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Work-life balance: global survey reveals differences between what employers say and do

A global survey published yesterday by WorldatWork reveals a growing imbalance between what employers say about work-life balance and what they actually do.

Every October since 2003, WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP) has led an awareness campaign that promotes work-life effectiveness as a key contributor to productivity and success in the modern workplace.

This year the campaign is calling attention to a troubling gap between leaders' beliefs and behaviours at many organisations.

The study found the following prevailing leadership attitudes in developed countries (United States, United Kingdom and Germany). More than half of the surveyed managers think the ideal employee is one that is available to meet business needs regardless of business hours, 40% believe the most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments and nearly one in three think that employees who use flexible work arrangements will not advance very far in their organisation The same leadership attitudes prevailed in emerging countries (Brazil, China, India) but on a larger scale.

Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress, said: "We set out to study men and work-life integration, but instead uncovered workplace trends showing employees suffer a variety of job repercussions for participating in work-life programs, even when their leaders insist they support the business value.

"This conundrum can be so oppressive that some employees gounderground, resorting to 'stealth maneuvers' for managing their personal responsibilities." "The good news is that 80% of employers around the globe avow support for family-friendly workplaces. The bad news is they are simultaneously penalizing those who actively strive to integrate work with their lives," said Lingle. Employee respondents reported repercussions that included:

Overtly or subtly discouraged from using flexible work and other work-life programs

Received unfavorable job assignments

Received negative performance reviews

Received negative comments from supervisor

Denied a promotion

"While the HR department designs and administers work-life programs, it's the managers who have to implement it," added Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader for WorldatWork.

"Our studies find that a culture of flexibility correlates with lower employee turnover. Specifically, those with training and experience managing employees on flexible work arrangements are much more supportive of work-life than those without that training and experience. Closing the gap between what managers believe and how they behave will make every workplace a better place to work."