What is WorkLife...and how can I make mine better?

“Worklife refers to specific organizational practices, policies and programs that are guided by a philosophy of active support for the efforts of employees to achieve success within and outside the workplace. These employer sponsored initiatives comprise a strategic framework referred to as the worklife portfolio, a key element of the organization’s total rewards strategy to attract, motivate and retain employees.”  World at Work, 2011

Seven Categories of WorkLife Effectiveness

There are seven categories/pillars of worklife effectiveness in the Worklife portfolio as established by World and Work. WorkLife at UC Davis is a member of the World at Work and the College and University Work Family Association (CUWFA) professional organizations. See the individual WorkLife tabs on this website for our offerings of these categories.  

  1. Caring for Dependents
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Workplace Flexibility
  4. Financial Support for Economic Security
  5. Paid and Unpaid Time Off
  6. Community Involvement
  7. Transforming Organizational Culture/Culture Change

The Evolution of WorkLife

The primary catalyst for the worklife movement was the changing demographics of the workforce, mainly female professionals struggling with the desire to succeed professionally and the simultaneous desire to have and care for children.  This need sowed the seeds of WorkLife at UC Davis and we retain the responsibility of managing the relationship between the three vendor-run campus-located Child Development Centers, managing the Student Parent Child Care Funding Program and growing our nationally recognized Breastfeeding Support Program.  Additionally, family issues such as elder care, maternity concerns and campus family concerns all fall under the “Caring for Dependents” pillar of Worklife that now applies to both men and women equally in today’s environment.

At the same time, organizations began identifying the links between employee stress, depression and illness and decreased productivity, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) took root to address these well-being issues.  As one of the pillars of Worklife, Health and Wellness education and resources provide programming supporting the holistic view that mental and physical health affects the human being and ultimately productivity.  Financial Wellness is addressed through WorkLife with a resource webpage, access to departmental/unit presentations by financial education specialists and online webinars and resources at UC Net.

Other factors that refined the worklife movement included a growing awareness of cultivating a positive company image/reputation, increasing feedback and demands from employees, and a growing body of evidence that supports the claim that worklife issues are just as important, and in the case of millennials, often more important in employee recruitment, engagement and retention, than salary.

WorkLife at UC Davis

WorkLife at UC Davis is housed in Human Resources, specifically Talent Management, and focuses on Culture Change, Employee Relations, Total Rewards, Diversity and Inclusion, and Wellbeing.  An integrated approach to Talent Management includes WorkLife as an important differentiator in making UC Davis an “employer of choice.” 

Culture Change:

WorkLife initiatives at UC Davis are based upon the recognition that the workplace and the workforce are changing and that we must create a new culture and seek new ways to get work done.  Worklife initiatives are connected to such concerns as quality of work life, cultural change programs, flexible work arrangements, and employee engagement.

Employee Relations:

Programming which creates, supports and sustains a positive work environment is key to the worklife perspective.  In addition to the separate HR function of recognizing and rewarding employees’ contributions, worklife aims to provide resources designed to maintain and enhance the health and well-being of employees and to make UC Davis a great place to work.  These  include employee communications, counseling and support, policy and guideline interpretation, and resources guiding to community involvement, conflict resolution, career counseling, and employee assistance programs.  

Total Rewards:

WorkLife is a major non-monetary component of the total rewards package and a contributing factor in attracting and retaining top quality talent. Worklife strategies can be seen as the more “intrinsic” rewards that come from the employees’ work experience.  Key to this concept is the offering of Flexible Work Arrangements and assistance in their implementation.  Other tangible “rewards” of WorkLife at UC Davis include breastfeeding support programming, paid and unpaid time off counseling, caregiver support services, health and wellness workshops, resource and referral, as well as the implementation of family-friendly policies, programming and events.

Diversity and Inclusion:

The concept of diversity as it pertains to worklife encompasses family type, sexual orientation, gender identification, religion, age, disability, sex, and ethnicity.  Inclusion goes beyond the hiring of diverse workforce; it involves a sense of belonging: feeling respected and valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so than you can do your best work.  Worklife programming is rooted in diversity, looking at each individual and their unique needs and creating an inclusive workplace.  As a culturally diverse institution of higher learning, UC Davis aims to work across the global differences that present both challenges and opportunities.  Generational diversity is supported by examining the particular and often differing concerns of each generation of employees at UC Davis.


Wellbeing takes a holistic approach by recognizing the integration and intersection of career, social relationships, financial security, physical and psychological health, and community involvement.  Research suggests that this holistic approach has linkages to employee engagement, retention, and productivity, as well as positive health outcomes. How do we define a life well-lived? After surveying people in more than 150 countries, partnering with leading economists, psychologists, sociologists and physicians for several years, Gallup has uncovered five distinct factors of wellbeing that transcend countries and cultures:

There is much overlap between this list and the pillars of Worklife.

For more information on the role of WorkLife in the components of employee well-being efforts, refer to this Boston College Center for Work and Family article, "Employee Well-being: A Comprehensive Approach."

The Future of WorkLife

Influencing Organizational Leaders

As Human Resources already has many policies, benefits and programming in place for employees, the focus shifts to increasing the efforts of an overall culture change to support employees.  Evidence tells us that this support translates to greater employee productivity, satisfaction, engagement and retention.  Policies and programs are necessary building blocks, but not sufficient alone.  A policy and/or program is only as good as its implementation.  Existing policies/programs need supportive leadership who will explore, model, support, and communicate effective worklife strategies. 

WorkLife aims to educate and influence our organization on the benefits of worklife effectiveness programming including; reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, recruitment advantages, improved employee retention and loyalty, increases in employee satisfaction, engagement and commitment, and improved employee health and wellbeing.  In the 2014 Deloitte Millennial Survey, after salary, “good work/life balance” is listed as the #1 issue of importance in a career/job.  Shifting our organizational culture involves targeting managers and supervisors as an important link in establishing Worklife effectiveness at the everyday employee level.  

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