Communicating on Work-Life Balance: It Takes a Year-Round Approach

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Now that 2014 has begun in earnest, you’ll hear the phrase “work-life balance” bandied about frequently.

You always do. Because with the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, and busy workers who feel like they overextended themselves in 2013 will resolve to be better about it in 2014. It happens every year.

And, of course, this is a natural time for employers to bring attention to work-life policies and benefits that help your current employees enjoy success at work and at home.

Catering to schedules and needs

Too few employers save the work-life discussion only for new hires or, for current ones, the open enrollment period. This is counterproductive, because employees have a LOT going on during these times, and it’s likely that any communication about work-life benefits communicated during them will fall on deaf ears.

Employers need to consider this and take greater steps to cater work-life communication to employees’ schedules and their needs. When it comes to benefits, this is especially important for employers who care about their work-life programming and want their employees to know about and take advantage of the associated benefits and programs.

Besides, trying to get employees to consider the full range of work-life offerings during the narrow new hire or open enrollment window is like trying to celebrate a year’s worth of holidays on Thanksgiving. Even if the Super Bowl chili usually brings down the house, and the Fourth of July weenies fly off the grill, nobody really has an appetite for that kind of fare on Turkey Day.

Year-round communication

A better approach for employers is to break down the work-life message into digestible chunks — and to make sure it’s communicated constantly. It begins with the recruiting stage, naturally, but it needs to extend beyond orientation and onboarding and throughout the various stages of an employee’s tenure.

Extending work-life communication throughout the year gives employees time and space to think about what work-life issues are important for them. It also allows employers to highlight the various ways they are helping to reduce the conflict between work and family life.

Finally, employers target communications — particularly benefits communications — around the times when employees might be most receptive to the featured message. In other words, they can cater their work-life communication around, well, work and life. The way it’s supposed to work.

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Some work-life topics, such as workplace flexibility, wellness, and community involvement are evergreen and can be communicated at any time. Others can be promoted at various times throughout the year.

For instance, income tax season would be a good time to start talking about the benefits of tax-advantaged savings plans and financial accounts. February, March, and April could feature information on 401(k) plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), or medical, dependent care, and transportation flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

Don’t limit work-life communications

Even if some benefits can be adjusted only at certain times of the year, benefits-related communication doesn’t have to be tied to any one season. Employees can still review their options and make decisions about the elections.

Finally, with year-round communication, employees will become more responsive to other, more general work-life messaging. And because employees have a delicate balance between work and life throughout the year, employers who communicate year-round will have a better chance of ensuring that the balance stays healthy.

Let’s face it, a lot of companies pay lip service to work-life balance, and the start to a New Year is a great opportunity to align with your employees’ resolutions and take a hard look at the programs you’re pushing to help facilitate that balance.

More than that, however, it’s a great time to review how you’re communicating about these policies. Because when it comes down to it, how and when you communicate about these programs can go a long way toward demonstrating your commitment to putting them into practice for the welfare of your talent and your organization.

David Daskal, former monologist and expert on all things benefits, is the Director of Business Development at theThe Jellyvision Lab. He has worked with organizations across the country to breathe new life into their employee communications efforts. He's also an advocate for plain-spoken, direct communication in benefits education, and has spoken extensively at industry events on the topic, sharing tips and tricks on how to eliminate jargon, engage employees and win the beaming admiration of company executives.

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