Trend Watch www.shrm.org/trends
Have you ever snapped at a loved one after a long day at work? Or
been distracted on the job because you
were worried about a family member?
As much as we might want them to,
our “work” and “home” lives don’t
stay neatly contained in separate boxes.
Research has shown the importance
of taking a holistic approach to employee
well-being. The Latin phrase “cura personalis,” or “care of the entire person,”
captures the need to attend to one’s mind,
body, spirit and emotions. That’s why
savvy leaders are trying to help workers
improve their overall quality of life.
Doing so may be more important
than ever, as advances in technology, globalization and economic pressures have increasingly blurred the line
between work and personal time, particularly for knowledge workers. Many
people today find it hard to disconnect
from work and are often encouraged—
implicitly or explicitly—to put in additional hours on evenings or weekends.
The idea that work can be done anywhere, anytime has burgeoned over the
past two decades. The Society for Human
Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) 2017
Employee Benefits survey report indicates
that 62 percent of organizations offer telework options, compared with 20 percent
20 years ago. At the same time, 51 percent
of employees work on job-related e-mails
outside of their work hours, the 2016
SHRM National Study of the Changing
Moreover, a 2016 study by Merideth
Thompson and associates at Utah State
University’s Huntsman School of Business
found that a person’s use of a mobile device
for work during family time negatively
impacted employees and their spouses.
Workers experienced greater conflict at
home, higher instances of burnout and a
decreased commitment to their employers.
In turn, spouses felt more resentful and less
committed to their spouse’s companies.
This increased the likelihood that employees would quit.
But the relationship between organizations and their workers may be shifting, as
leaders become aware that their workers
need time to unplug in order to be effective.
Some companies—even entire countries,
such as France—are implementing policies or laws that permit workers to ignore
after-hours e-mails or even forbidding
them from responding. The 2016 SHRM
National Study of Employers found that
companies are providing more flexibility regarding where and when people can
work and when they can take time off.
Most HR professionals recognize
the importance of workflex and family-
friendly policies. But they also noted in
SHRM’s 2017 Strategic Benefits survey
report that their companies lag the market
in those areas, and their organizations gen-
erally aren’t changing their policies. This is
too bad given that there’s evidence to sug-
gest that companies that offer better qual-
ity of life, by giving workers a high level of
flexibility and permission to unplug, have
employees who are more engaged, more
satisfied with their jobs, less likely to leave,
and in better physical and mental health.
Given the tight recruiting market and
low unemployment rate, policies that pro-
mote quality of life can give companies a
leg up in the labor market. As it turns out,
workers with a high qual-
ity of life generally turn out
Shonna Waters is vice
president of research at
By Shonna Waters
Quality Living, Quality Work
Employers are recognizing the need for employees to unplug.