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Work-Life Balance: Abusers of The System
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Work-Life Balance: Abusers of The System - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Abusers of The System

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Abusers of The System

As more workplaces strive for a flexibility encouraging work-life balance, they run into complications, practical and legal, that many find discouraging. Some of the rank-and-file become so discouraged that they stop caring, accepting instead that the way things are is better than the headache of adjusting for a new work environment they won’t benefit from. This is a self-defeating position that puts everyone back where they started, which isn’t really what anyone wants. Many in management are wary because policies established for reasons of compliance, or for protection against abuse, are often targets for change when that word “flexibility” is tossed about.

Yet flexibility is a goal that almost everyone wants, whether it’s a few days for telecommuting, elastic start and stop times, cafeteria-style benefits options, or unlimited sick leave. Flexibility almost always opens the doors to abuse, and abuse puts the entire company at risk. This is why everyone must turn in three copies of form A with two signatures: so that the one or two people who might try to get away with something won’t be able to.

Guarding against abuse is certainly a worthy and necessary task, but the truth is that employees who would abuse the system with laxer policies are probably abusing the system anyway, in some other area. This is because in most places with reasonably healthy workplace cultures, almost everyone acts in good faith. That ridiculously long, detailed employee handbook is for those very few people who don’t, no matter what the policies are.

It’s not a new concept. Nobody’s allowed to do X because one person in a thousand is going to do something unkind or unfair to others. We accept this fact of life, but what if we didn’t? Many organizations are finding it better to keep any eye out for abusers while loosening old restrictions. The result might be an undetected case here or there of someone getting away with something, but most of the time, the benefits of those loosened restrictions are reaped by the other 999 people, and why would we want to prevent this?

Sometimes, curtailing abuse is simply a matter of communicating clearly. When a company makes new allowances for increased flexibility, it might be worth it to outline the anticipated, desired benefits, the cautions for the employer and the employee, and risk of damage to company, management, and regular employees. A formal statement of management’s trepidations followed by a rationale for going ahead can go a long way to helping team members understand what’s at stake, not to mention how much better their jobs will be and how valuable that is to the bosses. “We are risking this because we want you to have better lives,” is the potent message.

Obviously any company looking to change the way work is done every day should proceed carefully, but nothing gets better by staying the same, and nowadays, the expectation for many is sensitivity by employers to the real-life needs of employees. There’s a reason they pay good money for good talent: they know they’re better when their people are happy. All things considered, a few assumed abusers are the reality, but your good people shouldn’t suffer because of them, not when the benefit outweighs the risks.


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Work-Life Balance: Abusers of The System - Executive Leadership Articles

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