Work-Life Effectiveness Could Use a Common Definition

WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress first established October as National Work & Family Month in 2003. It is nationally recognized by members of Congress, businesses, academic institutions, work-life advocacy groups and individuals aiming to succeed at home and on the job. The goal is to encourage employers to think strategically about family-friendly policies and work-life benefits.

But what I've found most perplexing is how the definition of work-life can be so very different from company to company and even how many individuals would describe their own personal work-life needs. This was a topic for a recent Twitter Chat and even then people were defining it in various ways. Perhaps, if there was some common ground from which to view this, we would find that there are more programs and initiatives in place than we realize to help employees achieve work-life effectiveness.

WorldatWork defines work-life effectiveness as a specific set of organizational practices, policies and programs and a philosophy that supports the efforts of everyone in the workforce to achieve success both at work and at home. First of all -- that's a mouthful, but when we can look at it from that perspective and put some context around which programs do in fact help to achieve this, then I would bet that a good many organizations would realize that they do indeed have offerings that fall under this definition.

Let's take a look. Within the 7 categories of work-life effectiveness, we have what I'm guessing are the typical programs that one thinks about when they think of work-life: flexibility and dependent care. But there is more - programs also categorized under health and wellness, community involvement, organizational culture, financial security, and paid and unpaid time off, that WorldatWork categorizes as a work-life benefit. So take a look at this inventory checklist and ask yourself, which of these programs are you currently offering to your employees? Then ask yourself if you are communicating these programs under a work-life banner? If you are not currently communicating them as work-life, then I suggest that you might be missing out on an opportunity to showcase the way your organization is providing employees programs that assist them in their endeavor to achieve success both at work and at home.

We're moving into open enrollment season for many organizations. What better time than right now when there is already a lot of communication going on regarding the benefits the organization will be offering in the new year. Take advantage by highlighting those programs that fall under the work-life banner. And remember; don't just communicate during open enrollment, but throughout the year as well. That way the message will sink in and your employees will remember them when they need them.