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Best Practices in Implementing Work-Life Balance Programs

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Best Practices in Implementing Work-Life Balance Programs
Srirang Jha
Apeejay School of Management, New Delhi
Swarn Kant Mishra
Footwear Design & Development Institute, Noida

Work-life balance programs are important for contemporary organizations not only for ensuring long-term wellbeing and good health of the employees but also to attain long-term competitiveness. There have been a number of researches establishing relationship between work-life balance and organizational effectiveness. However, not many researchers have attempted to capture or review best practices in implementing work-life balance programs. This paper is a humble essay to explore if there are indeed any best practices in implementing work-life balance –a catchphrase which most of the companies love to swear by –and whether a holistic model for efficient work-life balance program can evolve from what the companies at the top are following on the ground. The authors have also tried to present a critique of gaps in current work-life balance programs. The paper raises more questions than it answers and thus provides enough fodder for the intellectual investigation on the theme.
Keywords: Work-life balance, Best Practices, Organizational Excellence
Work-life balance programs have attracted the attention of corporate leaders in recent times thanks to significance of such initiatives in augmenting organizational performance.
The organizations across the globe are trying to remain competitive by pampering their employees who in turn are increasingly finding it difficult to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle and cope with the overwhelming demands of work and home. No wonder, work-life balance programs offer a win-win scenario for both the employers and the employees. A comprehensive work-life program is likely to strengthen employee value proposition enabling the executives to stretch themselves out of their own volition in order to accomplish strategic objectives of their respective organizations.
It is therefore imperative to revisit the best practices in implementing work-life balance programs so that some sort of patterns can be identified, inferences drawn and generalizations made for a vast majority of companies which are yet to launch such initiatives. This paper aims at collating the best practices not only as source of inspiration but also as possible blueprint which can be adapted by managers and leaders in different parts of the world. The authors have avoided being judgemental in presenting and analysing

the best practices so that there is enough scope for alteration at the time of adaptation of such initiatives as per the requirements and resources of the organizations.
While it is truly a difficult task to draw a list of companies for compiling case instances on best practices in implementing work-life balance programs for purpose of this paper, the authors have depended on various agencies involved in direct or indirect assessment of such initiatives. A widely acceptable, comprehensive and authoritative list of best practices in implementing work-life balance programs is not available at the moment. It appears that
Glassdoor, a California-based organization is at the fore-front of ranking companies based on work-life balance programs. Great Places to Work Institute is another leading organization that publishes list of best places to work on globally stringent criteria.
A good number of companies in the list of Glassdoor also find a place in the list of Great
Places to Work Institute surveys. Occasionally, magazines such as Forbes and Fortune also bring out special issues on ranking of companies based on their work-life balance programs.
In the following section, work-life balance programs of five companies i.e. Google, SAS
Institute, NetApp, AutoDesk and National Instruments have been reviewed to explore whether there could be best practices in implementing such programs in other companies as well. Out of the five companies, four are common in the list of Glassdoor and Great
Places to Work Institute. Google is the only exception. The authors have included Google for the simple reason that the company is only one of its kind to have applied scientific approach to design and implement work-life balance programs.
Google finds a place in the list of Great Places to Work Institute’s top MNCs of the world.
Work-life balance programs of google have been reported and discussed on various on-line platforms and scholarly studies. Bock (2014) observes that Google uses a scientific approach to work-life balance by conducting an annual g-DNA within survey which is unlike run on the mill researches. The g-DNA survey is used to design and implement work-life balance programs for its employees in different parts of the world. The g-DNA survey revolves around innate characteristics (nature) of the employees and their surroundings (nurture) as both these factors determine their experience at the workplace (Bock, 2014).
The g-DNA survey is unique and worth emulating by other companies interested in leveraging work-life balance programs for long-term competitiveness. Bock (2014) unfolds how the g-DNA survey is conducted: ‘a randomly selected and representative group of over
4,000 Googlers completes two in-depth surveys each year. The survey itself is built on scientifically validated questions and measurement scales. (Respondents are asked) about traits that are static, like personality; characteristics that change, like attitudes about culture, work projects, and co-workers; and how Googlers fit into the web of relationships around all (the employees/managers/leaders of Google). (Researchers) then consider how all these factors interact, as well as with biographical characteristics like tenure, role and performance. Critically, participation is optional and confidential’.
Based on g-DNA surveys, Google employees have been classified as Segmentors (they draw a psychological line between work stress and the rest of their lives, and without a care for looming deadlines and floods of emails can fall gently asleep each night) and Integrators

