The term work-life balance has been in use since the 1970s and with the advances in technology, the global workplace and a greater understanding of employee motivation and reward, employers are capable of offering, now more than ever, their employees greater flexible working arrangements – one would think that this would result in a happier work force and a better work/life balance – right? Not necessarily....
According to the 2018 Modern Families Index 2018 https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/publications/mfindex2018_summary/ many of us are working far beyond our contracted hours, almost a third of the parents surveyed are putting in an extra 7 hours – the equivalent to an extra working day – a week. As a result, nearly two in five parents say work prevents them from being able to say goodnight to their children; that they are unable to help their children with their homework; report extra arguments at home due to work and over 30% say that they are unable to eat healthily and/or exercise as a result of work pressures.
More than half of working parents surveyed said that they feel ‘burnt out’ resulting in feelings of stress as a result of work.
It’s not just families and working parents who are feeling the pressure – young employees are often put into situations where the demands of work are extreme. Barry Cummings Managing Director of Maximum Net Gain http://www.maximumnetgain.com tells of his first job after leaving university with a global technology company ‘we had an onsite gym, table tennis tables, hang out areas, cafes – everything to make us feel comfortable and appreciated, however, we soon realised it was all there to make sure we never left – we were ALWAYS at work’
Working and living in the UAE comes with great rewards – but also a lot of pressure and getting the work life balance right is not easy, many companies expect their employees to work 6 days a week and the Friday/Saturday weekend can make global customers/colleagues difficult to manage. HSBC’s expat explorer survey https://www.expatexplorer.hsbc.com/survey/country/united-arab-emirates rates the UAE as number 10 out of 46 in places to live as an expat, however, we drop down to 22nd place when it comes to work life balance.
‘Amanda’ Business Manager for a large Project Management company often works from home ‘I have flexibility over where I work which makes it appear more family friendly, however, I am still expected to be available at any time.... the management know that because I work flexibly I am always contactable and as a result quite often I’ll get a conference call scheduled for a Thursday evening and if our colleagues in the US send through a request for information on a Friday there is no way that I’m able to leave it until Sunday’
So what can we do? Is it a matter of taking back control if and when we can?
Barry talks about a customer of his who despite working long hours in a senior position consistently makes time to be with her family ‘she told me that she turns off her phone, every day from 2.30 – 5.30 to be with her children, her clients and colleagues all know that she can’t be reached then .... and guess what – the world didn’t end!’
So perhaps the answer is to be strict with our flexible working and if we do work flexibly make our own rules about when we do and when don’t work.
Louise Vine owner and Managing Director of inspire Selection https://www.inspireselection.com works hard at achieving a work life for herself and her young family – as well as those who work for her ‘Having children has made an impact on my working day. Dropping them at school, picking them up, attending sports days, school plays etc… It’s important to me to be able to spend time with my children and I’m fortunate enough to have my own business where I can work the hours I choose. I also recognise that my employees have their own commitments outside work and I offer them full flexi-time. We are all sensible, hard-working adults and we understand the importance of delivering work on time, so as long as the work is done, everyone is happy”
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Posted on Sunday Jan 28