Work, Play, Reward. The Work-Life Balance: Is It Real?

January 17, 2020

Get yourself comfy with a cup of tea and a blanket as we take a break to explore the reality behind the fabled work-life balance!

work-life balance

Work-life balance? That mythical thing that all working people seem to be searching for nowadays. There’s simply no question we need more of it!

As tech fuels the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, managing our jobs and personal lives has become a hot topic across industry fields, cultures and working environments. Balance is one of the most precious things one can achieve in today’s increasingly connected world, and it’s actually fostered the creation of businesses, in fields such as Health & Wellness, that have seen massive growth in the last decade.

Despite the need for this balance, what has actually been done to bring it about? Are we all onboard when it comes to balancing things out? And if so, how do we achieve it?

To start, it’s worth understanding what exactly we’re talking about when we use the very clichéd expression ‘work-life balance’. It might be easier first to define what work-life balance isn’t: it’s not an equal distribution of time and energy (…life isn’t really like that, is it?). There also isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, so that “Top Ten Tricks” article you read yesterday can go straight in the bin. In fact, work-life balance is more of an individual construct because it’s connected to our very personal needs, priorities, plans, family situation, and so on. In this sense, it’s also not a static formula because as our life changes, so does the balance itself and its individual meaning to us. With that being said, designing and implementing flexible work programmes and policies that meet employees’ needs is also a big – and sometimes tough – challenge. However, companies are coming up with innovative solutions for different situations. Some are offering counselling sessions to new parents on returning to work (on top of a robust parental leave policy).

Other companies organise business meetings with clients in unlikely places, like golf courses. You read that right! Some managers are starting to recognise the importance of changing the venue and how a change in scenery often makes the flow of new ideas easier, especially when the task demands out-of-the-box solutions. Next meeting at the gym, y’all?

At Critical Software, we have family-support policies including two extra months of maternity leave, flexible work hours, and remote working. In addition to these policies, in the UK office, we provide monthly 20 minutes massage slots, with the goal being to improve the health and wellbeing of our employees. Many studies have shown the positive impact of the implementation of similar initiatives. When it comes to health, for instance, researchers have found that participating in wellness programmes increases average employee productivity by more than 5%, which roughly corresponds to adding one more day of productive work per month! Indeed, activities like nutrition, yoga, or meditation can be an important step to promote healthier lifestyles and increase satisfaction.

The benefits of flexible programmes and policies are vast for both employees and employers. It’s a win-win situation!

For the employee, a flexible work schedule allows them more control over their time, giving them more flexibility to meet personal needs, as it makes it possible to manage work and other commitments by working during the hours that best suit them. For instance, if you’re a night owl and you become more active and productive at night, you’ll find you’ll benefit no end from working through the night! More control over our work schedule and work environment (e.g. working remotely) has been shown to have a positive impact on the feeling of empowerment in employees which, in turn, has a positive impact on overall satisfaction and stress levels as well.

The employee isn’t the only one taking benefit from this, though. Studies and workplace results have shown improvement in employee motivation and commitment to the company. This helps retain personnel and attracts new talent as it makes the company atmosphere more relaxed while also making it more suitable for those with significant personal commitments, such as new parents. Absenteeism, turnover and sickness usually decrease, while productivity, initiative and teamwork increase. What’s not to love?!

Nevertheless, the flexibility flag hasn’t been adopted by everyone in the organizational world (yet!). Why is that?

Many HR managers anticipate added bureaucracy and challenges for their teams when implementing these programmes. Other difficulties are related to factors like insecurity because, in the case of working remotely, the supervisor can’t oversee the work that’s taking place. It’s also possible that the company can’t provide the technological means to allow employees to work remotely. Also, many studies connect these factors with organisational cultures that are more resistant to change and to the introduction of new practices.

However, the demand for flexible work policies far outweighs those currently enjoying them. While at present things attitudes may be mixed, this demand means that the trend shows that in future businesses will have to provide more flexibility as well as practices that give employees more control and freedom over their own time.

So, friends…

We’ve reached the end of our journey through work-life balance and we’d like to leave you with one key idea: flexible work programmes have a particular importance to them. However, it’s important that the work itself is a supported experience. It’s been found that 95% of employees whose manager is perceived as someone sensitive to work, personal life and the need for flexibility feel more motivated to exceed expectation in their job. Leaders should lead by example and help their collaborators incorporate the concept of balance into their working lives.

On another note, it’s important to remember that an effective work-life balance is a two-faced coin: it’s about achievement and enjoyment. These should consist in a daily effort to reach goals that matter to us personally and professionally. With both of these goals aligned, we may just have found the secret to success when it comes to that enigmatic idea of a work-life balance…

Excited to try out a flexible work environment? Check out our job openings and join our team!