Think China has Work-Life Employee Benefits?

Monster just released the results of its 2007 Work/Life Balance Survey which reveals that despite a growing awareness of the importance of a healthy work/life balance, the issue is not a priority for many organizations. Eighty nine percent of employee respondents believe work/life balance programs are important when evaluating a new job, yet only about half (52 percent) of HR professionals consider work/life balance to be an important initiative for their companies. Additionally, 61 percent of HR pros believe there will be more employer-provided work/life balance initiatives in five years, and only 56 percent believe that general work/life balance will improve in the future. Read the details.

Don't confuse a company's investment in work/life benefits with how much they value "balance". The two really have nothing to do with each other. The reason companies invest in these programs is to keep employees at work - got a problem with child care? No problem, call the company sponsored R&R for a referral or drop your child off at the company sponsored center. Feeling a little stressed? Call the company sponsored EAP to get some short-term counseling (another popular work-life benefit). In other words, get back to work ASAP.

This is why work-life suppliers who understand this difference and position their services as productivity enhancing programs as opposed to work-life "balance" programs tend to do better in the marketplace. Good companies take care of hard working employees (regardless of tenure) by offering them perks like generous vacation time or the ability to telecommute. But "balance"? I'm not even sure if it is (a) possible and (b) a company's responsibility.

In a recent Fortune Magazine article titled Are Americans too lazy? Fortune's Geoff Colvin writes that U.S. workers can't compete globally unless they work harder. When it comes to hard work (more than 48 hours per week), America actually ranks quite low on the global scale - lower than in Switzerland and Britain, way lower than in developing countries like Mexico and Thailand, and drastically lower than South Korea. And my guess is China also ranks quite high.

In the Fortune article, General Electric's CEO Jeff Immelt says while he is a believer in work-life balance, he wonders about America's ability to compete: Mr. Immelt put it bluntly while recalling a trip to Beijing last year, when he got a big order from the Transport Ministry:

"The whole ministry was working all day on a Sunday. I believe in quality of life, work-life balance, all that stuff. But that's the competition.".

As Geoff Colvin concludes in his article:
"Competing in a global labor market may require us to put in more hours just to stay in the game".
Posted by Mark Willaman