Work-life Balance

Work-life balance: Taking flexibility to a new dimension?

We have all heard about the benefits of a healthy work-life balance and the advantages of flexible working environments. A recent article published on the BBC, “Can your job be as flexible as this?” recounts how a company in the UK has taken flexibility at the workplace to a new level.

The company, Paycircle, which offers payroll software to small businesses, adopts a totally liberal attitude in its working environment, allowing employees to choose the hours they work. One would ask if companies adopting such work practices could be successful or if this could lead to abuse by staff, but Roisen Gray, just one week into her new job with the company says “My friends can’t get their heads around how we work, but, as I don’t have someone watching over me all the time, I just get on with it. It means I want to work harder.” Co-founder Catherine Pinkney says that the business “is based on trust and maturity”. Staff are only expected to attend a Monday meeting, but after that they can work where and when they please.

While companies that offer employees with a flexible working environment are rewarded by increased loyalty and commitment, some argue that this does not mean that employees actually achieve a healthy work-life balance.

An article posted on the Guardian offers an opposing view, stating that flexible working can make you ill. According to experts, flexible working approaches, such as working from home, could do more harm than good due to the fact that many employees do not manage to ‘switch-off’, creating an “always-on” attitude. This creates a blurred line between home and work life making it even more stressful for most people.

Professor Gail Kinman, an occupational health psychologist from the University of Bedforshire, highlights a particular problem wherein people ‘graze’ through work by continuously checking emails and taking calls outside office hours: recent research found that every time somebody performed a work task stress levels went back up.

So, does flexibility at the work-place really help in achieving an ideal work-life balance? It seems that the answer is not so simple. Employers need to understand the benefits which having a work-force that can find the right balance between work and life, can actually have on their performance and employer branding. Simply offering a flexible working environment might not actually achieve this goal. Adopting a culture that emphasizes the need to ‘switch-off’ and find time for family, friends, sports and hobbies, needs to form an integral part of a flexible working environment.

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