables)
  • Employee job satisfaction and engagement
  • Utilisation rate of the work-life programme
  • Voluntary turnover rate
  • Absenteeism

Qualitative

  • Feedback from employees about the work-life programme in meeting their needs
  • Feedback from supervisors on performance, productivity, and difficulties faced implementing work-life programmes
  • Exit interviews