Work to live
In their race to do better than others, most professionals stretch their limits. Sushmi Dey finds out what organisations are doing to offer the right work-life balance to their employees.
In a highly competitive work environment, there is great pressure on professionals to not just perform, but excel. There is also excessive expectation from their organisations to increase productivity at any cost. This takes its toll on the physical and mental well-being of professionals. In fact, striking a right balance between work and life is better said than done. Effective HR activities can help employees to enjoy their work as well as not neglect their personal life. The obvious benefits for the organisation are—higher productivity, lower staff turnover, reduction in absenteeism and better utilisation of talent.
Need for balance
Work-life balance is essential if an organisation wants to be known as an ’employer of choice’. Anil Kumar Mishra, Head-Human Resource & Administration, Shreya Lifesciences says, “Without work-life balance, we may leak our energy and resources and lose focus.” According to Mishra, as a result of not having focussed intentions and considered choices, energy of employees is lost to unimportant activities or unconscious commitments.
|“For any individual it is difficult to separate professional and family life. For this, professional achievements are just enough. However, if a professional is not satisfied at the workplace, he cannot be happy with his family”
– Beena Handa, Head HRM
“For any individual it is difficult to separate professional and family life. For this, professional achievements are just enough. However, if a professional is not satisfied at the workplace, he cannot be happy with his family. Hence, the outputs of the organisation and the family are interlinked,” explains Beena Handa, Head-HRM, Claris Lifesciences. Therefore, it is important to strike the right balance between work and life to be able to enjoy a healthier lifestyle while improving productivity at work.
To have a secured family life is one of the major objectives behind the hard work put in by an individual. Also, there are individual needs ranging from caring of children and/or elderly parents, or the pursuit of personal interests and activities, etc. Finding ways to accommodate these responsibilities can make a real difference to the employees. “The work-life balance strategy aims to reduce stress levels and increase job satisfaction among employees, while enhancing business benefits for the employer. In our increasingly hectic world, the work-life strategy seeks to find a balance between work and play,” states Mishra.
|“In the long run it’s not the question of spending time at work or at home, but spending quality time at both places”
– Mohinish Sinha Associate Director, Head HR Practice
Mohinish Sinha, Associate Director and Head HR Practice, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, believes that work-life balance is more a reflection of the culture in the organisation than anything else. The culture should be such that it accepts that employees have their families as well. “As long as adequate quality time is spent at the workplace, there is no reason for anyone to stay for longer hours. This sort of culture in turn promises a highly engaged workforce which reflects in lower attrition numbers,” explains Sinha.
While Indian pharma companies act as “urgent laboratories” where most of the things are done at the last moment, a consistent performance is necessary. Handa feels that satisfaction is drawn from contribution to both work and life. “Goal alignment is must and to achieve that goal, satisfaction and strength are drawn from how much an employee contributes to his family-life and its needs in a larger context,” she adds. Handa also emphasises on the fact that one’s contribution to the society is also a major factor that works to bring satisfaction in work. Agrees Mishra, “Work-life balance is a person’s control over the conditions in their workplace. It is accomplished when an individual feels dually satisfied about their personal life and their paid occupation. It mutually benefits the individual, business and society when a person’s personal life is balanced with his or her own job.”
The Indian picture
The Indian pharma industry is not surprisingly still at a nascent stage in terms of striking the right balance. The industry has just started to take a few concrete steps in this direction. “Organisations in this sector are aiming at driving a culture whereby an employee is not looked down upon or ridiculed when he/she has a personal commitment to fulfill. They are given adequate time and space to spend quality time and effort towards fulfilling both work and personal objectives,” adds Sinha.
Indian pharmacos operate in an increasingly competitive environment with aspirations for greater heights. Employees find it difficult to maintain a balance between work and life in Indian pharma organisations because unlike multinational companies, they lack proper system and planning. “In MNCs, work pressure is not immense because their systems are in place, planning processes are very sound and well planned. On the other hand, Indian pharma companies are lagging behind in these areas,” opines Mishra.
In such a situation, it becomes even more important for organisations to seek out constructive ways to help its employees understand and identify the need for maintaining a balance in their personal as well as professional life.
Mishra points out that that Indian pharma companies have not understood or identified the need for their employees’ work-life balance, nor initiated any effort in this direction.
The right solution
The simplest and easiest way to find the right solution is to assess your energy levels. “Call your energy home by noticing where you are gaining or losing energy. Simply notice without judgment, holding yourself whole, competent, and resourceful to redirect your energy when you choose to do so,” says Mishra.
HR departments of organisations play an important role in finding the work-life balance. The reason is obvious. “Supporting the employees as they balance home and work responsibilities leads to a highly engaged workforce thereby becoming a large contributor to employee loyalty,” tells Sinha.
Handa asserts that it is important for organisations to make the high work pressure clear to their employees right at the induction stage. Further, employees should be trained to communicate to their family members and convince them about their working style and schedule. This would avoid problems later. Claris Lifesciences organises family visits to the factory during vacations. According to Handa, such exercises help in developing a feeling of attachment with the workplace.
A supportive and fun environment is must for any organisation to maintain the work-life balance in the lives of its employees. According to Sinha, spending quality time is always more important than just spending time. “Though people who have been successful in the longer term have used the strategy of spending more time at the workplace, they have been able to balance this with adequate time with their families. So, in the long run it’s not the question of spending time at work or at home, but spending quality time at both places,” explains Sinha. Flexible working hours for employees is also seen as a widely used strategy. Sinha suggests that employees should be given a flexible window time period during which they can report to office. Adequate leave options provided to the employees is also viewed as a healthy HR practice to help them spend adequate time with their families. “In addition to holiday leave, maternity leave and time-off for new fathers should be given,” suggests Mishra. Organisations should keep reviewing their work-life balance strategy. Individual development plans for employees by employers or mentoring by colleagues in order to monitor progress and satisfaction in the workforce are ways to maintain work-life balance.
Apart from increase in productivity, work-life balance also brings in a remarkable difference in quality of production, low rates of absenteeism, improved retention and better customer service
Work-life balance is about creating a supportive and healthy work environment for employees who are striving to better integrate their work and personal responsibilities. By implementing proactive programmes and initiatives that support employees, pharma companies can strengthen their employee commitment and loyalty, resulting in higher productivity, improved customer satisfaction and healthier bottom lines. It is believed that satisfied employees contribute to greater business benefits for the employer. “In a culture where an organisation understands the personal needs of the employee, they in turn respect the time they spend at the workplace. This in turn leads to productive employees which ultimately reflects in the balance sheet of the organisation,” emphasises Sinha. Apart from increase in productivity, work-life balance also brings in a remarkable difference in quality of production, low rates of absenteeism, improved retention and better customer service. According to Mishra, happy employees perform better than disgruntled and stressed ones because work-life balance brings about clarity, transparency and a clear mission and vision for employees.