How’s Your Work Life Balance?

We’ve all heard the expression “work/life balance” – the concept that allows employees to feel as though they are balancing the time they spend on all the important aspects of their lives.  Generation Y expect it, having grown up with the concept, and as some employees age, they realise they should have addressed it sooner. It used to be that those employees who worked more than they played did so at the behest of the employer. These days, however, smartphones, laptops and easy access to communication channels mean employees are choosing to work “after hours”. 
 
Employers expect employees to work hard, long hours and occasional weekends – from time to time. There will be certain times when this is required, eg to meet a product release, attend trade shows, pre Christmas trading or seasonal work peaks.  Employees are generally happy to ‘pitch in’ in these circumstances, but they can’t sustain long periods of overtime hours as a normal work expectation.  These employees will either burn out or leave.  Employers can assist by providing policies, procedures and expectations to support employees to easily obtain more balanced lives. 

Businesses must not confuse engagement, dedication and commitment with 60 – 70 hours worked weekly. In our fast paced world the key is to adapting to change using time management techniques to ensure employees get the time away from work they need. Managers should lead by example – they retain good employees for whom work-life balance is important, allowing them to split their time and energy between their work and time for family, friends, community participation and other personal activities.

The line between work time and life (home) time is no longer distinct as technology has bought new challenges with some employees being connected to the business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  While generally phone calls and online use for personal reasons during work hours is discouraged, some employers do recognize that some personal online use is offset by the employee who responds to emails late in the evening or makes overseas phone calls to meet zone differences.

The balancing act of one’s work and private lives can be very challenging for some. To manage this myriad of demands on one’s own time one has to become disciplined and also have clear guidelines as to the expectations of the position’s real work hours. 

Speaking of which, Christmas is around the corner and many are looking forward to a well earned break.  But how many times a day will we hear, “I’ll just check my emails to see if anything needs responding to”. The aim of annual leave is for rest and recreation, that all-important re-charging of the batteries.  How can that happen if employees are checking phone and email messages, never really leaving work behind?

Before you go on leave how about setting some policies – either as a company or as an employee - about how accessible people are to be, how often or whether at all emails are checked and responded to, using email auto responses etc.  Manage the business so that everyone has a proper break away from work.


Paddy Battersby ; Battersby HR Consulting ; www.battersbyhr.com

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