Friday, April 30, 2010

Balance Within The Workplace

Balance within the workplace. Can that even be possible? Balance and workplace seem to be on two opposing ends of the spectrum. The lines between family life and work have blurred with the high pressure, 24/7 society we now live in. Of course unparalleled wealth can be the result. But let’s really examine the price of this. Statistics can show trends and correlations and help us make sound judgment calls once we have the data. As business owners or managers, I’d assume we’d want the data. I’d assume we’d want to give our company and employees the best chance possible to succeed. There have been numerous studies that have explored work hours and how the employees’ behavior has been affected including their views of their job, their health, and their personal and family lives. In 2001, a publication of the Families and Work Institute explored the question of Feeling Overworked: When Work Becomes Too Much. How prevalent is it to feel overworked? Here are some noteworthy stats that they found:

  • 28% of employees felt overworked often or very often in the past three months.

  • 54% felt overworked at least sometimes in the past three months.

  • 28 % felt overwhelmed by how much they had to do often or very often in the past three months.

  • 55% felt overwhelmed by how much work they had to do at least sometimes in the past three months.

  • 29% felt they did not have time to step back and process or reflect on the work they were doing often or very oftenin the past three months.

  • 59% felt they did not have time to step back and process or reflect on the work they were doing at least sometimes in the past three months.

With the unsettling effects of the recent economic recession, these numbers have most likely increased. At a minimum, more than half of the sample population studied felt work stress at least sometime over the course of a few months.

Let’s examine a couple of workplace stories with two extreme results to demonstrate the effects of overworking. In July 2008, a Japanese labor bureau ruled that one of Toyota’s top car engineers died from working extremely long hours. The 45 year old man was working more than 80 hours of overtime a month. He was under an incredible amount of stress in developing the hybrid version for Toyota’s Camry. Japan has recently attempted to reduce the number of deaths due to overworking.
Now let’s take another story. This company isn’t quite as big as Toyota but Cupertino Electrical Ranked Highest Electrical Contractor on the Business Journal’s Best Places to Work List for its second consecutive year. It also ranked as a top Bay Area employer for companies employing between 101 and 500 employees. The president and CEO, John Boncher, said that it was due to the tight culture and commitment to employees, as well as staying true to their values. This position in rank is determined from the results of employees’ surveys ranking from the company’s culture to the benefits.

So I guess we can again ask ourselves the question posed at the beginning. Is balance within the workplace possible? Yes. It takes commitment, time and patience. A healthy, balanced employee is a happy, productive employee. When hiring, we still must thoroughly screen our candidates. Psychological and behavioral assessments may determine our potential employee to have deeper problems than a balanced workplace can provide. A healthy work environment begins with the pre-employment screening and continually strives to encourage balanced living for its employees.

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