(they not only find themselves checking email all evening, but pressing refresh on gmail again and again to see if new work has come in) (Bock, 2014). Incidentally, 69% of the google employees fall under Integrators’ category which is worrisome for the company. Inhouse research on work-life balance provides hope as Google is trying to design work-life balance programs based on the findings of the survey. For example, Google office in Dublin has launched an innovative plan better known as ‘Dublin Goes Dark’ where the employees are told to drop off all their devices at the front desk before going home for the night. The
Google employees of Dublin office reported blissful and stress-free evenings as a result of this initiative (Bock, 2014).
There are other encouraging storied from Google. Toronto office of Google has started a program of not sending e-mails in evenings or weekends unless emergencies arise.
Employees are not penalized for sending e-mails during weekends, however, such temptations are discouraged. (The Globe and Mail, n.d.). In the Waterloo office of Google,
No Meeting Weeks are held, allowing staff to focus on other work without time siphoned off to gatherings and the many tasks they spawn. That decreases the chances employees have to take work home that week to keep up with everything, allowing for a more segmented lifestyle (The Globe and Mail, n.d.).
Google offers a great opportunity to enjoy work and augment familial happiness to all its employees. As per the career page of Google, its employees are entitled to the following benefits (Google, n.d.):
 Stay healthy, save time: On-site physicians and nurses, convenient medical services, and comprehensive health care coverage help keep you healthy and happy. (Varies by location)
 Travel without worries: Googlers and their families are covered with travel insurance and emergency assistance - even on personal vacations.
 More time with your baby: New parents get time off and some extra spending money to help them welcome their new bundle of joy.
 Never stop learning: We'll reimburse you for classes or degree programs that help you with what you do.
 Legal aid for less: Googlers get legal advice at no cost and, in the US, also get common legal services at a generous group discount.
SAS Institute
SAS Institute tops the best companies list of Glassdoor in terms of work-life balance and ranks second in the Great Places to Work Institute’s list of World’s Best MNCs. The company’s website vociferously reflects its philosophy and ethos: ‘The culture of SAS honors the importance of family, work/life balance and enjoyment of the workplace. SAS is committed to helping employees, their families and retirees achieve balance in their lives by providing problem-solving, coaching, resources and referrals, and educational programs’.
SAS Institute provides following benefits to its employees to ensure a greater work-life balance (SAS Institute, n.d.):
 Career: Meaningful work, stimulating work environment, training and career development opportunities.
 Time for Self/Family: Paid holidays, paid vacations, flexible work schedules, bereavement leave, paid sick days.

Health: Beautifully landscaped campus with walking/biking trails, comprehensive medical services, employee assistance program, healthcare flexible spending account, on-site healthcare centre, on-site recreation and fitness centre, short and long-term disability plans.
Family: adoption assistance and paid adoption leave, college scholarship for dependents, dependent care flexible spending account, paid family sick days, subsidized on-site child-care centres.
Work/Life Department: A full-fledged office of Work/Life with eight full-time social workers involved in providing professional assistance in matters of child development, aging, elder care, education counselling, etc.
Miscellaneous: On-site services such as massage, salon, repair and maintenance.

SAS Institute’s unique work environment and family-friendly programs contribute to the company’s astonishingly low 4 percent turnover rate (as against industry norms of 20%) which translates to an annual savings to the tune of $60-62 million (Bankert, Lee and Lange,
NetApp has been ranked 3rd in the Great Places to Work Institute’s World’s Best MNCs List
2014 and also figures in Fortune magazine’s list of 100 best companies to work for in 2014.
As mentioned on the company website: ‘These rankings reflect NetApp’s unique offering of employee benefits and its culture of credibility, fairness, respect, pride, and camaraderie.
Creating a healthy work environment plays an important role in building employee enthusiasm and fostering the collaboration and creativity for which NetApp is known. Its daily activities and events help build its community and maintain a healthy balance between work and play. In addition to a great work environment, the employees get to work on one of the leading innovative storage and data management solutions in the industry’.
Benefits page of NetApp website categorically outlines the spirit of work-life balance approach towards employees: ‘At NetApp, we are passionate about creating a stimulating, supportive work environment for you. We strive to keep you healthy, happy, and moving ahead through our benefits programs’. A summary of NetApp’s rainbow of employees’ benefits are mentioned as under:
 Healthcare Program: NetApp provides comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurance plans beginning the first day of regular employment.
 Dental, Vision, Wellness and Family Programs: Employees have a choice to visit any dentist anywhere. They are also entitled to get frames and lenses in case of any vision-related issues. A wide range of wellness benefits are available to all the employees. Besides, the employees have choice of having second-opinion service with access to medical advice from top physicians of the world.
 Insurance and Income Protection Programs: NetApp provides short and long term disability benefits, basic life and AD and D insurance and supplemental life insurance to its employees.
 Financial and Savings Program: NetApp provides for flexible spending account, limited purpose flexible spending account (for healthcare), and employee stock purchase option.

