Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Retention -

Role over­load oc­curs when the to­tal de­mands on time and en­ergy as­so­ci­ated with the pre­scribed ac­tiv­i­ties of mul­ti­ple roles – em­ployee, spouse, care­giver – are too great to per­form the roles ad­e­quately or com­fort­ably.

Ms. Duxbury and Mr. Hig­gins of­fer sev­eral pieces of ad­vice to or­ga­ni­za­tions that want to re­duce role over­load within their work­force.

Per­ceived flex­i­bil­ity is key

Two forms of flex­i­bil­ity are fun­da­men­tal to cope with role over­load: the abil­ity to ar­range one’s work sched­ule to meet per­sonal or fam­ily com­mit­ments, and the abil­ity to in­ter­rupt one’s work day to deal with a per­sonal or fam­ily mat­ter and then re­turn to work.

Em­ploy­ees who re­port to a sup­port­ive man­ager re­port lower lev­els of work over­load

Specif­i­cally, em­ploy­ers need to in­crease the ex­tent to which their man­agers are ef­fec­tive at plan­ning the work to be done, are avail­able to an­swer their em­ploy­ees’ ques­tions, make ex­pec­ta­tions clear, lis­ten to their em­ploy­ees’ con­cerns and give recog­ni­tion for a job well done.

Flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments and fam­ily-friendly ben­e­fits do lit­tle on their own

Em­ploy­ers must ad­dress the is­sues as­so­ci­ated with such poli­cies and ben­e­fits.

What can em­ploy­ers do?

Em­ploy­ers that want to help em­ploy­ees bal­ance work and fam­ily life must: Iden­tify ways of re­duc­ing em­ployee work­load (this is es­pe­cially true for not-for-profit sec­tor em­ploy­ers). Spe­cial at­ten­tion needs to be given to re­duc­ing the work­loads of man­agers and pro­fes­sion­als in all sec­tors; Iden­tify ways to re­duce the amount of time em­ploy­ees spend in job-re­lated travel; Rec­og­nize and re­ward over­time work; Re­duce their re­liance on both paid and un­paid over­time; Give em­ploy­ees the op­por­tu­nity to say “no” when asked to work over­time. Say­ing “no” should not be a ca­reer-lim­it­ing move­ment; Make al­ter­na­tive work ar­range­ments more widely avail­able within their or­ga­ni­za­tion; Look at ca­reer de­vel­op­ment and ca­reer ad­vance­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties through a “work-life” lens. Em­ploy­ees should not have to choose be­tween hav­ing a fam­ily and ca­reer ad­vance­ment; Ex­am­ine work ex­pec­ta­tions, re­wards and ben­e­fits through a “life-cy­cle” lens (i.e. what em­ploy­ees are able to do/ mo­ti­vated to do and what re­wards and ben­e­fits they de­sire will change with life-cy­cle stage).

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