Step 2 - Find out about what's happening now, and what the issues are for your organisation and your workforce
Your work-life balance strategy needs to reflect your organisation's particular circumstances and workforce.
This section will help you to:
- identify what you need to know to develop your strategy
- decide how to gather the information
- analyse the information.
What is happening now?
Before you can decide what your organisation should do about work-life balance issues, it is useful to consider the following questions.
- What is the gender, ethnic and age composition of your workforce?
- Where do you typically recruit people from?
- What attracts people to work for your organisation?
- How easy is it to recruit?
- How well do you retain employees?
- How does the retention rate compare with the rest of your sector?
- Why do people leave your organisation?
- Do you typically promote people from within or from outside?
- What are the hours that people normally work?
- If your organisation uses shifts or rosters, how well do these work?
- How satisfied are people with their shift or roster patterns?
Possible sources for this information include climate or attitude surveys, exit interviews, organisational research, your human resource information system or personnel records, or any external reporting your organisation is required to do.
- Are current business demands impacting on your staffing levels, workloads or hours of work?
- Are there any foreseeable business demands that will impact on your staffing levels, workloads or hours of work in the future?
You may be able to find this out from strategic or business plans, or from discussions with managers.
Your organisation's current approach to work-life balance
- What are the key things that are likely to put pressure on work-life balance in this organisation?
- How much attention has this issue been given to date?
- If the issue has already arisen in your organisation, what prompted this?
- What does your organisation already do to assist employees with work-life balance?
- overt policies
- hours of work
- leave provisions
- job design
- work planning
- direct service provision, e.g. school holiday programmes
- information provision, e.g. retirement programmes
- culture of the organisation, e.g. social activities.
- Do men and women in senior roles have families?
- Do any people in senior or high-profile roles work other than standard hours?
- Can people progress in the organisation if they work other than standard hours?
Possible sources for this information include policy documents, HR plans, work-life balance research, management team papers and anecdotal knowledge.
Identify where to start your investigations and gather further information
Use the above information to identify the likely work-life balance problems or issues in your organisation. If you have only a fairly general idea of what these might be, there are a number of ways to get a broad picture of what your organisation is already doing to help employees achieve a satisfactory work-life balance, what makes it harder, and what else would make a difference.
To find out more about issues for your employees, you can:
- run a staff-wide work-life balance survey
- interview a sample of individual employees
- run focus groups with some staff
- run more detailed questionnaires to all or a sample of staff
- various combinations of the above.
As well as asking employees what work-life balance solutions they think would work, it is also useful to ask managers about what solutions they think are practical.
Consultation processes can be conducted by internal staff or external consultants.
Some organisations have found that a work-life balance survey is often useful for raising awareness of the issues, prompting discussion, and sometimes even encouraging people to start problem-solving about their immediate issues. They are limited, however, in providing explanations or developing detailed solutions. A survey that can be adapted to your organisation's needs is available on our website. Use the survey results to prioritise where you need further information. You can use interviews, focus groups or smaller samples to find out more about particular issues.
How you choose to gather the information will depend on:
- what information techniques your organisation is familiar with
- how the people in your organisation feel comfortable operating
- whether written English will be understood by all staff
- the level of trust in the organisation as to how the information will be used
- the time, expertise and resources you can commit to the project.