Blurring the lines between work and life

By: Jude Carter

Have you heard about “third places”? Sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term for all the other places where we can work. You know, the multi-purpose spots like coffee shops, libraries, or hotel lobbies.  Of course there’d be no such thing if we didn’t have smart technology… and open-minded employers who are trying to offer workers more flexibility for balancing the demands of work and life.

But, let’s face it; this only applies to certain kinds of jobs. What about everyone else? The last time I checked, there were still lots of people commuting “to work”. You know, an actual plant or office building where shifts of hourly workers have to be physically present at the worksite to do their jobs. Working from Starbucks is not an option for them. Is this becoming a fairness issue? And is it hurting employee morale?

Basically what we’re talking about here is flexibility, which can come in many shapes and sizes. Workers at all levels have issues with balancing their work and home lives. The answer doesn’t always have to involve a smartphone and a latte.
When time is the biggest issue, some solutions include: flexible scheduling to accommodate daycare or eldercare, summer hours, job sharing or temporary re-assignment of responsibilities. Sometimes workers need help in other areas.

We work with a chain of nursing homes in Canada who had a very innovative way of supporting their employees. They recognized that many of their workers had legal or financial problems, and did not know where to turn. They brought in professionals to provide one-on-one guidance at no cost to the employees.

While the solutions can vary widely, the message they send is the same. By offering some flexibility that enables greater work-life balance, you are telling your employees that you value them, not just as workers, but also as people.

Sharon Toelle
July 6, 2010

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