For Working Families’ National Work Life Week, Jonathan Ward discuss how flexible work isn’t necessarily evenly experienced by both men and women in the cultural industries.
One in five UK workers have called in sick due to unmanageable stress – and 93% of these workers gave a different reason for their absence.
Excessive workloads, long hours and poor work-life balance are often cited as causing workplace stress. As such, to help reduce workplace stress employers have been urged to allow flexible working as a means of improving work-life balance and mental wellbeing.
Read more at Workplace Savings and Benefits.
It has often been assumed that a lack of family-friendly policies has kept many women from promotion to the highest ranks of the business world, and companies are starting to address this concern.
It may be that the lack of family-friendly policies may not be the most pressing issue. Rather the surge in hours worked by both men and women should be of primary concern as 24/7 work cultures ‘lock gender inequality in place’.
Issues of work-family conflict remain understood as primarily a woman’s problem; family-friendly policies designed to deal with work-family conflict target women and have unintended negative consequences for their careers. Yet, providing family-friend policy allows companies to focus on a narrow set of fixes and ignore more difficult questions about cultures of overwork.
Read more at the New York Times.
Research at a global strategy consulting firm with a strong US presence found that many men are dissatisfied with the expectation that they perform the role of the ‘ideal worker’ who is fully devoted to, and available for, the job, with no personal responsibilities or interests that interfere with this commitment to work.
To deal with their dissatisfaction some men made discrete changes to still ‘pass’ as ideal workers. Others, who asked for help from managers and colleagues, often faced marginalisation in the workplace.
While attempting to covertly ‘pass’ as the ideal worker may seem preferably, this has several drawbacks: it involves deception between employers and employees; it’s a strategy that isn’t open to everyone, and; it perpetuates myths about the best workers being the ones who apparently work longest.
Read more at Harvard Business Review.
The downsides of email now outweigh the benefits as they promote unmanageable workloads and supplant face-to-face discussions. Moreover, these negative impacts extend beyond the workplace and into workers’ homes. New technology encourages checking and replying to email while not at work, with consequences for individuals’ quality of life.
Employers have a role to play in helping employees manage email and encourage use that doesn’t negative affect work-life balance. Guidelines should discourage email use while not working, avoid unnecessarily including too many people in group emails, and to prefer face-to-face meetings between colleagues in the same building.
Read more at The Guardian.
A global survey, covering nearly 10,000 employees in eight countries has found that:
- Work-life balance is harder worldwide.
- People are quitting their jobs because of excessive overtime hours and bosses that don’t allow flexible working.
- Being able to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion is very important.
The leading causes of work-life conflict are that while wages have remained stagnant, their responsibilities have increased.
Workers in Germany and Japan reported the highest levels of increasing work-life conflict. German parents – alongside those in the UK, India and the US – were also most likely to report difficulties in managing work-life balance versus their non-parent colleagues.
They survey also found that approximately half of managers work more than 40 hours a week, with four in 10 saying that their hours have increased in the past five years.
Read more at EY.
After CFO of Google announced he was to quit the technology giant for a better work-life balance, this article notes that ‘most people have to figure out how to manage their lives and connect with their families while working full-time hours or longer’.
Looking at the US case, it notes that just 12% of the workforce are entitled to paid leave, including being one of only two countries surveyed by the ILO to have no statutory paid maternity leave. Moreover, it points to accounts of Google’s working culture that note long hours are the norm – encouraged by on-site gyms, food and dry cleaning – and that it has negative effects on employees.
The article questions, then, whether work-life balance, in practice, is the preserve of a privileged few who can afford to leave jobs, and suggests that attention needs to be paid to making work-life balance more achievable for everybody.
Read more at Quartz.
Katharine Zaleski reflects on how her own attitudes to childcare and women the workplace has altered since having a child.
While previously she had accepted cultural norms that suggest mother’s cannot be fully committed to work, her views have altered. Particular, she notes that news kinds of flexible working, particularly remote working, can help mothers remain engaged with work while also taking care of a child – and even become more productive as a result.
Interestingly she also notes that there may need to be limits on flexible working. She notes that expectations that people will be available for last minute meetings that run outside office hours, or for after-work drinks to network and discuss projects, are examples where flexibility negatively effects work-life balance and encourages the blurring of boundaries between these domains.
Read more at Fortune.
This article notes that 25% of UK professionals surveyed by Investec are dissatisfied with their work-life balance, and that work-life balance is only third on their list of priorities when choosing a job.
The survey suggests work enjoyment is the top priority, with 41% of respondents placing it as the most important factor in selecting a job. At 23%, salary is second on the list, and only 16% view work-life as the most important consideration when choosing a job.
Wayne Preston, head of banking at Investec, said: “We continue to see high levels of demand being placed on professionals throughout the UK. Advancements in technology make it harder than ever to ‘switch off’ outside the office and achieve an ideal work-life balance.
“Life doesn’t exist solely between the hours of 9 and 5, and working in a global marketplace across multiple time zones means the pressure to be always-on is high.”
Read more at The Independent.
This article reports on a new meta-analysis of research covering 50,000 workers which found that those who checked work email or took work calls after the office was shut were more likely to have problems with their health and private lives.
It goes on to note that while new technology was supposed to provide flexibility for workers, it actually encouraged them to be always ‘switched on’, blurring boundaries between work and life and causing work-family conflict.
The research authors note that:
“Researchers, employers and employees need to work jointly on how to make the use of technologies as beneficial as possible, reducing the negative effects. Otherwise, there is a danger of unintended knock-on effects.”
Read more at The Telegraph.