From Work-Life Balance to Life-Work Tilt
#evolve Magazine
July 15, 2022

The “Great Resignation” has left millions of job openings in its wake. U.S. job openings averaged 3.8 million in 2012. Today, nearly 11.3 million jobs are waiting to be filled. Although estimates vary when it comes to the monetary cost of replacing an employee, research indicates that the cost of replacing someone in a technical role may cost as much as 100% to 150% of the employee’s salary. Loss of a highly valued C-suite employee is estimated at 213% of salary.

Some sectors — finance, education and health care, for instance — have been especially hard-hit in the aftermath of these resignations. Consequently, increasing competition exists for employers trying to attract and retain talent.

Therefore, to attract and retain talent in 2022, organizations are becoming more generous and/or more creative with their benefits offerings. These benefits aren’t just designed to achieve work-life balance, but rather a “life-work tilt.”

Why a Life-Work Tilt?

In part, a “life-work tilt” is the result of office closures during the pandemic. Many employees became accustomed to working from home. They enjoyed the flexibility to take part in family activities, revisit hobbies and engage with other interests.

Some employees lost family members to COVID-19 and came to view personal time with loved ones as an even more precious commodity. As many companies call workers back to the office, disrupting the work-life balance they achieved over the last few years, many have opted to change jobs or to leave the workforce altogether.

As the Greatest Generation passes away and more Baby Boomers retire, Millennials are making up the greatest segment of the workforce. After financial compensation, Deloitte found that Millennials value work-life balance — even ahead of career progression, flexible working arrangements, meaningful work and making a difference in society. Similarly, Gen Z employees also expect a better work-life balance than their Gen X and Boomer parents.

In 2022, executives and HR leaders are leading the charge for organizational changes that proactively achieve balance. The corporate “work-life balance” standard must evolve to align with the changing needs and desires of a workforce that increasingly values time to explore personal interests and spend time with loved ones, rather than focus on their career development and professional responsibilities.

These benefits include shifts in organizational culture, such as encouraging employees to disconnect electronically and set boundaries around their time availability, trusting employees to work remotely and offering step-away-from-work options so workers can attend to personal issues.

Flexing … Everything

As many HR benefits leaders have come to realize, “flexible” is key to today’s benefits structure, and the definition is broadening in 2022. A recent study supports the idea that flexibility now not only includes flexible workdays, but also flexible work times within the day, flexible workplace options and even flexible benefits themselves.

A survey of working women found that nearly 90% of their employers offered flexible work schedules. Lack of a flexible work schedule remains one of the top reasons employee turnover rates are high.

Flex hours especially can support DEI, as many women are the primary child and adult caregivers for their families. Often, these women work after putting a child to bed, before and after taking an aging parent to the doctor, during a child’s naptime or on weekends.

The ability to step away from work can provide employees with peace of mind and balance. The flexibility to drive a child to school, take a walk or pick up a few groceries can go a long way to achieving employee work-life balance. The focus is on completing work effectively — rather than having a warm body in a seat or a green glowing light that proves an employee is online.

Since the global pandemic began, employees have developed preferences for where they want to work. Some want to work only in the office; others want to work only remotely. Others prefer a balance of the two.

Each employer must find a unique blend that will keep workers engaged and productive while meeting company goals. To this end, companies have adopted several models across the spectrum, including office-centric, hybrid, blended or fully remote options.

In terms of flexible employee benefits options, benefits professionals are looking at entire packages to ensure that overall benefits packages are equitable. Some employers are even giving employees a stipend to apply to benefits options of their choice.

In this case, employees can choose from a wide range of benefits such as elder-care and child-care support, additional paid vacation time and time off to take part in social-justice initiatives.

Making Room for Family Responsibilities

Family leave without pay is included in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, only one in four employees in the United States has access to paid family leave.

The pandemic has brought caregiving issues to the forefront of conversations about employee benefits. Parents have struggled to juggle work, remote education, shifting divisions of labor and more. Employers are now offering more child-care subsidies through spending accounts and bonuses.

With the graying of the Baby Boomer generation, adult caregiving is a real and growing issue. Thirty million family caregivers of adults are in the labor force — a surefire reason adult caregiving benefits will only continue to expand. 

Overall, 40% of unpaid caregivers for aging or special-needs adults dramatically alter their work status and schedule. They drop to part-time, take paid or unpaid leave, take sick days, are absent, quit or retire early.

In response, proactive employers are offering one-of-a-kind adult caregiving benefits that focus on the specialized needs of those who are caring for aging or special-needs adults. These benefits have been shown to keep employees at work, rather than taking a leave of absence, quitting or retiring early; enhance productivity and workplace satisfaction; and provide tailored support to employees, aging loved ones and their families.

These benefits are especially important to women, who shoulder most of the responsibility for child and adult caregiving in the United States. Employers who want to attract and maintain a diverse workforce, including women, are now providing employee caregiving benefits.

Furthermore, employers who want to distinguish themselves in a competitive hiring market are offering paid leave and caregiving benefits to part-time employees in 2022. Part-time employees are often a strategic solution to staffing shortages.

It’s not easy to be an employer right now. As an HR professional, navigating the delicate balancing act between employee needs, staffing, benefits solutions and company budgets can feel like an impossible and never-ending challenge.

Shifting the focus on work-life balance toward “life-work tilt” will not be a smooth or seamless transition. But it’s a necessary one to attract and retain top talent in one of the hottest labor markets of the 21st century. Is your organization ready to tilt?

Related WorldatWork Resources
Get in Front of Possible COVID Vaccine Billing Issues
As COVID Subsidies End, Employers Should Consider Childcare Benefits
Highlights from WorldatWork's 2023-2024 Salary Budget Survey
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Benefits Outsourcing - Selecting, Contracting and Managing Service Partners
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