Zoltan Vadkerti and Agnes UhereczkyWhen the authors of this practical, well-researched, and easy-to-read  book  on  work-life  supports  were  looking  for  the  right organization  to  provide  their  book  Foreword,  they  came  to CUWFA. After reading it myself, I was happy to do just that on behalf  of  CUWFA  and  what  we  represent.  This  book  is  a testament  to  and  encouragement  for  dedicated  work-life professionals inside organizations to receive the full support and resources necessary to positively impact employees. Even with my years in the field, I learned many new things, was inspired by the stories, and appreciated the passion of the authors for the topic we all hold near and dear. Enjoy this interview with the authors and I hope you'll add the book to your reading list!

- Phyllis Stewart Pires

  1. Can  you  please  briefly  outline  the  main  arguments/takeaways  from  your  book, One  Life:  How organisations can leverage work-life integration to attract talent and foster employee wellbeing?
    One of the core intentions of the book is to convince organizations to embrace new expectations by employees, adopt new ways of thinking, and be brave with organizational level work-life initiatives. Moving away from the ideological conversation on work-life balance, or that it only concerns women’s challenges or individual employee issues, we should focus on creating more synergies between our professional and personal interests, that ultimately define life. Our mission with the book is to move the conversation from the abstract to the realm of day-to-day work-life management.

  2. What role do you think work-life leaders/practitioners have to play in implementing your Work Life Integration Framework? Or Work Life Integration Maturity Model?
    In our work-life integration framework we have identified a number of key factors that influence how work-life integration can be implemented within the organization. These include the national legal framework on maternity and parental leaves, local norms around caring, parenting and gender equality, as well as technology and the actual work environment. Work-life managers may not have any influence on these but have to stay on top of these external and internal developments. In addition, there is the core of the framework, where work-life managers have direct influence in shaping them, which includes three elements: work organization and design;  work-life  programs  and  organizational  culture.  The  main  issue  with  the  framework  is  that  it  is continuously evolving and changing.In addition, leaders and work-life practitioners are pressured by employees’ changing expectations. Above all, employees look to their Zoltan Vadkerti and Agnes Uhereczkymanagers for transparency, information, direction and connection, in particular in the middle of change processes. The book follows a typical change management approach as we fundamentally believe that every work-life initiative has to be approached from this perspective. We all, by this point, have heard about various statistics about the success rates of such initiatives. The most often quoted and questioned one is McKinsey’s report in which the organization claims that 70% of change programs fail. Whether this number is right or wrong, one fact is clear: in successfully implementing work-life programs, leaders must adopt a long-term perspective, provide necessary training for line managers to oversee the implementation of such programs, and build initiatives on solid foundations.

    The maturity model, the other main message of the book, charts the course for organizations to evolve in their work-life integration, compared to where they are currently. The maturity model is an objective, evidence-based tool, that provides an integrated, focused outcomes approach to assess, monitor and evaluate work-life integration in organizations, with focus on growth potential. Work-life managers can use it to learn where the organization is now, and where there is room to grow, on a five-level scale. We have included an entire chapter in the book dedicated to the case study of the adidas global headquarters, whom we have situated as “visionary”, the highest level on the maturity scale -the gold-standard so to speak.Our goal with the creation of the Framework and Maturity Model was to cater to work-life practitioners with such foundational elements on which they can build their programs, follow progress,  and  improve  their  success rate.

