ADVICE TO ORGANIZATIONS
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).