For the employer

Policy implementation steps in the organization

If you want sustainable change, addressing the issues of equality (balancing work and personal life is part of the equal opportunities policy) must become the DNA of your organization. Work culture and norms do not change quickly – it will take some time and consistent work. It is best to start with the topic of commitment of the organization’s executives. As long as this remains simply the responsibility of the personnel or diversity management departments, things will not change fundamentally. And this requires the active involvement of the organization’s management bodies.

In order for the work culture to change and be truly work-life balance friendly, it is necessary to follow the following three steps:

  1. Raise the issue. In order to develop work-life balance friendly norms and work culture, it is first necessary to bring the issue to light and create the necessary conditions for employees to share their experiences of balancing work and personal life. Executives need to encourage employees to report situations where difficulties in balancing work and personal life result in certain challenges or negative attitudes toward employees raising young children, nursing sick family members, or who have to leave work often for personal reasons, etc. To understand the scale of the problem, you can apply anonymous employee surveys, focus groups and individual interviews, as well as use the material collected during annual interviews with employees (when the interview includes a question about employee experiences and needs to balance personal life and work).
  2. Understand the needs of your employees. Executives should actively encourage employees to notify them about their work-life balance needs, and become involved in the solving of issues as soon as they arise. Establish a clear procedure of how this should be done. For example, by appointing a responsible person or a group thereof. Enable employees to anonymously report any experienced difficulties or negative attitudes/behaviours toward them (for example, through a dedicated e-mail inbox or hotline). The key at this stage is to ensure confidentiality and a safe environment for the employees to talk about what they actually need from the employer to be able to balance their work and personal life. Let your employees help you by showing you what they really need to remain productive, despite their personal commitments outside of work.
  3. Take concrete action. Once the issue is brought to light and the needs of employees are determined, executives should take active steps to develop practices that would allow employees to better balance work and personal life without negative consequences to their careers. Consistent efforts must also be made to change the work culture and norms of your organization, by showing that the need to balance work and personal life is respected, taken into account, and has no negative impact on the employee’s career. Particular support should be shown by the leaders of the organization.
    This may be minor actions, such as permitting an employee to leave work or meeting earlier, if he or she needs to pick up his or her child from an extracurricular activity class, or take a sick family member to a treatment facility, or larger and more specific actions, such as a work-life balance policy implemented in the workplace (with target measures), scheduled meetings with employees enabling them to express their needs, review of employment procedures by eliminating any potential discriminatory attitudes, etc.

Involvement of the organization’s leaders is a key factor. When they set an example for their entire team, show that these issues are important, and dedicate their time to do so, these issues also become important in the day-to-day activities of employees. All employees, without exception, must be made aware of the actions you are taking and the latest workplace standards. Make sure that employees not only know about, but also agree with and support your actions. This can be achieved through various internal campaigns and, most importantly, through your personal involvement and example. If the new policy is only declarative, this will be immediately noticed by the employees, and the new norms will not be followed or will be followed only for a short period of time.

After taking these specific steps, do not forget to check after a while how everything works in practice: are there things that did not work out and why, what challenges were encountered, etc. Allow your employees to advise you on what to do differently or better. Remember that creating a friendly work environment is everyone’s responsibility and all employees must be involved in the process. Otherwise, you will not be able to make any real and lasting changes.