Integrating work and life
How does work/life integration differ from the concept of work/life balance?
As technology makes it easier for us to be connected to our work 24/7, there is no longer a clear distinction between work and personal time. Work/life balance looked at the separation between your professional life and personal life, and was more about ensuring you physically leave work and turn off to make time for your personal activities and family life. The level of connection available today means the lines between personal and professional life are becoming increasingly blurred. It’s becoming less realistic to think that the two can be separated, especially as we see more remote working. Work/life integration therefore is more about finding a way to blend what you do personally and professionally.
How big an issue is employee wellness and health generally?
There is a big focus on the health and well-being of employees. Work/life integration is coming to the fore
in more organisations, and policies and procedures to accommodate this are being introduced. Employees who have long commutes, for example, will often answer emails and work during their commute. They are not getting sufficient downtime, which can impact on their health. Other employees who need to look after their children or want to attend sports or cultural classes are looking for more flexibility and peace of mind. Organisations that offer flexible working arrangements or the option to work from home help to relieve some of the stress and pressure.
Employees don’t just have commitments in the workplace, but in their personal lives too. It is important to them that they are able to fulfil these without burning themselves out. As companies are now beginning to understand the importance of work/life balance, they are implementing work/life integration procedures.
According to our FY16/17 predictions, which we released last August, we found employees are looking for work/life balance and job satisfaction. Employers’ requirements have become more demanding, but salaries are not increasing accordingly. As a result, some candidates are instead negotiating different workplace conditions and flexibility around working hours.
Do employees value organisations more highly when they can demonstrate a track record in health/wellness programs?
Our ‘Staff Engagement, Ideas for Action’ report last year found that organisations offering flexibility are more likely to have engaged staff – people who are more motivated and take fewer sick days. In our survey of employers, 75 percent said flexible options are ‘very important’ or ‘important’ in engaging their workforce – but 35 percent admit they need to address this in order to improve staff engagement.
Meanwhile 86 percent of employees said flexible working options are a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ engagement factor for them. Thirty-one percent would look for another job if they were not given such options, with a further
47 percent admitting this may be a factor in them looking elsewhere. Seventy-one percent would go above and beyond if they had flexible working options, with another 23 percent admitting they would ‘maybe’ go above and beyond in return for such flexibility.
You mention the need for many sectors to have a ‘24/7’ mentality. How is this being ‘sold’ to the workforce and how does it work with work/life integration? Is it through greater flexibility?
The 24/7 mentality stems from the world of work always being in operation. A recent article by Forbes quoted David Solomon, the global co-head of Goldman Sachs, who said, “Today, technology means that we’re all available 24/7 and because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks.”
With this in mind, organisations are recognising the change in the way employees work and are now allowing staff to work flexible hours, work from home and attend meetings via technology such as Skype.
According to a Hays poll of 8654 people last year, 55 percent of Australians are prepared to drop their salary by up to 20 percent in order to work from home, with a further 22 percent prepared to take a hit of up to 10 percent for this same privilege. Just 23 percent said they are happy to commute if it means more money.
Australia’s hard work culture sees us regularly featured in the list of countries with the longest working weeks in the world. Given this, it isn’t surprising that Aussies want to work flexibly in order to improve their work/life balance, even if it means taking a pay cut. Some want to reduce stress and improve their mental and physical well-being by eliminating an exhausting commute. For others, working from home, even one or two days a week, can be the make or break of being able to stay in their job.
Do organisations need to invest more in their systems to assist workers or is this where making small investments or adjustments will go a long way to achieving better outcomes?
This is unique to the type of industry/sector/organisation. However, within facilities management, we have seen from the final Hays Quarterly Report of 2016 that technology is highly used within the industry and, therefore, employees that are able to use in-house systems with ease are actively sought.
There have already been some roles that have seen assistance with mundane tasks allowing employees to have more time to focus on the more involved and detailed side of the role; these types of technologies will enable the workforce to be more efficient and reduce the risk of human error.
Facilities management organisations or those companies employing a specialist facility management team will need to take unforeseen events or odd hours for projects into consideration when establishing their work/life integration practices.
You also mention the ‘blended’ workforce. What are the implications for employers and employees of more temps and flexible working arrangements? How does this fit with work/life integration?
With organisations trying to find cost saving ways, as well as looking for more flexibility around bringing in expert skills when needed to complete projects and ongoing assignments, there has been and will continue to be a rise in temps across all industries and sectors, so that employers don’t have to add to their permanent headcount, which is where the term ‘blended workforce’ comes from.
This is not only beneficial to companies but to employees too; more employees are choosing to do temporary assignments due to other personal commitments or their current stage of life.
This article also appears in the February/March issue of Facility Management magazine.