Work-life Balance Program: NetApp provides the following benefits under work-life balance programs:
Time off: Paid vacation time increases based on years of service. Time off also include 10 paid holidays and sick time.
Volunteer Time Off: Employees can avail five days of voluntary work in a year with full pay.
Employee Assistance Program: Employees can get free confidential assistance with issues such as individual or family counselling, work-life conflicts, legal and financial services. Educational Assistance: Tuition reimbursement plan covers expenses for accredited coursework. NetApp University also offers a wide range of free professional development resources.
Pre-paid Legal Plan: This voluntary plan provides covered legal services, consultations on the phone, in-person consultations, document preparations, and representations in many frequently needed legal matters.

Thanks to comprehensive employee benefits and focus on work-life balance, NetApp has been able to attract and retain highly talented people and surge ahead of its competitors in exceeding stakeholders’ expectations.
AutoDesk figures in the list of Glassdoor (for best work-life balance) and best MNCs list of the Great Places to Work Institute. The company believes that a rewarding career and personal life depend in part on employees’ continuing good health, future financial security and peace of mind. That is why Autodesk offers a wide variety of high-quality health insurance plans, flexible spending accounts, and survivor and income protection plans as part of our benefits program. The program allows employees to choose the benefits and coverage levels that best meet their needs and those of their family. Summary of the benefits provided by AutoDesk is presented as under (AutoDesk, n.d.):
 Shared Contributions: AutoDesk contributes enough so that its employees can afford comprehensive benefits package. The company also subsidizes health insurance premium for the family.
 Flexible Spending Accounts: The company provides flexible spending account to meet healthcare expenditure of self and dependents.
 Income Protection Plans: The employees of AutoDesk are entitled to sick leave, short-term/long-term disability benefit,
 Work/Life Quality: Characteristic features of work/life quality at AutoDesk are as under:  Workplace Flexibility: variable core hours, home working, shared office space and casual dress.
 Time Off: Sabbatical, holidays, vacations.
 Health and Wellbeing: Wellness reimbursement ($300 per annum), employee assistance program, health advocacy program.
 Employee Impact: Paid volunteer time (4 hours per month), matching gift program
(the company donates amount contributed by the employees to an approved NGO).
 Miscellaneous: Group legal plan, auto and home insurance, pet insurance, long-term care insurance.

National Instruments
National Instruments figures in the common list of Glassdoor and Great Places to Work
Institute. The company has developed an employee-centric work environment designed to empower individuals and provide enough space for their work-life balance. Summary of employee benefits provided by National Instruments is given as under (National
Instruments, n. d.):
 Very comprehensive -yet extremely affordable -medical plans that include prescription and vision coverage
 On-site health centre professionally managed by Take Care Health Systems Employer
Solutions and staffed with a physician, a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, and support personnel
 Flexible, cost-effective dental plan
 Employee stock plans, including a discounted employee stock purchase plan
 10 annual paid holidays (one is a personal holiday you can take at your discretion)
 2 weeks of paid vacation
 10 annual paid sick days
 Paid bereavement days
 Tuition assistance for approved degree plans
 Company performance bonus
 Flexible spending account
 Group legal plan for discounted legal services
 On-site, 24/7 fitness centre
 Employee wellness programs
 Adoption assistance
 Life insurance, short-term disability, and long-term disability plan.
 NI match for employee’s charitable contributions (annual match limit applies)
 24-hour toll-free employee assistance program - a confidential, professional counselling resource Conclusion
The authors have discussed work-life balance programs of five companies viz. Google, SAS
Institute, NetApp, AutoDesk and National Instruments in this paper. Except Google, none of the companies have a scientific approach to implement work-life balance program despite the fact that these companies figure in the lists of best places to work or best companies for work-life balance. All the four companies (barring Google) in the study have tried to present their comprehensive employee benefits as part of work-life balance intervention. In reality, work-life balance program is a minor part of the overall employee benefits package. This betrays the stated philosophy of companies to ensure work-life balance of their employees.
True, we do have best companies, but do we have best practices in implementing work-life balance program? Is there any serious attempt to understand what the employees are actually looking for in order to reduce their work-life conflicts? Should there be no stakeholder consultation before designing and implementing work-life balance programs? Is there any reliable metrics to measure the efficacy of work-life balance programs? Till many of these questions are addressed by the corporate as well as academic, best practices in implementing work-life balance program will remain elusive.

AutoDesk. (n.d.) US total rewards overview. Accesses on 9 April 2015 from Bankert, E., Lee, M. D. and Lange, C. (n.d.) SAS Institute. The Wharton Work/Life
Accessed on 7
2015 from
Bock, L. (2014). Google’s scientific approach to work-life balance and much more. Harvard
Business Review, 27 March 2014 accessed on 8 May 2015 from Google. (n.d.) Careers, life at google, benefits. Accessed on 8 May 2015 from National Instruments. (n.d.). Employee benefits. Accessed on 10 April 2015 from NetApp.
from SAS Institute. (n.d.). US employee benefits and programs. Accessed on 8 May 2015 from The Globe and Mail. (n.d.). Even Google’s workers struggle with balance. Accessed on 8 May

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