19 March 2010

Employee Health and Getting the Work-Life Balance Right - Finally Business is Taking Notice

Below is a collection of current articles and information about how the workplace is changing (America-Australia). The pressure within a workplace to maintain long hours, increased workloads pressured with employer inflexibility creates a toxic workplace, and can cause imbalance as some workers are given more leeway over others based on discriminating factors ie: parents v's single or people without children, people who choose to live further away from work than those who live around the corner, or those who have been in the company longer who are on older employment more 'giving' agreements than the newer 'bare bones' work conditions. It is good to see that there are some employers now willing to give everyone equal access to more flexible working conditions. Also that governments are willing to lead the way for industry to take care of employee health and working conditions. All this contributes to a more positive and productive work environment where people want to be.


Years ago I interviewed for a job where the HR Director told me point blank, “this job will be your life. I have family too, but this job comes first.”

Thankfully, I didn’t get the job. Another colleague did, and less than a year later she was hospitalized for anxiety as a result of the stress associated with the position.

Fast forward 15 years, and not much has changed. When a class conflicted with a weekend office event and I chose the class (after giving management ample notice), my manager asked me if I was telling her that my life outside of work was more important than my job. Her question shocked me, and knowing that my answer was a resounding “YES”, fueled my determination to leave that environment as quickly as possible.

But it finally seems that some employers at least, are attempting to make room for life and work. In a recent NPR interview, Katie Sleep discussed why her company, List Innovative Solutions, lets employees telecommute and set their own hours. As a mom herself, accustomed to long commutes and managing the nightmare of transporting kids to and from school and daycare, Sleep was determined to offer better options for her own employees. Not only does she have an unheard of 95% retention rate, she finds that employees still get their work done.

The problem with 9-5, is that it’s based on an outdated model of work. Back in the day, the workforce was largely male, and women stayed at home. In 2010, most households are dual income, and women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners. Sadly today, most companies, particularly those run by bad bosses, don’t trust their employees to work independently and out of sight. Allowing for flexibility and freedom in the workday is almost seen as a sign of weakness. As a result, both productivity, and employee moral suffer.

Not every type of job is conducive to flex time and telecommuting, but many are, and unless companies begin doing a better job of helping their employees balance work and life, we’ll continue to see a U.S. workforce at odds with itself.
You can listen to the entire NPR story here.

Options On The Flex-Work Menu

For those who think working 9 to 5 is all takin' and no givin' (as Dolly Parton once sang), there are options for a more flexible work arrangement. Don’t know your flextime from your job sharing? Here's a quick primer.

Flexible Working Benefits Offered By Some U.S. Companies

Organizations that
offer the benefit
Plan to eliminate or
cut the benefit within
the next 12 months
Casual dress day 59% 2%
Flextime 54% 1%
Telecommuting (ad hoc) 45% 1%
Break arrangements 43% 2%
Mealtime flex 41% 1%
Compressed workweek 37% 1%
Casual dress every day 36% 2%
Telecommuting (part time) 34% 2%
Shift flexibility 21% 3%
Telecommuting (full time) 19% 1%
Job sharing 16% 2%
Seasonal scheduling 16% 1%
Alternating location 4% 9%
Results-only work environment 3% 0%

Flextime is when employees choose their own work hours within limits set by their employer — for example, working an 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule instead of the traditional 9 to 5 schedule, or working extra hours one day to make up for shorter hours worked another day.

Telecommuting is when employees work outside the office — say, at home or on a laptop in a coffee shop. The benefit can be offered on a one-time or ad hoc basis — for example, when a commuting crisis such as a snowstorm keeps workers away from the office — or as a part-time benefit.

Job sharing is when two or more employees share one full-time job; the employees can either alternate weeks, split the workday in half or work 2 1/2 days each week, with one overlapping day.

Still another option is a compressed workweek, which means, for example, working a four-day/10-hour-day workweek or a three-day/12-hour-day workweek.

Companies can also give employees flexibility when it comes to when they take their breaks or meals. For example, mealtime flex allows employees who take shorter lunch breaks to leave early. Employers can also let workers adjust their schedules by picking up shifts or trading them with co-workers, an option called shift flexibility.

Seasonal scheduling is when employees work only a certain number of months a year. And some companies allow employees to work part of the year in one location and part of the year in another location.

Finally, a results-only work environment basically turns the traditional workplace model of work hours and meetings on its head. Under this arrangement, employees can work where and whenever they wish, as long as projects are completed on time.

Work-life experts caution that many flex-work programs appear more generous on paper than in practice and can be highly dependent on individual supervisors.


In AUSTRALIA the Victorian Government has a a number of Work Health programme initiatives that employers can adopt into their workplace including the WorkSafe's employee health and wellbeing program.

WorkSafe launches major WorkHealth campaign
This Sunday February 7, a major WorkHealth advertising campaign will commence, including the first ever WorkHealth television commercial. Watch TV Commericals Here

Focusing on WorkHealth checks, the campaign will target both Victorian employers and employees and will demonstrate the benefits of participating in the program.

The campaign, which will run in metropolitan Melbourne and across regional Victoria, was launched by the Minister for Finance, WorkCover and TAC, the Hon. Tim Holding at Flight Centre head office today. Flight Centre have been identified as a leading employer, as they are currently rolling out a health and wellbeing program across 315 workplaces in Victoria.

The campaign comes on the back of new research conducted by WorkSafe on the first 56,000 workers who participated in WorkHealth checks. The data shows that an alarming 40% of workers who received a WorkHealth check had one or more results indicating a high or very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

WorkHealth Programs
Click to apply for WorkHealth checks

We have a number of health and wellbeing programs you can introduce in your workplace.

The healthy workplace check
will help you select the right program for your organisation

The free online resource kit
gives you the tools you need to start building a health and wellbeing program for your workplace

The workplace programs
give you access to programs to address specific health issues in your workplace

Also see The WORK HEALTH Programme

What is WorkHealth?

WorkHealth is brought to you by WorkSafe Victoria and is the Victorian Government’s response to improving the health of the Victorian community.

The initiative will see a significant investment of $200 million over the next 5 years in the health and safety of Victoria’s workers. WorkHealth aims to support Victorian workplaces in offering voluntary programs to promote worker health and well-being.

Workhealth Checks

Workhealth Checks are delivered one-on-one by a qualified health professional at your workplace. No matter the size of your organisation if you choose Corporate Bodies International as your provider the health checks are 100% free of charge. Click here for more information

Workplace Health Promotion Grants

Companies have the option to apply for a one off grant to deliver a health and well-being program that meets the needs of the workforce. There are a range of options available in regards to health promotion. Depending on the size of your organization you may be able to apply for up to $50 per employee towards the program cost. Click here for more information

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