Monday, 5 September 2011

Help Employees Balance Home & Office

Stress At Work
Help Employees Balance Home and Office
Win-win situation: Employees who can balance roles are likely to be more productive and less stressed

How many times have we had a colleague at work who is bogged down by stress, not directly linked to workplace? Ira Mohanty was one such colleague. She woke up at 5 am, sent her two children to school and then by 9 am, was at her laptop answering mails and attending to work-related calls. From 1 pm onwards, Ira kept looking at the clock and from 2.30 pm, we could hear raised voices from her cubicle as she called home and shouted at her children who just kept watching television and did not finish their homework. They were home with easy-going grandparents and did their own thing till the parents returned home. And Ira is not alone. At the water cooler or in the cafeteria and even in the lift, one hears snatches of conversation on these lines: Kids these days are so opinionated… only does what she wants to do… eats only chips and noodles… refuses to dress by herself or polish her shoes… hates going to school… spends too much time on the net… has become a virtual stranger… difficult and moody… and so on. 

More and more parents are coping with the challenges of how to manage professional and personal lives — how to be better parents, how to stay abreast of what is happening with their children in schools and their social lives, how to be there for them in their time of need while juggling their careers and job-related challenges. All of us grapple with balancing multiple roles but our biggest responsibility is towards the next generation. Being a parent, I could empathise with them, but the enormity of the issue came to light last month when in a focused group discussion, the members of our Global Work Life (GWL) team broached the subject of having parenting workshops to help colleagues and other employees cope with different issues. These issues stemmed from the fact that most employees have nuclear families where care givers may not be part of the family system. The findings of the 2010 Global Work Life Issues (GWLI) Survey, conducted among IBM employees, indicate that almost half (46%) of IBM India employees have a child under the age of 18. Among parents of children 0-5 years old, 12% have their child cared for at home by a nanny, babysitter or maid. 
Another 14% of these parents have their child cared for by a relative (other than their spouse or partner). "In-home" care by a maid or nanny can be quite flexible and affordable, but may also be very unreliable and of poor quality. Caregivers often lack knowledge of child development and have poor social-relationship and literacy skills. Parents using this type of care reported the lowest satisfaction rates in the GWLI survey compared to parents whose child was cared for by a relative or in a child care centre. Employees across the world are sharing similar concerns about managing work and family. Magazines and the Internet provide information and counsel, elders at home advise you differently while friends have a totally contrary opinion. 

So how do you cope? We put together a panel of experts in child care and decided to host parenting workshops for parents to address their queries and discuss issues relating to their children. The workshops stressed that it is equal responsibility, which means both the father and the mother have to be involved in child rearing, as against the misconception that only the mother is responsible. What parents at work learned were different aspects of quality parenting, like laughing with the child, spending time with the child, playing with her/him, listening to what the child has to say and not just existing together in front of the television set. Care givers must also be equipped with basic information to handle difficult situations at home. Employees who can balance roles are likely to be more productive and less stressed, so it is a win-win both for the organisation and the individual. A workplace that encourages an individual to balance different roles is likely to have a happier and more productive workforce. 

The author is Diversity Manager at IBM India, South Asia Source : ET Mumbai 06 September 2011

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