1.1 Background to the study
Today’s modern world business is faced with an ever demanding work environment. Lots of employees are faced with the problem of striking a balance between work and family life. Sustaining a healthy work-life balance is an issue that is increasingly recognized as of strategic importance and significance to employees. Employee performance is a fundamental determinant in the realization of organizational goals. Thus, organizations have devised different ways of motivating their employees, for them to give their best to the organization.
WLB entails adjustment of working patterns to enable employees to combine work with their other family responsibilities. The disadvantages associated with WLB can impact on both the employee and employer. For employers, the consequences of poor WLB are poor performance, sick leaves, higher staff turnover, and increased absenteeism. While on the employees the results include mental health, physical health, and reduced individual performance in an organization.
In a highly competitive labor market, an organization needs to keep its treasured employees. It is a strong motivating factor for increased organizational awareness and action about implementing and management of work-life balance strategies. WLB is an area of interest in human resource management, and it is receiving much attention from researchers, trade unions and media.
Work-life balance from the employee perspective is the upkeep of equilibrium between duties at work and home. Employers view the benefits or the working conditions that they provide to help employees balance the family and the work domains as work-life benefits (Okeke, 2017). Initially, the concept of work-life conflict focused on the impact of family demands on workers. It now extends to the impact work has on personal stress, relationships and family well-being (Russell ; Bowman, 2000).
Work-to-family conflict occurs when experiences at work interfere with family life, inflexible work hours, work overload, interpersonal conflict at work and unsupportive supervisor within the organization. Family-to-work conflict occurs when experiences in the family interfere with work, life’s primary responsibility for children, elder care responsibilities, interpersonal conflict within the family unit and unsupportive family members.
Working effectively and maintaining a healthy social life, an individual has to balance between work and emotional well-being. This translates to improved organizational, individual emotional stability and proper societal functioning (Grady, 2014). Individuals experience more divergence linking work and personal life as they continue to pursue the quality of life that they need (Kim, H. K. 2014). Hence, successfully balancing work and family life is one of the significant challenges facing current individual workers (Uusiautti, S., &Määttä, K. 2018).
Traditionally, work-life balance issues were considered individual problems (Irungu, 2017) and employers have just responded to their employees’ needs by providing additional benefits such as on-site childcare service and paid maternity leave in the workplace. Nevertheless, with environmental shifts and value changes of employees, desire for work-life balance has increased, and employers have begun to offer more active support of their employees’ work-life balance (Kim, 2014).
Fortune magazine in its list of the 100 best companies to work for identifies organizations that make an effort to support employees in managing the duties of work and family (Firfiray& Mayo 2017). Hence, organizational efforts for ensuring employees’ work-life balance are required and prized more than ever.
The multi-tasking between home responsibilities and work have assumed increased relevance for employees in the service sector in recent years. This is due to workplace and demographic changes, such as; technological advancement, transformation in family structures, growing reluctance for ‘long number of working hours,’ a greater number of women in the workforce and culture acceptance (Sharma, ; et al. 2016). As a result, the employee may have a strain in prioritizing between their personal lives and work roles. Poor organizational working culture; such as buying of work-leave of employees, an inconvenient period of leave for employees and the inability of employers to keep to leave policy in their employment agreement all these may lead to hard-pressed workloads which bring about different issues to the employee. These issues involve both the psychologically and the emotional well-being of employee, and this action may result in the reduction in employee performance in areas such as poor service delivery and health-related issues
According to (Ngari, ; Mukururi, 2014), many service sector businesses and organizations in Kenya have failed to understand the importance of the working environment for employee job satisfaction and thus face a lot of difficulties during their work. To meet the standards of organization, employees need a working environment that allows them to work freely without problems that may restrain them from performing up to the level of their full potential. It is therefore important for the service industry to have a better working environment enhancing the work, human, technical, and organization elements crucial to improving the organization’s competitive position by attracting qualified human asset.
