Dear Workforce How Do We Gather Objective Data to Assess Work-Life Balance?

September 7, 2011

Dear Uncharted Territory:

Medical sales professionals are under a great deal of pressure and stress, especially with the pharmaceuticals industry undergoing dramatic changes. Work-life and flexibility initiatives can help them remain healthy and productive. Most effective are health and wellness programs for fitness, preventive health screenings, dependent care, flexible scheduling, and removing obstacles that interfere with selling and customer service.

There are a few approaches to collecting information to study the balance between work and home. We suggest that you collect data from more than one source. For instance, collect both quantitative data (from hiring stats or a survey) as well as qualitative data (that you would get from focus groups or exit interviews).

Begin by reviewing the information your company already has (and that you can get access to) about recruitment efforts and voluntary turnover. Answering these questions will help you understand how the issue of work life is affecting your medical sales force.

• Are you able to attract and hire the sales candidates you want?

• Have you been equally successful in hiring male and female candidates?

• What is your reputation compared to that of your competition on the issue of work life? Is your company on any of "best" lists? If so, how do you compare to other firms?

• Are you losing top performers?

• What do exit interviews tell you about why people are leaving? Is work life a factor?

Conduct some focus groups with your sales force. Here are some key topics to probe in the sessions:

• Try to quantify the level of stress salespeople are under. Is stress affecting their health or effectiveness?

• Do they have the flexibility they need to manage their work and their personal responsibilities?

• What specific tasks and processes are the most significant contributors to overwork and frustration?

• How difficult is it for sales professionals with child- or elder-care responsibilities to find care during evening, weekend, holiday periods or business travel?

• Are your salespeople aware of the work-life programs your company already offers? Many times the communications don't get to the people in the field

Before closing the session, ask this important question: 'What is the one thing the company could do to improve your work-life balance?'

Create and field a short survey. Pharmaceuticals companies are data-driven organizations, and you may need some additional, specific information that only a survey can provide.

• Use the same topics discussed in the focus groups as the basis for the questions in your survey.

• Collect some additional demographic information about the sales force to understand the depth of the issue: how many have young children? How many are elder caregivers? How many need care for a school-age child?

Using the data you've collected, correlate the factors of work-life balance and flexibility with workload, stress, engagement, attraction and turnover to make the business case. If your sales force is typical, promoting stronger work-life balance is likely to provide intangible benefits that show up in a tangible way.

SOURCE: Amy Richman, WFD Consulting, Waltham, Massachusetts

LEARN MORE: There are concrete steps you can take to enable employees to better balance their work and personal obligations.

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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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