Building a positive work-life culture

Although work-life balance policies are meant to acknowledge the realities faced by dual earner families, existing workplace norms often stigmatize the use of such policies. While employers have started to offer several policies that facilitate better work-life balance, there is scant evidence that they are helping organisations foster a healthier work-life culture. There is also low utilization of such policies despite the widespread demand for such flexibility. The pressure to work long hours along with the career penalties associated with the use of work-life policies are creating workplace cultures where employees have limited choices in terms of managing their work and non-work demands.

Transforming the culture of an organisation to one that encourages a better work-life balance is often very challenging. Although it is debatable whether organisations have a responsibility for work-life balance, evidence suggests that providing support for work-life issues has significant payoffs for the employment relationship. Frequently organisations may offer a range of work-life policies but if not properly implemented these policies may fail to facilitate better work-life reconciliation.

Often effective policy implementation requires a transformation of the workplace culture and underlying assumptions about how work should be organised and how employee performance should be evaluated. Cultures that emphasize long working hours as a symbol of commitment frequently hinder employees from making use of work-life policies. In several organisations, managers focus on rewarding “face-time” rather than actual performance. When managers have subordinates who face work-life conflicts, the best approach is to direct their efforts toward evaluating actual performance rather than presenteeism or “face-time”. Effective role-modeling by leaders who are aware of the importance of work-life balance may also help in building a culture that champions reconciliation of work and nonwork lives while reducing feelings of inadequacies among workers who utilize work-life practices. Likewise, employees should also be encouraged to raise nonwork issues with their managers and should be assured that their employer does not expect them to subordinate their personal or family roles while prioritizing their work roles. Such a culture may allay worker fears about the negative career consequences of addressing work-life issues and also result in a favorable image of their employer as one that cares about their well-being.

About the Author

Shainaz FirfirayShainaz Firfiray is an assistant professor in the Organisation and Human Resource Management Group at Warwick Business School. She received her PhD in management at IE Business School, Spain. Her research interests include work-life balance, social identity, and workplace diversity.

Six Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance

Work life balance is the key issue of these times. Because we can work and be connected around the clock should we? My son is a swimmer and swimmers, as well as other successful athletes, work under certain success criteria. Here they are: 1) they set goals and reward themselves when they reach them; 2) they can turn on and off their focus; 3) they build up their work efforts to a peak, knowing that a rest or taper period is coming; 4) they know that by training with fast sprints they are ready to work harder at a much more efficient pace; 5) they know that a positive attitude makes all the difference; and 6) they plan their time well and plan themselves first. Let’s break these down as they relate to taking a vacation.

1) Setting Goals and Rewarding Yourself. I know that when I reward myself for hitting my numbers, I am more motivated to reach my objectives and I can usually build into my goal a financial target that pays for the reward (trip). I have a sense of accomplishment and that energy is felt by everyone around me. Reward yourself with a trip by setting the right goals and feel the power.

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About the Author

Michael MacNair owns MacNair Travel Management, a privately owned American Express Representative Office, which has helped organizations develop a clear Travel Management System that delivers unparalleled value and exceeds expectations. MacNair Travel is a Travel Leadership Consulting Firm because of its proactive consulting toward the development of a cutting-edge travel plan, dedication to unbiased rate searches that save money and time, and dedicated service teams that build confidence. Michael MacNair, author of Smooth Landings, conducts Travel Management seminars for many organizations, such as the National Business Travel Association, and is a frequent media spokesperson. For more information, visit: or call 703-836-1100.

7 Steps Towards Turning Your Work/Life Pain into Pleasure

Does this picture fit you?

  • sleeplessness
  • being angry a little too often
  • frequent frustration
  • increased absenteeism from work
  • presenteeism (going to work when you were so sick you should have stayed home)
  • reduced concern for customers/ clients
  • emotional exhaustion
  • a reduced sense of accomplishment
  • unable to switch off from work

These are some of the pains you feel when the demands of work and personal life are all too much for you. They can be summed up in one word – stress.

