stacked pebbles on the beachThe Human Resources Executive magazine online published an article on work-life balance programs in early February. "Employers are not as quick now, as they were in the recession of 2001, to cut work/life programs. In fact, some employers are actually adding more workplace-flexibility programs as a way to reduce costs, one expert says." I want to know from you if this is true for you now, eight months on. When was the last time you benefited from a work-life balance program, and how?

The author Kristen B. Frasch starts out by saying that "It's still too early to tell just what effect, if any, this recession will have on corporate America's evolving commitment to work/life balance. What is becoming clear to both employers and employees are the ramifications of cutting those programs -- something employers learned from the 2001 recession."

She continues quoting Jackie James, research director for the Boston College Center for Work and Family, who said "many are now preparing to go before top leadership in a very proactive way to argue that work/life offerings already in place be spared (the cost-cutting ax)."

Let's not forget that companies also benefit from offering flexible working hours and location. "Or as Jim Bird, CEO of Atlanta-based consultancy WorkLifeBalance.com, puts it, 'workplace flexibility makes money and saves money.' Such flexibility would include shorter work weeks, telecommuting and job sharing."

If you're an employee and have an idea how to cut costs and introduce flexibility into your life, by all means, go ahead and discuss it:

"This kind of environment does present options on both sides," says Rebecca Mazin, human resource consultant and president of Recruit Right in Larchmont, N.Y. "I'm seeing employers offering cuts to the work week, without pay, to save costs," and employees agreeing to such plans to help their companies avoid layoffs.

Bottom line, she says: Employers will be just as happy to discuss cost-cutting, layoff-avoiding approaches in this downturn as employees will be to spend more time with their families and keep their jobs intact. "What's different about these discussions this time around," Mazin adds, "is that the notion of working from home is not being viewed as just a temporary thing anymore; it's now a serious and permanent work option. It's now commonly accepted. Most all of us have high-speed and wireless capabilities at home. That wasn't the case in 2001."

American culture in general has always viewed a strong work ethic as something commendable. The more hours you spend in the office, the better you look and feel. "Early bird catches the worm," "self-made man," "from dish washer to millionaire," and all that. This is the land of opportunity, milk and honey, and all you have to do is work hard. When is hard too hard? After the first ulcer? Or does it have to be a heart-attack?

It seems that needs are a-changing. Many people have developed a preference for actually taking a two-day weekend off, and if you check local listings you're sure to find crackberry support groups. In an ideal world we would all pursue our passions to a point where spending 40+ hours a week on it wouldn't even seem like work, but pleasure. Alas, that's not quite reality yet.

I would love to know what you do to keep your work and life in balance. Is it paradoxical that companies offer perks like an on-site gym or a dry-cleaning pick-up services, supposedly to make your life easier, when really what that means is you can stay at the office longer hours and get back to your desk asap when an idea hits you on the treadmill?  Is it true that after spending 30 minutes on facebook you feel more relaxed and concentrated to continue with your work, or could using social media in the workplace be a distraction after all? How efficient would you say you are during the course of a normal workday, 60 % of the time? 80?

Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing your experience! Cheers to Serghei for the free pic.

Til next week, have a good one!

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