Isabelle Walczak is a consultant working on cross-cultural communication and work-life balance.
OUR NEW RESEARCH PROJECT
We are excited to announce our partnership with one of the most advanced institutions of social research in Belgium, the University KU Leuven. Together, we have designed an ambitious survey that will help us understand the needs of employees in Belgium and how they combine work, private, and family life. The survey is also the first ever to be conducted in asking what kind of work-life support employees are receiving from their colleagues, line-managers and employers in general.
Our mission is to gain an insight into the challenges of employees in Belgium in responding to their work responsibilities, all the while taking care of children, elderly relatives, being active in their community and taking also care of themselves. In 2017, 28,000 cases of burnout were recorded in Belgium. It is a waste of energy and resources for companies and a high personal cost for workers because burnout is a very much preventable mental health condition. There are a lot of initiatives and actions employers can take to improve the quality of life of employees at work and that's why we need to know accurately how they feel within their organisation.
A FRAGILE BALANCE...
Every year, we spend an average of 1,576 hours at work. In European countries, we have gotten used to a distribution of work and non-work in which we spend one-third of the day at work, another third with sleep and the last third for ourselves and our families and friends. With the latest demographic, economic and technological trends a lot of employees, and also employers feel the conflict between the post-industrial organisation of time, and as the arrival of e-mail and messaging on smart-phones has added approximately 2 extra hours to our working day, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Our study asks a number of questions to employees, which will surely also raise their self-awareness about a number of factors influencing their quality of life, such as time spent on commuting, social support by their colleagues, their worker and caring identity. Can they talk openly about these issues in their work environment? Do they feel backed by their superior or direct colleagues if they express their personal needs? Do they suppose that the organisation expects from them a total commitment to their job compromises? Employees personal experiences will help us answer these questions because we truly believe that a more relaxed, satisfied, and happy workforce will lead to higher productivity and reduced absenteeism.
WORK & PRIVATE LIFE – A SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RESEARCH
"Work-life balance is not something that happens – it's something you create"
The relationship with our management, the way we collaborate with our colleagues and enjoy our day to day tasks goes a long way in determining how we feel about our job.
By knowing the subjective point of view of employees, we will be able to assess what is their perception on what work and social environment expect of them and how they support them. We will be able to evaluate if the top management values work-life balance of employees, is family friendly and if information about the subject circulates easily within companies.
With Dr. Loes Meeussen from the Center of Social and Cultural Psychology of the University of Leuven, the WorkLife HUB designed an user-friendly survey that will help understand how employees reconcile their work and private/family life. Answering the survey will take about 10-15 Minutes, and will give us a great insight into the work-life balance challenges of employees - and also the way employers in Belgium manage these issues. We plan to collect at least 1,500 answers to release a representative benchmark report in the first quarter of 2019.
Our goal is to assess employees satisfaction according to their gender, generation, activity sector, region, seniority in their organisation or the size of the company. Among other criteria, we want to estimate how many hours employees work in a week according to their labour contract and how many hours they actually work (including overtime) and if they can work flexible hours.
Another question of our survey is if the respondents carry care responsibilities in their private life with children, elderly parents, pets, sick partner, or even friends and it will be valuable to figure out how people reconcile work and life according to their age or gender.
An additional key factor is how the workers evaluate their well-being within their team whether their direct manager is a male or a female.
YOUR COLLABORATION MATTERS
Many employees report challenges to balance their work and private life. This impacts not only their engagement at work and performance but also their health. The war for talent is heating up in Belgium, according to 2018 figures by the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, a total of 130,000 vacancies are not filled in, and this number is increasing.
In this economic climate, employees have the opportunity to select their next workplace according to how they are supported in having a successful career and a fulfilling private and family life.
"These days, employees expect less of a separation of work and personal life. That doesn't mean that work tasks should encroach upon our personal time, but it does mean that employees today expect more from the companies for whom they work. Why shouldn't the workplace reflect your values?" - Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce
There is a great opportunity now for organisations and businesses in Belgium to up-date their people policies to support their employees with flexible work, teleworking, childcare and other aspects, in order to improve team performance and attract and retain the right talent.
Our survey is totally anonymous, trustworthy and no one outside the scientific team of researchers has access to the data. Your collaboration is necessary to promote and pursue public policies that embrace a more human design of job environment and more attention to the demands of our families and communities. The report will be a great opportunity to learn from other organizations and enhance the overall employee experience across Belgium.
Please let us know your personal experience so we can inform people, companies, and policymakers on how to improve work-life balance.