Younger generations of workers – so called ‘Millennials’ – are used to constantly using new communications technology to constant keep up-to-date with social media and personal email. This has also come to mean that monitoring work emails outside office hours has become routine – blurring the boundaries between work and personal life. A majority of 18-34 year old workers in one survey said that answering work email during dinner way OK, versus only 22% of workers age 55-64.
However, there are signs that younger workers are dissatisfied with the effects of a constant digital connection to their workplace on their work-life balance. This will have implications for employers as younger workers are the most active employee group in seeking better work-life balance; they are the most likely group to move jobs, relocate home or take a pay-cut for better balance and work flexibility.
To attract and retain the best talent, employers will need to better adapt to the demands of these workers who want work-life balance. Examples of how this is being done include shifting management focus from requiring attendance in the office, to looking at ways of allowing workers the flexibility to be work productively. Importantly, this means putting high-levels of trust in workers.
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.
Barbara Hobson draws on the research of a team within a large European Network of Excellence, Reconciling work and welfare (RECWOWE), many of whom are authors in the recent book, Worklife Balance: The Agency and Capabilities Gap, focusing on the individual/household, firm and managerial level and welfare state policy context across European countries and Japan. In this post she discusses the choices faced by those who seek to take advantage of work-life balance policies.Continue reading →
Interviews with fathers who have children under school age have shown that almost two thirds feel that their work pattern does not suit their needs. A quarter say they are unhappy with their work-life balance.
Half these fathers, who represent a range of sectors and seniority levels, suggested that remote working or flexitime would help their situation. However, a similar proportion were afraid to ask for flexible working as it would demonstrate a lack of commitment. 42% felt that it would affect their career progression.
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.
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.
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.
Staff working for charities may be more susceptible to overwork and ill effects from poor work-life balance.
Those working for charities often feel they need to work harder because failure to do so lets down the beneficiaries of their charities. The passion many employees in this sector feel for their work can lead to the blurring of boundaries between work and personal commitment.
The Equilibrium Man Challenge aims to increase gender equality in the workforce by promoting flexible working among men. As well as encouraging better work-life balance among men, normalising such arrangements will help reduce ‘flexibility stigma‘ and workplace discrimination often faced by working mums who are viewed as seeking ‘special treatment’.
Dual-earner couples must face a series of negotiations and trade-offs to deal with the competing demands between their work and personal lives, and also between each of their careers. Questions includes those about whose careers will take priority and how domestic labour will be shared. These can be complicated by societal pressures to perform traditional gender roles.
Research shows that, in practice, work is more likely to encroach on personal life than the other way around. It also shows that, over time, the career of the primary breadwinner will take priority.
There are various strategies couples can employ to improve such negotiations. These often rely on utilising flexible working strategies, and have important implications for work-life balance and job satisfaction.