A latest study claims that an offshoot of the always connected technological environment has led the Indian millennials having amongst the longest working schedules across the world. This paradigm of being ‘Connected Always’ has gradually blurred the boundaries between work and leisure. This has added greater competitiveness and stress to our lives, resulting in poor work-life balance, increasing levels of unhappiness and even reduced productivity.
Research done across the world has found that work-life balance remains an issue requiring considerable attention by the employers and employees. With the global economy increasingly becoming a round-the-clock culture, it remains in the prerogative of the individual to aspire for a healthy lifestyle, and understand the need of switching off.
Achieving organizational success today needs employees to sacrifice their personal lives to get to the top, and deal with complex issues day in and out! Research has pointed that this over-reliance on professional commitments saps energy, and also leads to job fatigue, incomplete or bitter interpersonal relationships and even shortened lives.
A modern day employee today wants to maintain an overall sense of harmony in life. Even organizations are going the extra mile in engaging with their workforce and helping them attain the elusive work-life balance. As the phrase work-life integration is intertwined with work and is vital for the business environment today, more and more organizations are engaging in practices to gain employee trust and talent.
While work-life balance encourages employees to find a defined line between work and life and ensure that both don’t overlap each other. Work-life integration inspires employees to find the best approach to incorporate the requisites of wholesome working, and healthy living amongst each other, to create the best life scenario. Looking to offer employees an avenue of getting work done in all scenarios, work-life integration is all about increasingly obliterating the lines between work and life and not overwhelmed by any of them.
In today’s work parlance, work-life integration holds much importance where companies believe that people work best when they are offered opportunities to work according to their ease. If they can deliver excellent results working from home, so be it; or, if they can have better concentration and work brilliantly being in office overtime, it is their prerogative. Using the flexibility technique of work, corporates are today increasingly offering advantageous work opportunities to their employees that allow the workers to have better lives and a great job.
According to a latest Ernst & Young study, one-third of millennials say managing their work, family, & a personal responsibility has become more difficult in the last five years. Do all companies or employees embrace work-life integration, though? Why? Even today, Baby boomers continue to hold more management positions and have traditional values, and have the most say and authority on overall work environment. They have rarely experienced a work environment that allows flexible schedules so they’re probably less prone to the integration concept.
Practiced across the world today, work-life integration has some stellar examples across the corporate world. Today there are many organizations, which have taken initiatives to ensure that employees at work are relaxed and happy. Take, for example, Cisco India that has set up a dedicated wellness center and has a doctor and a dietician for the employees. A provision of 24x7 connectivity to the staff enables them to work from home when the need arises. It has also set up an employee assistance program aimed at helping employees deal with life and work situations.
Another great example of aiming for a great work-life integration is a global company American Express that has initiated a cutting-edge facility called I-Counsel which helps employees improve their personality, help understand their colleagues better, and improve upon their own acumen.
Employees at Nokia are often allowed to work from home, which not only allows them to take care of the family responsibilities but also relieves them from daily commuting and the monotony that sets in. At Patni Computer Systems the aim is to focus on three pillars of employees’ life — physical aspect (health and fitness), the psychological aspect, and providing a healthy work environment — to improve their work-life balance. Employees at Directi Group are encouraged to ask for a beanbag for relaxation, helping them work better.
It is often noticed that even with such employee-friendly policies and comprehensive programs, the results are not very encouraging. This happens because the companies focus on only one aspect of the program — that is, putting these practices in place. Just by doing so you won’t be able to manage to retain people, boost morale, and or improve revenues.
Hence, what is needed is to have a focused understanding amongst the employer and the employee, as to how the perfect work-life integration can be achieved. The following points may help:
From the employer’s perspective
Encourage employees to own work balance, by understanding their temperament, work style, convenience, and the personal ethos, and offering them the comfortable work environment that they seek
Supporting work-life integration, and offering avenues of spending quality family-time as it adds to productivity, building employee morale and enhancing competitiveness over time
Making work-life integration as a part of their business strategy by communicating, training and analyzing the employee sub-cultures and creating opportunities for focused deliverance of work-ethos
From the employee perspective
Employees should learn to draw a line between work and personal life, as trying to be extra efficient ruins their personal space, and creates a bad precedent for colleagues. At times, an overworking employee is seen as somebody who is extra involved in the organization, and hence the company expects the same from other employees as well. This is something that employees should refrain from.
Employees, aiming to become model employees should not neglect their health as overworking at a time brings with itself stress, which eventually leads to diminishing productivity.
Employees should know that smart work delivers higher productivity with lesser time allocated to the activity, and hence should be the model to be followed
The year 2016 is being considered to be a year of work-life integration, where the struggle between work and life is not ending, and some traditional old working ways and the smart ways are dogging in everyone’s mind. The millennials’ find it easy to maintain contact with everyone through social media and plan their schedule with their flexibility, whereas the senior employees are upgrading with the trend of not being present in the office for a particular time and work round the clock. The evolution of smart work is the master of all and everyone needs to portray the image of smart working solutions. This is work-life integration and is the process of the future.
Advocating the best approach to the processes of today, work-life integration fuses the positives of everyday life into the work culture, essentially fulfilling the purpose of the employer and the employee. Organizations with a future-ready work-life integration model succeed better than others who still follow the redundant work-life balance model, as they are more likely to have employees who are out there to just ‘get the work done’ in the most efficient way possible. This allows for a better utility of time, space, and efforts, thus ensuring an economic outlook towards work.
In the immediate future, organizations that offer better work-life integration to their employees, will become the employers of choice, and be listed amongst the most aspirational places to work at. However, these organizations could only prosper if they have employees who are trustworthy and understand the latent ideation behind having a work-leisure integrated life, which helps them grow personally and professionally.
An exercise to boost employee productivity, organizations need to align the employees interests and the company goals to ensure a seamless work integration. By creating a positive alignment, employers can ensure that the team stays highly motivated and bring greater productivity to work. If not, then the employees tend to lose the zeal and might end up being detrimental to the company’s larger business goals.
Winding up with a quote from Richard Semler’s book The Seven-Day Weekend – “Most people are perfectly willing to answer their emails on a Sunday afternoon but squirm at the idea of taking Monday afternoon off to just go the movies or do nothing.” Don’t we?
What do you think – do you strive for work-life balance, or work-life integration.