When the economy still hasn’t fully recovered, uncertainty still reigns as to how much flexibility employees can ask for without losing their job security, and how much employers can invest without jeopardising initial promising growth? We couldn’t have found a better expert to ask, than Dr. Ellen Ernst Kossek, who has devoted all of her career to these important questions. She is a thought leader and change agent on how to innovate in the workplace to leverage gender and diversity and adapt human resource strategy, and improve our knowledge on the impact of work-life balance through her research and consultancy work.

Importance of investment in work-life policies

Advances in technology and evidence around the causes for burnout and disengagement are creating a conflicting environment and the conditions for faux-flexibility. How do we not work 24/7 is the new 1 million $ question. Investment in solid work-life policies are contributing to both a competitive strategy, to attract and retain talent, to provide a long-term investment in people, and also form the basis for a compassionate strategy, for employers to be playing their part in their communities as a responsible employer.

The key to success is a trusting relationship between employers and employees in agreeing on how they can best support each other aligned with the purpose of the organisation. Employers have to put in place policies that support flexible working and also creatively redesigning work processes to enabling this fit and for employees to be their whole selves at work. Employees on the other hand need to formulate their own needs and request the kind of supports that will co-create the workplace and culture where they can perform their best, yet prevent burnout.

Role of public policies

And public policy needs to take the courageous step in enabling policy experimentation and creative and flexible solutions, for example allowing older workers to gently ease into retirement with a reduced workload, which enables younger workers to step in, instead of the dramatic transition from an increasingly long working life to full-time retirement at a set age. Work-life balance measures require a high degree of flexibility from policy makers and employers and put their creative leadership truly to the test. 

Dr. Ellen Ernst Kossek is well known for her cutting-edge work-life related research studies and books. A few among notable editions: 

CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age

Work and Life Integration: Organizational, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives

Managing Human Resources in the 21st Century: From Core Concepts to Strategic

Managing Diversity: Human Resource Strategies for Transforming the Workplace