The quality of an organization’s workforce is a major determinant of the quality and quantity of productivity, as well as her capacity to meet the set bottom line. The tendency, however, has been for employers and managers to prioritize productivity through the reinforcement of remuneration, without proper attention to circumstances around the employee, that are not directly related to the organisation. With growing realization, managers and human resources practitioners in developing countries are beginning to introduce relational factors in motivating and satisfying their employees. However, little attention has been paid to the role of work-life integration in helping workers negotiate the possible challenges emanating from stress and strains of the work place. This article discusses a “work-life integration” dimension as a panacea against possible frustration of the employee, and a strategy for supporting him for optimum productivity.
The human employee, his person and human needs
The employee is a human person, with feelings needs and aspirations, which forms part of his drive. As demonstrated by Abraham Maslow’s theory (of the “hierarchy of human needs”), humans beings desire and prioritize certain things over others, due of the implications of such things for the happiness of their human person. Aside the physiological needs (e.g. food, air, water, shelter etc.) and safety needs (e.g. personal security, livelihood, health, property, etc), love and belonging (intimacy, friendship and family connections) are the major needs that determine man’s happiness, according to Maslow’s theory. Family and other domains outside the workplace remains major sources of love, warmth and belonging where the employee’s human person is expressed, and his needs met. This is most true among Africans where there is high premium on familial, communal and inter-group relationships.
People have sentiments and emotional attachments towards their families, for instance. And whatever affects their family affects them, and vice-versa. They receive and give support to their family, one of the mutual obligations that bind them together. As employees, they return home – to the family after each day’s work. There, they spend the remainder of the day after workplace. This way, they are invigorated for enhanced productivity both at the work-place and in the other departments of life.
Due to job demands, employees have limited control over their ability to utilise the relational resources in family and in their extended social networks; as well as the potential that they possess in helping them regenerate to deal with or escape possible frustration from the workplace, and ultimately enhance their productivity. This is complicated by the need for survival and livelihood as primary human needs in the face of scarce employment opportunities, particularly in a developing country like Nigeria. Incidentally, the quest for organizational bottom-line, against all odds has the tendency to blind management from the relational needs of the employee, which can cushion the effect of workplace toxicity, work stress and strain, and the possible non-communicable chronic health problems that they generate.
As human persons, however, employees are more related to productivity by the “social nexus”, than the “cash nexus” or remuneration. Thus, effective motivation of workers cannot hinge on monetary remuneration alone, but also on other social or relational strategies, including employee work-family integration. By Work-family integration, we refer to organizational arrangements where policies accommodate employee’s personal life, family and work with due consideration for each, in a milieu of flexibility and unity of life. Work-life integration increases the autonomy of employees in coordinating and integrating the work and non-work facets of their life. It relies first on organizational policy, and then, the deployment of resources such as technology.
Work-life integration makes employees happy, increases productivity with less stress, and more revenue for the organisation. How? The employee is happy that he is able to make a decent living, while being able to meet personal obligations, perform family and other expected social roles in the society. He is healthier with minimal impact of workplace toxicity and stressors. He, therefore, has reasons to be committed to his organisation. This, ultimately, finds expression in optimum productivity. The employees is happy, the organisation is happy.
As noted earlier, organizational policy is a major determinant factor in creating an enabling environment for work-life integration. Some of these policies can help employers support a work-life integrated life for their employees, while optimizing productivity and engendering job satisfaction among workers.
- Work-from home policy to assist employee fulfil family obligations while performing their job roles
- Flexible work schedule to allow employees decide what time they prefer to focus more on work
- Provision for child and elder care such as creche services at the workplace, leave to attend to elderly or other dependent family members
- Work from distant locations, without the compulsion of 9-5, to accommodate any personal urgency or family obligations that may arise
In many Nigerian cities where traffic congestion hold sway and long man-hours are lost to commuting, adopting work-life balance policies become even more imperative for organisations. Depending on the nature of an employee’s work, a “work from home” would allow for more productive time “on the job”, that the regular 9-5 which may actually have the employee tired due to traffic. Similarly, a “flexible work schedule” could allow employees decide what time to resume work and what time to close. This would make productivity peak.
Work-life integration engenders unity of life for employees. Minimizes tendencies for employee frustration and keep toxicity at bay within the workplace. Ultimately, employees are happy and productive, and this spills over to other departments of their life. Happy families and businesses are birthed; and society is improved.