The hidden danger is in the insidious effects of such symptoms, the outcomes of which may not surface for months or even years. But if left unattended, the wheels can eventually fall off, often in dramatic and life-diminishing ways. These include stress-related illnesses, heart conditions, relationship breakdowns, job loss and depression.

When you are not enjoying life, it often seems hard to change things around. The following seven steps may, however, make the task easier for you.

  1. The first step is always the most difficult – deciding you really want to take action and do something productive to ease your work/life pain. Once you’ve made that decision, you’ll enjoy the rest of the process.
  2. Create your own enjoyment. Sounds a bit trite? There’s more to what I call “the enjoyment factor” than first meets the eye.

    • Is a creatable experience from which fun, laughter and pleasure are automatic reactions. If you’re not enjoying life, you’re unlikely to achieve the positive frame of mind needed to resolve your work life harmony problems.
    • Is a natural mechanism for coping with stress, because your mind is unconsciously transported to a world within the real you – your authentic self – a world in which you feel relaxed, de-stressed and at peace with yourself. Your problems are put on hold.
    • Heightens your sense of self esteem, self confidence, self belief and feelings of self worth. When your mind returns to the real world, the heightened feelings flow, like a ripple effect, through every thing else you do. The intensity of the enjoyable experience will determine how long and how wide the ripple effect will extend. It can even trigger a new outlook on life.
  3. Do it often, even if only for a few minutes at a time. The more often you create your chosen enjoyable experiences, the better your chances of stabilizing your thinking and your ability to juggle your responsibilities. You might be surprised how much this can help you review how and where you allocate your energies.
  4. You can create enjoyment at work, home and play. Play (any personally chosen discretionary interest that you undertake just for enjoyment) has for too long been undervalued regarding its benefits to work and other responsibilities of life. Much stress comes from a lack of control over what happens to you, the changes being imposed on you and the expectations demanded of you. Discretionary interests – play, leisure, recreation, sport, “time for me”, call it what you will – is perhaps your last bastion of total control and freedom of choice. The more often you get control of your life through leisure interests that you love, the better you will be able to survive and thrive in today’s frenetic lifestyle.
  5. Enjoyable experiences generate new emotional energy to replace the energy burnt by your stress. A lot of the pain of a discordant work life mix is you are trying to burn energy you simply don’t have. It’s not rocket science to realize that you need to replace burnt energy. Resting isn’t enough. A car needs more than regular refueling – its longevity requires regular care and maintenance. It’s the same with you.
  6. Create leisure experiences that are not only enjoyable but are opposite – or at least quite different – to those experienced at work. If you work in a busy and noisy environment, a quiet, perhaps solitary, experience may help, if the work is intellectual then create enjoyable physical or manual experiences. The emphasis here is on experiences of the mind that make you feel good about yourself, irrespective of whether the interest is physical or mental. In the final analysis, every enjoyable experience is of the mind.
  7. How to fit it into the week’s busy schedule. Enjoyment isn’t limited to weekends, joining clubs, or any other of the old leisure traditions. It’s about doing your own thing whenever and wherever you wish, at any time of the day or night and on any day of the week. A few minutes of ‘flight’ can sustain a day of ‘fight’ if, during that time, your inner person is allowed out to enjoy the freedom of self-expression. Self-created interests can include musical appreciation by listening or playing, art, craft, beading, genealogy, bird-watching, walking for pleasure, gardening – anything that transports your thinking into your own world of enjoyment. When you lose yourself in an interest you love you find yourself – the person of worth within you.

These factors do not of themselves overcome a discordant work life mix. They do however generate a more positive attitude, in which you feel good about yourself. You are establishing a revitalized outlook on life that strengthens your self-confidence. Your problems either don’t seem so great any more, or you perceive them more calmly and with a sense of personal power in your ability to make your daily life more enjoyable.

In the final analysis these steps will enable you to become a better friend to the most important person in the world – you!

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About the Author

Peter Nicholls is Australia’s People Gardener – cultivating vigorous personal growth to thrive to one’s full natural potential. Visit Peter’s website at or contact him at [email protected].