Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance

Profiles in Improvement

Mission Match


Work-Life Balance

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The Work-Life Balance category measures the extent to which employees consider their workloads to be reasonable, and that their peers and leaders support a balance between work and life responsibilities.  

Some of the federal government’s most successful agencies have approached workload and work-life balance as multifaceted problems that impact individual employees and those around them in many different ways. 

These agencies have utilized a wide assortment of approaches to efficiently plan how to best allocate personnel and apply flexible workplace policies, communicate early about plans and provide supervisors and managers with the resources to effectively assist their direct reports. They also rely on robust data collection and analysis built around the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and internal feedback to identify trends, craft targeted responses and ensure workload decisions are evidence-based.  

Establishing Feedback Loops 

All agencies that we interviewed identified a culture of transparent communication and feedback loops as a key to maintaining a healthy workload for employees. Not only do supervisors and leaders need to remain aware of pain points, but employees and team leads need to be kept aware of changes and opportunities that could influence their workload and their wider employee experience.  

The Intelligence Community’s agencies and subcomponents have sought employee feedback through agency employee engagement surveys, employee and supervisory work groups, councils, focus groups and town halls. They use these reporting opportunities to both monitor conditions and update employees on future actions. Likewise, they have found that ensuring that the workforce has a voice and a role in solving work-life balance and workload issues increases trust in the leadership.  

Supervisors play a vital role in discovering and addressing everyday challenges of employees. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for example, leverages the strong relationship supervisors have with their employees to maximize their engagement and experiences that lead to strong job satisfaction.

To further encourage this communication, FERC’s Chief Human Capital Office organization has created guidelines and resources to help supervisors who prefer a more structured approach to collecting feedback. They also solicit feedback from those supervisors addressing any pain points they may have in the process as well.  

The challenges employees face while attempting to maintain a healthy work-life balance are highly diverse. Workload and project management tools like those used at the agency level also help guide conversations about the mutual concerns of employees and supervisors and help identify root causes for the imbalances impacting the employee. 

“The Commission’s CHCO organization has increased its efforts to check-in with supervisors to ensure their pain points are addressed as it relates to holding discussions with their teams and that they have the tools to address employee concerns.” 

Senior official from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Skills and Knowledge Management 

A potential reason for workload imbalance and inequities is an uneven distribution of skills and knowledge. This can create a heavy dependence on a select group of employees, which can create further disruptions when those employees retire or move on to a different position.  

AmeriCorps seeks to address such imbalances for the long-term benefit of the organization by connecting employees to learning and development resources and improving the agency’s succession planning and knowledge management capacity. This includes internal databases that hold valuable information on critical skills and tools beneficial to improving personal workload management and communicating project updates or pain points to the appropriate leaders. Additionally, the agency is actively developing a multi-level leadership development framework to maximize the capabilities of current and future leaders. 

They have also developed or utilized a wide number of assistance tools like their Employee Assistance Program, WorkLife4You and professional development resources, giving supervisors and managers the ability to connect employees directly with these resources.  

“AmeriCorps continues to foster a culture of transparent communication and feedback loops between employees and managers, and has matured its data management and visualization tools and practices to maintain a pulse on workload imbalances and staff capacity while monitoring performance.” 

Senior official from AmeriCorps 

Flexible Workplace Policies 

The last several years have shown that a critical part of a successful workforce is flexibility in agency workplace policies. 

Starting in February of 2023, AmeriCorps implemented a two-year hybrid workplace pilot program before making investments in a permanent operating model. Supported by their new Remote Work and Telework Policy as well as a revised Change in Duty Station Policy, the organization seeks to make cost-effective real estate management options, identify the practices, policies and tools needed to maximize success in a hybrid workspace and determine how to provide their employees workplace autonomy within agreed upon guidelines. This program will help the agency structure a hybrid operating model to optimize mission delivery and meet stakeholder needs, enhance Diversity Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, and maintain workplace flexibilities and work-life balance that are essential to recruiting and retaining a diverse and high-performing workforce. 

Ensuring a healthy work-life balance is crucial for employee well-being and productivity, and the Department of the Air Force recognizes that their missions’ demands must be carefully balanced with their personnels’ capabilities. To address this ongoing challenge, the department continually refines their strategies and implements various work arrangements. Beyond telework and remote work, they utilize alternative scheduling options such as compressed workweeks and job sharing, which are particularly attractive to younger employees seeking flexibility in their roles. Additionally, the Department of the Air Force frequently implements temporary and term employment to manage workload peaks effectively. 

Evidence-Based & Structured Workload Management 

Knowing where the work is and where the resources are is key to addressing both workload imbalance and inefficiencies in the workplace. Organization-wide data management and visualization tools can help optimize work demands, staff capacities and resources. 

For instance, AmeriCorps uses visualization tools such as Gantt charts that track activities and timelines as well as agency dashboards that enable the efficient tracking of goals, priorities and project-based tasks, and that measure productivity and monitor performance. Agency resource calendars provide visibility into resource allocation, agency events and shared tasks to optimize resources and avoid overburdening or overtasking teams. 

Additionally, AmeriCorps initiated a position management program to integrate financial and human capital planning as well as talent optimization under a cross-functional workforce planning team comprised of current and future leaders across the agency. The team’s goal is to expand and strengthen AmeriCorps’ organizational development expertise and capacity through a network of partners from across the agency, improving both the quality and equity of key workforce-related efforts.  

Looking forward, the Department of Air Force is committed to continuous improvement in managing workload and enhancing employee satisfaction through sustained investment in training and development, as well as enhanced analytical capabilities. Currently, their future plans focus on expanding Civilian Force Development programs and leveraging advanced analytics to better predict staffing needs and adjust resources dynamically.