With the growing realization of the centrality of human resources and the place of intrinsic factors in their motivation, employers and managers are beginning to incorporate relational factors in employee motivation, beyond mere monetary remuneration. However, little attention has been accorded to the role of Work-Life Integration (WLI) in helping workers negotiate the possible challenges emanating from stress and strains of the workplace, especially in a pandemic situation such as we are. This article discusses a “work-life integration” dimension to addressing the possible frustration of the employee, and as a strategy for supporting workers for optimum productivity.
The human employee: a human person with human needs
An employee is a human person, with feelings, needs, and aspirations, which form part of his drive. According to Abraham Maslow’s theory (of the “hierarchy of human needs”), human beings desire and prioritize certain things over others, due to the implications of such things for their life and the happiness of their human person. Aside from 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 imperatives that determine man’s happiness. Family and other domains outside of the workplace, therefore, constitute important sources of love, warmth, and belonging for the human person. This is even epitomized in African where there is a high premium on familial, communal, and inter-group relationships. People have sentiments and emotional attachments towards their families from where they receive and give support in a milieu of mutual obligations and social solidarity. From work, it is to the home that they return and spends the remainder of each day after work. The home has the highest potential to re-invigorate them for enhanced productivity.
Due to job demands, however, employees possess limited control over their ability to utilise the relational resources in family and other extended social networks. This is also true of their affordance in regenerating or escaping from possible workplace frustration, which inhibits their productive capacity.
Incidentally, the quest to achieve organizational bottom-line against all odds tends to ‘blind’ management from the ‘outside-the-workplace’ relational needs of the employee. Satisfaction of these neglected needs can cushion the effect of workplace toxicity, work stress and strain, and the possible chronic health problems that they generate over time, while contributing immensely to productivity and bottom-line itself.
Industrial social science research has established that employees are more related to productivity by the “social nexus” than the “cash nexus” (or monetary remuneration). Thus, effective motivation of workers cannot hinge on monetary remuneration alone, but also on other social or relational strategies, including employee WLI. By WLI, 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 depends, first, on organizational policy, and then, the deployment of resources such as technology.
WLI makes employees happy, increases productivity with less stress, and more revenue for the organisation. The employee is happy and therefore motivated that he can make a decent living while being able to meet personal obligations, perform family and other expected social roles in society. Thus, s/he has reasons to be committed to the organisation, a factor that optimises productivity. Thus, the employee is happy, and the organisation is more productive while evolving as a stronger business entity.
Four policy provisions that can help employers support WLI for their employees while optimizing productivity and engendering job satisfaction among workers are as follow.
1. Work-from-home policy to assist employees fulfills family obligations while performing their job roles.
2. Flexible work schedule to allow employees to decide what time they prefer to focus more on work
3. Provision for child and elder care such as crèche services at the workplace, leave to attend to elderly or other dependent family members
4. Work from distant locations, without the compulsion of 9-5, to accommodate any personal urgency or family obligations that may arise
5. WLI training and re-training for employees at different career stages.
Productivity-threatening traffic congestion abounds in many Nigerian cities where man-hours are lost to commuting. Hence, WLI compliance becomes even more imperative for organisations, beyond the safety utility of remote work induced by the pandemic. WLI engenders unity of life for employees. Minimizes tendencies for employee frustration and keeps 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.