Many Canadian organizations are offering programs to help employees better balance workplace and personal demands on their time, according to a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing company.
At the majority of employers surveyed, flexible work hours, telecommuting, extra paid time off for personal reasons, education leave, and job sharing are the norm for some or all of their salaried full-time employees. Some organizations also offer a compressed work week, sabbaticals and paid time off for volunteer work.
"Flexible workplace strategies benefit both the employer and its employees," said Rochelle Morandini, a senior consultant in Hewitt Canada's organizational health practice. "These programs, coupled with supportive managers and aligned corporate behaviours, can alleviate conflicting demands, enable employees to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, create a more productive workforce, and even improve overall organizational performance."
The 164 organizations who responded to the Hewitt survey in April reported that only one-third of their employees stick to working the regular full-time work week of between 35 and 40 hours. Forty-five per cent work one to five hours extra a week, 23 per cent work five to ten hours more, and one per cent work ten to 15 additional hours. "With so many employees giving up their personal time to their jobs, progressive organizations are willing to offer them a work schedule that enables them to better meet their personal needs," stated Morandini.
Work/Life program prevalence for salaried employees
The Hewitt survey findings demonstrate that certain work/life quality programs are quite common in the workplace:
- Eighty-six per cent of organizations offer flexible work hours for all or a portion of their employee population, although 68 per cent require employees to be on the job for certain core hours of the day;
- Seventy-seven per cent permit all or some employees to telecommute regularly. Ninety per cent of those that do so negotiate the terms with individual employees based on an approved business case;
- Seventy-four per cent provide extra paid time off for personal reasons in addition to regular vacation time;
- Sixty-five per cent allow for time off for education leave. Twenty-two per cent of organizations that do so provide one to five days off per year, while the majority (56 per cent) make decisions on a case-by-case basis;
- Just over half of employers (54 per cent) enable some or all employees to job share;
- Forty-three per cent of organizations authorize a compressed work week, with only 18 per cent doing so on the basis of the seasonality of the company's work;
- Thirty-six per cent offer sabbatical leave. Of those, 54 per cent provide six to 24 months off, while a further 31 per cent assess situations individually. Very few employers (four per cent) pay employees during a sabbatical, but of those that do, two-thirds allow them to bank a portion of their salary in advance of the leave;
- Thirty-two per cent of employers support volunteerism by providing employees with extra paid time off. Fifty-six per cent of those that do so, allow one to five days per year; 32 per cent have either no set policy, sponsor specific activities, or decide on a case-by-case basis.
"All of these initiatives help employees to achieve a more positive work/life experience – they're a step in the right direction," says Morandini. "We can expect these programs to become even more prevalent as employees begin to see them as common practice and demand for them increases. Forward-thinking employers that want to maintain a competitive advantage are thinking about the 'next generation' of flexible workplace strategies, such as eliminating core hours, allowing employees to be completely virtual, and using technology to enable workers to gain global work experience, no matter where they're located."
Hewitt Associates provides leading organizations around the world with expert human resources consulting and outsourcing solutions to help them anticipate and solve their most complex benefits, talent, and related financial challenges. For more information, please visit