Balancing act: How does your boss feel about work-life balance?

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 2 2014 8:30 a.m. MDT

I've repeatedly argued that work-life balance is good for both employees and companies. However, most of the surveys I've cited to draw that conclusion have been based on interviews with front-line workers. What do executives think?

shironosov, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Work-life balance is good for both employees and companies. I believe I've established that fact in the columns I've written during the last few years.

However, I've noticed that most of the surveys I've cited to draw that conclusion have been based on interviews with front-line workers. And really, it's not surprising that the average resident of Cubeville is interested in finding ways to spend less time in his or her cloth-covered home-away-from-home and more time with family.

That's why a survey that popped into my inbox last week really caught my eye.

Battalia Winston, which says it's one of the nation's largest women-owned executive search firms, asked senior executives from a range of industries nationwide to answer several questions about their companies' work-life balance initiatives, as well as about balance in their personal lives.

According to the survey, 83 percent of responding executives indicated that their companies encouraged a healthy work-life balance for employees. Furthermore, the executives said 73 percent of their companies offered flexible schedules, and 66 percent offered teleworking options.

I was glad to read these high numbers, as I think they show that the message about the importance of work-life balance to both workers and corporations is continuing to gain traction.

The executives in the Battalia Winston survey also said that 63 percent of their companies had implemented technology such as teleconferencing and video chat to reduce required travel.

I haven't written much about business travel's effect on work-life balance, but it clearly has a huge impact on people who spend significant time on the road. I've seen this in friends and family members who attend meetings across the country and around the globe.

Again, this was a good sign among many in the survey results.

"Work-life balance continues to be a dominating topic in the coverage of workplace issues, and the survey’s findings reflect this trend," the Battalia Winston press release said. "Just over a third of respondents indicated that their company values work-life balance more so than five years ago, while half of respondents reported that their position has remained the same and existing programs have been maintained (rather than expanded)."

Less positive, but not really surprising, were results showing that few companies offer programs specifically designed to help working parents. According to the Battalia Winston press release, surveyed executives said 21 percent of their companies offered maternity leave beyond what's required by law, and only 14 percent offered paternity leave beyond those requirements.

We hear all the time about the generous maternity and paternity leaves offered in Europe and elsewhere, but this trend doesn't seem to be one that is gaining popularity in the U.S. yet. We'll see if that changes in the years to come.

Perhaps more interesting than these company-specific results were the executives' responses to questions about their personal work habits.

According to the Battalia Winston survey, 55 percent of responding executives said they often worked on either evenings, weekends or both. However, almost 67 percent also said they were satisfied with their work-life balance.

The press release about the survey included some quotes from specific executives, and I found them to be quite enlightening regarding this seeming contradiction.

For example, one CEO said, “It's (working nights/weekends) the nature of the job and the digital age. Customers and owners expect that we are more connected.”

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