Managers have played and still play a key role in all organizations, and in the case of work-family conciliation their role is equally crucial. Managers, with their decisions, attitudes and daily behaviour, can prevent, allow or enhance the reconciliation of work and family of their employees. They can always decide to act like a red, amber or green traffic light.
This article will present the four steps to be followed by those managers who wish to become a green light regarding conciliation issues. A path marked by emotional support, instrumental support, policy management and a role model to follow. Let’s go through said steps one by one.
Work-life balance: emotional support
It’s the easiest step and the hardest one at the same time. There are few mechanisms and few instructions in this first step. Basically, it revolves around knowing how to become aware of the work-life balance issues within the team.
In order to implement it, it’s necessary to be aware of the serious consequences that the lack of conciliation entails for the organization. Moreover, it is a matter of being attentive to the needs of each employee and opening up a space for anyone to expose how a lack of balance harms their professional and personal life. In short, it is about knowing how to listen with your heart.
Work-life balance: instrumental support
Once the problem has been detected, it is necessary to solve it. Instrumental support refers to the tools available to the manager in order to promote work-family conciliation.
Be it through formal policies or informal flexibility measures, the aim is to provide a solution to the needs that the employee has expressed. The aim is always to reverse a lack of balance that has negative consequences for the organization, the employee and his/her family.
Work-life balance: policy management
The third step managers should take is to convey all the company’s policies properly. Managers should openly, clearly and transparently make the range of policies that the company offers known.
Recent studies state that many employees in large organizations are not well aware of their own company’s flexibility policies —lack of communication—, and if they are, they often perceive that these (generic) policies are not aimed towards them —lack of legitimacy—.
The role of a manager who wants to promote a real work-family balance is to be an active and proactive spokesperson for such policies.
Work-life balance: role model
It’s the most compromising point. In order to promote a real work-life balance in the team, would it suffice to provide emotional and instrumental support and a good management of the existing policies? Or is it necessary to act as a role model as well?
Most pieces of research suggest that the latter point is crucial. It is not enough to listen, solve, and manage policies. The manager must be an example to follow in terms of flexibility policies. The supervisor-subordinate relationship is never completely symmetrical, and it is very difficult to successfully promote balance if the person making that invitation works overtime.
Managers must be aware of their preponderant role in organizations. Many employees aspire to similar positions, and they feel that this should be the right path to follow. It is very difficult to become a green light in work-life balance if one is not an example to follow.
Similarly, being an example to follow in conciliation policies is not enough for the team to enjoy a real balance, as workers can think that the manager enjoys said benefits thanks to his position. For this to happen, it is necessary that exemplary managers continue to offer emotional and instrumental support, and effective policy management.