The work-life balance issue is often at the forefront of employment policies across Europe for benefits to businesses and employees: a good family-work reconciliation system improves productivity and organisation, reduces employee dissatisfaction and absenteeism. Despite the well-known benefits, the adoption of work-life balance practices across Europe is fragmented and often unsatisfactory, mainly due to a wide variety of legal systems and financial, social and cultural conditions that influence the understanding and spread of the opportunities arising from such practices.
Innovative and targeted training materials can facilitate the adoption and spread of family-work reconciliation policies across Europe, contributing to European employment, competitiveness and social inclusion policies. The Eurobalance project is based on an information package developed by two of the project partners, as part of an EQUAL European project (“ASAPH”) in the UK, with the aim of facilitating the adoption of family-work reconciliation policies in companies. In collaboration with the Eurobalance project partners, the materials have been adapted to the context of the different countries (Italy, Poland, Denmark and Greece) and used to create a training and information programme to promote a more effective adoption of work-life balance policies. The 2—year project, which started on 1 October 2009, aims to make use of a further innovation to ensure its success; it intends to rely on peer educators (the so-called “champions”) who provide information and assistance to different small and medium-sized enterprises in the partner countries, using methodologies for sharing good practices.
By participating in workshops organised by the project partners, the champions were trained on work-life balance issues and on the opportunities that these policies can offer to workers and companies. The aim, in particular, is to develop training courses based on information technologies to facilitate the transfer of the knowledge recently acquired by the champions to small and medium-sized enterprises and employees. Therefore, the project spreads its innovation by:
- Developing training opportunities based on IT tools, covering both training and work-life balance practices
- Following the well-known good practice of using peer training methods to spread information on work-life balance practices to small and medium-sized enterprises and their employees
- Disseminating, through a website, public meetings and publications, the processed materials and the collected information
Based on this innovative approach, the project results include the production of four new training courses (one per country) to effectively train 40 champions (10 per course) who will spread their knowledge and enthusiasm for the family-work reconciliation theme to 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (50 per country), thus positively influencing the work and living conditions of at least 1000 people (5 per company; 250 per country) in a Europe that has different legal, fiscal, linguistic and cultural approaches to the relationship between life and work and their reconciliation.
The Eurobalance project has produced a short video on family-work reconciliation that includes some suggestions for small businesses.