  3. How  do  higher  education institutions  differ  from  corporate settings  when  related  to  the concepts  brought  forth  in  your book?
    They might look distant in nature, but the two worlds are not as far apart as one  might  think.  Although,  one  key difference we observe is in the culture of  the  organizations.  Thanks  to  its higher   degree   of   bureaucratic processes and longer decision-making systems,   educational   institutions might  move  more  slowly  when  it comes to making adjustments to work-life programs, changing directions or focus. In contrast, corporate work-life programs are often adjusted on a monthly basis, where we also see solutions and services tested rapidly to make a place for better fitting work-life programs. We don’t know for sure whether one is better than the other, but there are recognizable differences.In  addition,  higher  education  institutions  may  face  constraints  when  implementing  work  flexibility,  in particular for teaching staff. We believe, however, that there can be a certain degree of flexibility in all professions, and it’s only a matter of creativity, from job-sharing to compressed work-weeks. We also know that academics are some of the most overworked professionals, with great pressures to publish, write grant applications, manage staff, and it’s an intellectually very demanding field to be in -from which it may be even harder to  switch  off -therefore  work-life  spillover  may  be  much  more  accentuated  for higher  education professionals. The pressures to be constantly available, visible, share opinions, comment and publish may contribute to the already high level of institutional pressures, and elevate digital presenteeism.What  has  changed  recently  however  is  that  both  types  of  organizations  share  similar  strategic  people objectives, that are used to attract top talent to their employment, diversify their future leadership bench, or improve the employee experience. Work-life policies and programs are key enablers of these objectives both in corporate settings and higher educational institutions.

  4. What advice do you have for leaders who are interested in advancing work life integration supports in their workplace?
    We have interviewed leaders and professionals from over 250 organizations globally, large and small. We have been inspired by their initiatives and tried to include as many as possible in the book, so there are a lot of very practical, pragmatic solutions for leaders to pick and choose from in the book.One of the main conclusions that emerged in the writing of the book for us was that we need to change the way organizations think about managing work-life programs within their institutional context and hierarchy.In most cases, work-life manager positions can be found in human resource departments. Due to their cross-functional nature, they are often integrated with smaller units, such as wellbeing, employee engagement or employee experience. At organizations where there is an empowered diversity and inclusion (D&I) team or manager, work-life integration programs are integrated into the larger diversity and inclusion strategy, as they have similar objectives (attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, making them feel valued and included), and also share similar tools (programs, employee resource groups, etc.). D&I, along with work-life integration initiatives must be instruments for mindful and informed human resource management. However, we believe that work-life integration needs to receive its own strategic recognition and be elevated to the same levels as D&I or learning and development. In addition, bringing the human resources leader into the board of the organization, empowering them with a budget and a say in the overall strategic discussion of the organization also makes a big difference for work-life programs.

  5. What else do you think is important to share with CUWFA members?
    First of all, we couldn’t stress enough the importance of the work CUWFA members are doing, not only in their own organizations for their own staff, but also in the broader, advocacy context for advancing the global conversation on work-life issues. We have been following the work of CUWFA for many years, and see the development and maturing of the network, as well as the great potential of peer support and professional networks, which we also highlight in the book. Work-life professionals, as they are so few and far between, may be very isolated in the broader human resources or D&I community.The book is full of very practical tools and examples, so we believe that every CUWFA member would take away something that they can use in their important daily work. Our hope for the longer term, however, is that we  help  organizations  identify  the  current  blockages  that  are  in  the  way  for  their  work-life  integration programs to mature. One of the most important ones is the fragmentation of different departments that are driving this issue forward. When we look at really well-performing businesses, we can see that there is a cooperation  between  the  different  departments  that  are  concerned,  such  as  facilities  management,  human resources, information technology, internal communications, works council, etc. This is really a team effort. Once we understood that it is not just the lonely human resources warrior who should go and push this whole agenda forward in the organization on their own, we were able to draw up a new paradigm for employers who are interested in real, long-term change.

Agnes Uhereczky is the co-founder of the WorkLife HUB, and the host of the WorkLife HUB podcast. Agnes is a  change  management  professional,  who  is  passionate  about  helping  organizations  reach  their  highest potential in attracting talent and improving employee wellbeing. She is also interested in research and has coordinated a number of research projects into exploring the new world of work, learning about how working parents and carers cope with daily demands of work and family life.

Zoltan Vadkerti is an entrepreneur, speaker and workplace consultant. He is the co-founder and Executive Director at the WorkLife HUB. He studied economics in both the Netherlands and Hungary before he moved to Brussels to become a lobbyist on EU social and employment policies. That experience, and many others, led him to an interest in the organization of work and specifically on the quality of work and work-life integration.