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Work-Life Balance and employee motivation

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMTrevor E. S. Smith

Work-life balance and employee motivation

The issue of low employee motivation continues to challenge human resources departments and heads of organisations.

We recently completed an employee satisfaction survey for a high-profile organisation, and it highlighted how deeply entrenched this issue of low employee engagement is in institutions.

In recognition of this problem, organisations have invested time and resources in trying to arrest the decline of employee engagement. However, numerous management-driven initiatives have not had the desired impact - large percentages of the workforce are still not engaged.

Possible cause?

One factor that could be influencing the problem is work-life balance. Today's employees have a different perspective on life outside of work - personal time and non-work space have taken on more importance. People are walking away from higher-paying jobs to have more time with family - career decision-making now takes more factors into consideration.

The fact that job security is increasingly a fleeting concept, even among higher echelons of the organisation, provides additional pause for employees to broaden their vision and pay closer attention to non-work issues.

The reality is that many are still faced with going through their work life in a tug of war between the job and their personal life.

What can be done?

Here are some considerations that might provide pathways to improved work-life balance simultaneously, with enhanced job satisfaction and improved productivity.


Employers can no longer fail to pay attention to the non-work demands and interests of their staff. This issue now demands an important slot in strategic planning. This is not limited to succession planning considerations, and training needs evaluation. This relates to being well informed about what is taking place in the non-work lives of employees, and its implication for both organisation and employee. Employee relations is a lot more about a genuine partnership than ever before.


Organisations have to rethink how time is conceptualised and managed. Creative ways of introducing flexibility in appropriate environments have to be identified.

This requires dialogue. Employees come with different issues and needs. Fashioning solutions that resonate across a large cross section will be challenging. For example, would a father be willing to trade hours out of a static fixed annual vacation to be able to watch his child perform in a school play in the middle of the work day? How could that be regularised and avoid 'fixes' like calling in sick?

Would a mother appreciate having the opportunity to make a surprise visit to her home for peace of mind with a new helper and compensate for that time from her vacation or by working late?

Realistic application of flexitime can have similar impact. Extend the workday, and allow for flexibility outside of core block of time. More options to work from home, where appropriate, can also help.

Increased family bonding and the avoidance of the guilt of missing key moments of their child's early years puts quality time in the work-life equation and impacts employee engagement.

Clearly, any move in this direction will require fine-tuning, experimentation and responsibility.


This will be hugely controversial as it is not clear that the majority of employees will see employer involvement as desirable. People do not leave their non-work issues at the door when they enter.

A sensitive, trusted, and suitably equipped employer could make a difference to the disposition and state of mind of its employees. That would not only enhance productivity, but could also make a difference in the vexed area of staff turnover.

This needs a reset of how employers are viewed in many environments. Failing that, this initiative might be viewed as merely an attempt to gain further information to advance the employer's objectives.

Some organisations outsource counselling in situations in which an employee requests it. This model has potential and strategies for expanding its use and should be explored.

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Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy, home of the revolutionary FinxS Platform from Extended DISC. Conducts behavioural assessments, employee satisfaction, 360 performance evaluations and team reports with logistics-friendly technology. Email: