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Why overworked employees still love their bosses

A better work-life balance may not necessarily lead to higher staff productivity

Glassdoor’s analysis of data posted on its site suggests that highly rated chief executives are more common at companies that have a lower work-life balance.

Take Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs. His investment bank earns only 2.7 stars out of five for work-life balance (“Be prepared to say goodbye to family life, exercise routines and hobbies,” comments one former technology employee). For reference, that is a lower grade than Sports Direct, the UK retailer denounced last year for imposing “Victorian workhouse” conditions on warehouse staff.

However, Mr Blankfein achieves a 93 per cent approval rating and regularly makes it into the 100 highest-rated US chief executives.

Academics at London School of Economics found that encouraging better work-life balance does not lead to higher productivity. Neither does forcing workers into miserable servitude. That said, a later study by Alex Edmans, now at London Business School, found positive links between job satisfaction and stock returns.

As chief executive, then, you have plenty of reasons to look after your staff’s welfare: work-life balance is a powerful recruiting tool, particularly for younger candidates; family-friendly policies encourage more women to join and stay; it is the right and equitable thing to do; and improving conditions cannot make things worse.

However, work-life balance is not the sole way to win their approval.

One hypothesis put forward by Glassdoor researchers is that people working for highly ranked chief executives are “willing to sacrifice [balance] in exchange for great CEO leadership”, particularly in “fast-growing, high-achieving workplaces”.

Goldman’s reviewers for example, frequently applaud their managers, even while complaining about the long hours they have to work.

In summary, the LSE researchers found that good management is the hidden cause of improved productivity – workers like successful, motivating leaders, often irrespective of how hard they make them work.

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