<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Design A Work-Life Balance Survey

June 6, 2002

A Dear Striving for Balance:

First, it is critical to have the commitment and support of the CEO and asimilar commitment from a project leader -- a senior manager with the authorityto make change happen.

A successful work/life assessment must take into account the company’sgoals, culture, business issues, employees’ needs, the current level ofwork/life initiatives (benefits) and the community’s resources. Surveys can bedesigned to capture a wide variety of information on many topics; basic topiccategories for work/life could include assessing attitudes, needs, behavior,lifestyle, affiliations, and demographics.

For instance, in the category of needs, you would look into childcare, eldercare, teens, quality of life (i.e. volunteer opportunities, services geared forsingles, etc.), alternative work schedules, and more. You’re looking forindications of existing balance or imbalance. It may be that you want to auditexisting work/life related initiatives by assessing attitudes and behavior.Determining what you want to assess will guide you in developing the rightsurvey tool.

The survey tools available are as varied as the needs open to assessment. Thekey to the composition of a successful tool is to limit the number of questions.Make each question count. Some suggestions that should guide survey constructionare:

  • If a computer is used, code questions so data can be easily retrieved.
  • Form and appearance will affect the return rate, so give consideration tothe cosmetics of your survey.
  • Questions should be worded so that answers will be brief and unambiguous.
  • Words should be simple, direct, and determined by the respondents’ levelof education.
  • Use multiple choices wherever possible.
  • Write simple and clear instructions.
  • Only one subject should be covered by each question.
  • If a rating scale is used, the "best" answer should not always be inthe same place (i.e., at the left).

Surveys generally are composed of three sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Items and scales to measure the survey topics
  3. Measurement of the respondents’ characteristics (so they can be groupedand compared)

There are a number of sources from which you can obtain template surveys.Much depends on your budget. Potential sources include:

Finally, identify a taskforce (6-12 members) and consider hiring aprofessional work/life consultant to handle the work that needs to be done. Aprofessional in work/life issues will help identify business needs and thespecific needs of employees, and understand how both can be met within thecontext of the company goals.

Consultants can be brought in at key points, such as providing direction tothe taskforce and helping to analyze the data and make recommendations. Spendingyour time developing and distributing a survey, entering the data, analyzing theresults, and researching and making recommendations based on the results may bemore expensive than hiring the services of a consultant.

SOURCE: Marilyn Williams and Joyce Beacome Blais, Americare Consulting Group,Work|Life Benefits, Lakewood, Calif.

LEARN MORE: The WorkforceVendor Directory lists dozens of employee surveycompanies.

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

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