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Work Life Balance – Really?

Out here in the HR space we all talk, reflect and pontificate about various topics. Many of these topics are in what the broadcasting industry would call high rotation, i.e. they get talked about a lot. Well I am going to do a pile on here, and talk a bit about the high rotation topic of “work life balance.”   Yes we all know the subject matter, be nice to all of our employees, we are family first, we care about you as a person, if we have happy employees they will be productive employees. (I didn’t make those up I am just recycling them.)

Now don’t take me the wrong way, while I am certainly a self-admitted cynic, I too actually think there does need to be “some” balance in a person’s life, or you will simply burn out. My cynicism kicks in when I hear things like, “Oh take all the time you need off George to deal with your family matter, just be sure to have those EEOC reports in my inbox in the morning.” Really? You care about the guy, but secretly you care more about their work output and what they do for your organization. While, I guess that is not all wrong, it seems a bit hypocritical when the employer or employer representatives take stands such as my example.

DRLookingAttheIPhoneIn an effort to enhance the work life balance, some employers are now offering smart phones or tablets to their employers so that they can be connected to the work-site, but yet don’t have to be physically present to “do work.” This too seems like a nice benefit, especially if the employer is paying for the device and all of the minutes for you to use whenever you choose to do so.   However, it seems like this may be turning into a deal with the devil. You get the iPad, the iPhone, the Droid, but for that price, the employer now has a pipeline right into your life, which they can open at anytime, day or night. Many employers provide this benefit to employees, with the expectation that the employee will be available 24/7, regardless of what you are doing… on vacation, at church or just trying to spend a little quality time with the family.

It does not seem unreasonable that with these devices the employer should be able to enhance access to the employee but 24/7 seems a little over the top. In Europe they are actually considering oversight of matters like this. If this is going on in England and France one cannot think it will be too long before it moves across the pond to our nation’s capitol.

While this is being kicked around over there, we have begun looking into the matter here state-side as well. Ponder this, if you are always supposed to be available when are you not working? Are you ever on vacation or do you really have ANY time off?

Let’s just say now, one of these employees who was required to be available left the Company in a not so pretty way.   And now they feel wronged and are looking for a little retribution or way to save face. Might they think this, all of that time I was supposed to be off of work, I was really working – but I was not being paid for that time – I never really got that time off. Hey DOL, I want my money. If you are in HR you know where this is going now.

So let’s put this into perspective, are your policies of availability realistic, and do they offer some modicum of work/life balance? Please make sure they do, because you don’t want to be the test case for DOL and have you and your Company’s name on some landmark case like Performance I Create vs. Ryan – do you?

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