According to Sullivan, & Skelcher, (2017), the service industry covers a wide area with a myriad of environmental and physical factors that employees work in. This spatial element provides a particular difficulty in occupational health and safety faced by employees such as extended travel hours to and from; long working hours in the field and the office, long away time from family, workload, stress, overtime, fatigue, and boredom are some factors to decrease employee performance (Caesar, & Fei, 2018). On the other hand provision of the proper working condition, refreshment & recreation facility, health & safety facility, fun at the workplace and clear work-life balance policies which accommodate out of office preoccupations will go a long way in increasing the degree of employee performance (Hartnell, 2010).
Our ever-changing society is faced with conflicting responsibilities and commitments exposing workers to fatigue and; hence the work-life balance has become a predominant issue at the workplace. The critical factors like the global competition, the renewed interest in family values; and managing the workforce, etc. have made it more significant. Quite some good studies reveal that the human resource task force professionals are always seeking inventive ways to attain their organization’s competitive advantage in the marketplace and it is found that work-life balance activities offer a win-win solution in this regard.
This project, therefore, intends to evaluate the extent to which work-life balance affects employee performance and also introduce appropriate employment practices to help employees achieve a better work-life balance which can provide tangible benefits to the organization as well as the individual. This project also examines how to promote good WLB in the insurance and telecommunication industry of Kenya and highlights some benefits for the organizations.
1.1.1 Work-life balance in the insurance industry
Since the introduction of the Insurance Act, CAP 487 of the Laws of Kenya, the supervision and regulation of the insurance business has dramatically improved the industry performance. For instance, the insurance industry has over the last decade continued to register double-digit growth in gross written premium income with insurance penetration at around 3% which is comparable to countries in the developing world. These developments have bestowed on the industry some challenges and opportunities key of which are the required human resource capacities and compliment to drive the growth agenda as set out in the Vision 2030 (IRA Report, 2015).
Insurance companies are meant to be human intensive, and human resources act as an absolute differentiator. Quality human resources and its retention would serve as a Litmus test. Turnover of the workforce has been high because of low entry and exit barriers in the industry (IRA Report, 2016). Taylor et al. (2017) in a study conducted on the relationship between employee commitment and their performance, found that organizational culture characterized by high adaptability and an HRM system emphasizing high-performance work practices had, a direct and profound impact on employee commitment. Martin and Beaumont (2014) study on employee commitment points out that there is the need for employees to conduct themselves according to the standards of the firm’s desired brand. The success of this hinges on the ability of organizations to win employee loyalty to the brand and developing a commitment to the organization.
The rise of technological advancement and the move by insurance firms to acquire and merge has led to changes in the social environment forcing new organizational restructuring, job re-engineering and ultimately downsizing of employees who had come of age hence retiring and rendering employees redundant. These changes have increased pressure on employees, regarding adjusting to the move itself and coping with its effects. Increased demand from workloads and a need to develop new skills are of crucial concern in the insurance sector in Kenya. Hence the objective of finding the best possible solutions to enhancing work-life balance is paramount in this study.
1.1.2 Work-life Balance and Employee Performance in the Mobile Telecommunication Industry in Kenya
Kenya’s Mobile Telecommunication Sector has grown significantly over the last few years. The Mobile Telecommunication Sector contributes over KES 300 billion and up to a further KES 100 billion from intangible benefits to consumers. It employs roughly 25,000 people in Kenya on both permanent and contract basis. Mobile Network Operators have undertaken civil works such as contributing to the electricity roll out (Williams et al., 2016). The Mobile Telecommunication Sector is very dynamic; there is cut-throat competition in the sector. Employees, on the other hand, are faced with issues concerning their work environment especially their working hours due to shifts and lack of mobility in the workplace regarding promotions. To reach their organizational peak performance, the mobile companies must be able to create a workplace environment where employees are motivated to work.
Noor, (2011) observed that when employees are motivated by physical and emotional desire to work, then their performance is boosted. This is also coupled with other work environment related challenges that might cause them to underperform. UNCORP (2012) report indicates that Safaricom PLC has initiated various mechanisms to cushion mothers from family – job-related stress. Some of this includes day care facilities, Flexi time for lactating mothers, health facilities for both men and women, and even prayer rooms for spiritual nourishment. The methods are deemed to boost work-life balance facilities to diffuse employees stress, enhance performance, and productivity; hence the need to explore more work-life balance practices at Safaricom PLC in comparison with other giants in the industry.