The recession, along with the cost control efforts it drove, has left us with some serious employee issues, including burnout and burgeoning workloads. This, of course, is the flip side of the productivity surges we've witnessed recently. According to a recent Right Management survey of more 800 workers, 79% of them report that their workloads have increased, 57% say that they have increased "a lot". And taking on more - and more - work in the midst of turbulence and uncertainty is bound to bring stress and burnout in its wake.
One element of the greater talent profession is taking a close look at these circumstances. WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP), along with WFD Consulting, recently released a survey report titled The State of Work-Life 2010. In it, they claim that work-life is alive and well, as evidenced by a steady commitment to work-life initiatives among senior management in a wide range of industries. They also note, however, what they see as a curious mismatch between the most serious workforce issues companies are facing and where they are investing their work-life resources in 2010.
What they reference in that observation is essentially this: The largest proportion of work-life focus and investment in responding companies is in core and traditional areas such as flexible work arrangements, dependent care, resources and referral. A minority of responding companies (36%) plan to address related areas such as engagement, wellness, resilience, energy, workload and work redesign. Only 18% are pressing into areas considered new to work-life professioals such as recognition, mentoring, coaching and career management.
And yet the top two workforce issues named by respondents were stress and burnout (named by 35%) and workload (named by 33%). Many of the concerns being addressed by today's work-life investments and programs were way down on the list of issues and needs, including implementing flexible work arrangements (4%), dependent care issues (2%), and the retention and advancement of women (0%!).
A few observations from outside the work-life discipline:
The work-life profession has made commendable progress in calling attention to and addressing a number of issues that have historically been connected to the population of working parents. This report shows them building on that success by turning their sights to areas of broader workforce concern - like work design, recognition, coaching and mentoring. This is good news.
These new areas of work-life focus, though, are complex and interdisciplinary in nature, and they represent steps into turf where other talent professionals (including OD, compensation, benefits, etc.) may already have their tents set up.
But this is good news, too.
Because these are significant challenges - helping our workers be healthy, happy and productive in organizations that must twist, turn and adapt more quickly and abruptly than ever before - and they demand the best thoughts of all professionals in the talent spectrum. So I greet with enthusiasm the confirmation that work-life professionals now have these broader issue in their sights and will be joining their colleagues at the bigger talent table with their own unique tools and perspectives.
We can certainly use their help!