Enabling an Effective Work/Life Balance

If you were to ask any of your colleagues or peers about their work life balance, I am sure you’ll get a broad range of answers.  It seems we are all striving to achieve this mythical utopia.  Many organisations are seeking to support and promote it too.  A healthy work-life balance is a good thing, but how do we achieve it?

There are various approaches; ranging from providing health facilities at work locations, flexible working hours, changes  to office spaces, to embracing mobility and flexible working.  In the fast paced modern economy, it can be difficult for people to take the down-time that they need.  Providing technology solutions to help people achieve a better work-life balance can have adverse effects.  You provide someone with a mobility solution so they can work more flexibly, and now they are working more than they did previously. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  Is it their own choice to work longer, or is the provision of the tools an inference of the new level of demand that the organisation places on its people?

More fundamentally, can we split work and life? When you meet someone for the first time, finding out what they do for a living is one of the first conversation topics. What we do is a key part of who we are, isn’t it? Please share a comment and let us know your views!

If we look at a typical example, relating to the world of mobile technology, there are two schools of thought. One side have a business phone and a personal phone.  They suffer the “inconvenience” of carrying two devices so that outside work they can leave the business phone behind, and thus they detach from work. On the other side, many people have one phone; they don’t distinguish at a technology level between work and life and I presume that influences their wider mindset as they float seamlessly between work and non-work.

Ultimately this quandary affects each person differently.  We all have our own thoughts on what this means to us, that affects how we behave and react.  That’s what makes this difficult, where do we start and where do we stop?

This is a problem faced largely by the professional/corporate world.  For retail employees or task workers, work is more clearly defined.  Same too for some specific sectors of industry where there are ingrained cultures relating to work.  Whether this makes these places destination employers for Generation Y and Z time will tell!

For those in the professional world, there are some key pillars of enablement to support the quest for work life balance

  • Redefinition of work places to move away from the traditional “organisational prisons”, where visible presence was a critical factor for control of people. We need to move towards a more open and dynamic work place that supports interaction, collaboration and freedom,
  • Exploiting new technology that provides people with the flexibility and opportunities to work in ways that best suit themselves and the nature of the work itself. Mobile solutions and  communications and collaboration systems mean we can get stuff done more effectively than ever, reducing pressures from every angle
  • A change in culture to promote trust between employers and employees. Enabling us to fulfil the vision of work being something you do rather than somewhere you go

With these pillars in place, the work life balance becomes less of an issue.  In the organisations that have traits such as these, we see the effects in terms of their performance and position in the market.  We also know these organisations attract the highest calibre of people, and retain them through high employee satisfaction.

So while the debate continues let’s start with these specific practical steps as the foundations to enable people to strike their own balance, as it’s the user who we need to focus on as we look towards the Contemporary Workplace.

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Computacenter in the UK & Ireland @PSBray

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