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Companies tweak leave policies, offer flexible work arrangements to promote better work-life balance

27 Nov blog | Comments
Companies tweak leave policies, offer flexible work arrangements to promote better work-life balance

Mark Driscoll has lined up a New Year gift for his employees, but he fears at least a quarter of his 6,500-strong staff may not be that keen on accepting the bounty.
What the HR head of audit and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers India – human capital leader, as his visiting card has it – has gift-wrapped is an eight-day vacation for all employees leading up to the New Year. But his two-year India stint has taught him that not everyone is keen to take a break from work.

“One in four employees here do not avail leaves. This is crazy,” says Driscoll.
PwC will shut its Indian operations for eight days, from December 25 to January 1, to ensure the employees take a break. With December 25 and January 1 being holidays, the offer provides two offs (December 26 and 27) from the company while employees are expected to pull in two days (December 30 and 31) from their leave balance.
The firm is not making any exceptions to those who do not have any leaves left – leave will be deducted from next year’s balance.
“People need to disconnect. We have quite a few workaholics here,” says Driscoll, who is amazed that in spite of enforcing this first-of-its-kind break, which has been welcomed by most, there are still three employees who refuse to cede ground.
Driscoll’s

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concerns find resonance in other firms too, with both Indian and multinational companies making attempts to encourage their employees to strike a better work-life balance by tweaking existing leave policies and offering other flexible work arrangements.
Top of the heap is Max Healthcare, which has tweaked its leave policy this year. Apart from 28 days of privileged leave (PL), the company offers 12 restricted holidays a year to employees. The 12 holidays include seven compulsory offs on festivals, but the other five can be customized from this year for events like birthdays and anniversaries. Earlier, employees could pick two offs for personal occasions.
In Interest of Productivity
Malvika Varma, senior VP-HR at Max, says restricted holidays could also mean birthdays and anniversaries. “Flexibility is also about spending time with family,” she says, adding that only 15 of 28 PLs can be carried forward to the next year. The remaining days would lapse.
The concern for work-life balance is echoed by close competitor Apollo Hospitals, which has noticed that around 20% of total leaves its staffers are entitled to go unutilised.
“Indian professionals, compared with their colleagues in the West, are poor at availing of leaves. This can be attributed to our work culture and the financial benefits of accumulating leaves,” says Jacob Jacob, Apollo’s chief people officer. He says the firm tries to encourage employees to take offs during festivals, lean business periods, and for pursuing higher studies. Companies are also reducing the number of PLs that can be carried forward and some are even scrapping the facility. “This also ensures their financial liabilities are greatly reduced if accumulated leaves pile up,” says Shanthi Naresh, business leader, information solutions, at Mercer.
At training firm Work Better, queries from firms on devising leave policies, work-life programmes and stress management have gone up 15-20% over last year.
Source: Economic Times
Label: Flexible work arrangements

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