A Work-Life Balance Schism

Who is achieving work-life balance? The answer depends on whether you ask HR professionals or actual employees.

A disconnect on work-life balance is evident from a study by WorkplaceTrends.com and CareerArc, which found that two out of three HR professionals say their employees are successfully dividing time between work and personal life. But nearly half of employees say they feel time pressures and lack enough time each week to do personal activities.

In the “2015 Workplace Flexibility Study,” just one in five employees surveyed spent more than 20 hours working outside of the office on their personal time per week—a clear indicator of sub-optimal work-life balance, the study says.

Technology could be to blame: The survey found that most workers (65%) say their manager expects them to be reachable outside the office. From the HR perspective, 64% expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office on personal time.

Last year, of the companies that knew how much they invested in their work-life benefits programs, 60% spent less than $20,000 and 29% spent more than $40,000. More than half (53%) of these companies plan to invest more in their programs this year.

The study revealed employee and employer preferences on issues of work-life balance, flex programs, and benefits. Among other findings:

  • The biggest concern for employers that establish flexibility programs is potential employee abuse of the system (42%), followed by flexibility not being part of their culture (40%) and concerns about employee fairness (34%).
  • Half of employers ranked workplace flexibility as the most important benefit they believe their employees desire, compared with the 75% of employees who ranked it as their top benefit.
  • Employees, job seekers and HR professionals agree that paid and unpaid time off is most important to employees (72% of HR vs. 79% of employees and 74% of job seekers).
  • The top benefits that organizations saw in their work-flex programs were improved employee satisfaction (87%), increased productivity (71%) and retaining of current talent. Most (69%) use their programs as a recruiting tool.
  • More than a third (37%) of employers said the type of work matters most to employees, compared with the money made (24%). Yet 31% of employees said that the money they make is most important, followed by the type of the work they do.