Article By Toby Aiken
"So given that logic dictates that efficiency should be prized above physical presence, why are we living in a society so prone to work-induced stress? It doesn’t add up."
This is a topic I have wanted to write about for some time. I feel very strongly about the concept of work-life balance, and I often see people discussing these topics online. So now it’s my turn. I work hard. I also have a family and young children.
But here’s the thing…how do I communicate my dedication when I am leaving the office on time,
four days out of five?.......
With colleagues regularly staying later - maybe only 20 or 30 minutes - who is seen as the ‘better’ employee? No real surprise, on the surface it appears to be the individual who is staying longer.
But what if that person is staying longer because they work less efficiently? If they have to be there for an extra half an hour in order to get their tasks done, is there an argument that suggests that worker is in fact less productive?
If they are less productive, and staying away from the home environment for longer, then their home-life is probably going to suffer, and if they aren’t happy at home, there is a strong argument that sooner or later that is going to impact negatively on their working life.
So why do we have this culture that dictates that hours worked (or present) equate to value as an employee?.......
With tasks completed being the ultimate test of achievement, if those tasks are completed in a shorter time to as high a standard, then surely that should be valued more? Completing tasks to the required standard faster means that a company can complete more tasks, and in theory then make more money, but that doesn't yet seem to have filtered through to office culture.
There are exceptions however-
- Companies such as Netflix among a few others have changed things up a little. They recognise that usually increasing the size of a company increases complexity, and stifles creativity. So they took that rule book and threw it away.
Among other things, one policy they don’t have is an annual leave policy. Employees are entitled to take leave as they see fit, and the burden of trust is on the individual employee not to abuse the system and place colleagues in a position where they are unable to work to their best efficiency. Their argument for not having such a policy is faultless.
They simply state that: ‘We don't have a dress code, yet no-one turns up naked.’ You can’t fault that.
So given that logic dictates that efficiency should be prized above physical presence, why are we living in a society so prone to work-induced stress? It doesn’t add up.
A recent survey from a professional body found that more than half of senior level respondents admitted that they were stressed, despite loving their job. And yet nearly all job postings now mention a work-life balance (a term that probably wouldn’t have featured 15 years ago.)
So that got me thinking why the concept has grown in (for want of a better word) popularity, and I think I may have come up with the answer.
The ability to be ‘always on’ has meant that we feel the need to just check emails, see if someone replied, tap out a quick idea for the morning… anything really that belongs in the office but has infiltrated our home life. I am as guilty of this as the next guy, and it’s hard not to just have a quick look: last thing at night, first thing in the morning, even when we are on a holiday. Smartphones have both set us free, and tethered us to the office.
With cloud connectivity, we can all write, work, communicate and basically act as if we are in the office, regardless of where we actually are. Technology has made us able to work quicker, and discussions or negotiations can take place quicker, in real time, whether we are in the same geographic location or not.
And yet, studies regularly show that we are working more hours than ever before.So we can work quicker and are working longer… that doesn’t make sense; and it definitelydoesn’t sound like a work life balance. (1)
It’s far too easy to get caught in the mentality of being ‘always on’… as I said, I’m as guilty of it as anyone, but the moment that it starts affecting your happiness and your stress levels, then the balance needs to be addressed. A happy worker is a productive worker, and on the basis of that fact the chances are that your employer would rather you put aside any issues that occur once you should be in your ‘home’ setting, and bring them to work with you in the morning when you are rested, ready and happy to be at work.
It’s rare that something that happens after 10pm cannot wait until the next morning, so before you tap out that email when the clock is approaching midnight, consider whether the email would be as impactful and relevant at 9am tomorrow. Get some sleep, come to work rested, and be the best that you can be.
(1) CIPR annual survey completed at the beginning of 2016
With more than 10 years in PR and communications under his belt, Toby works with a range of companies in media relations and copywriting. When he's not supporting his clients, either employed or freelance, he can generally be found driving nice cars for his motoring column and blog at www.cartestdummy.co.uk.