Is 'work-life balance' still relevant?
Pre-coronavirus, good work-life balance was relatively easy to quantify.
Those who were able to concentrate on work only when in the office and leave their anxieties at the door, whose companies ensure that they were able to balance parenthood with their roles and take annual leave when needed would have likely considered their balance to be positive, whilst those who were victims of ‘always-on’ culture suffered.
However, in the post-coronavirus age, work-life balance has blurred greatly. Remote working, living and operating out of the same space, caring for vulnerable family members and children and the powerful temptation to continue working outside of work hours without the definition in the day provided by commuting are all threats to the physical and mental health of workers. And this is without discussing the detrimental effects of potentially working and living alone and the isolation that this can bring.
As a result, some of the key points of a healthy work-life balance simply don’t apply anymore. Earlier this month, Amanda Stansell, Senior Research Analyst at Glassdoor, told Bloomberg that she considers the following to be indicators of a healthy balance: “Some of the best companies for work-life balance have really great paid-time off policies, flexible working schedules, good parental leave, sabbaticals and gym credits.” However, since workers shifted to a remote working schedule, those key indicators may well have changed.
Annual leave, once a chance to put literal distance between you and your job, is still embroiled in COVID-related controversy, with new countries being added to what amount to ‘no fly’ or ‘fly with extreme caution’ lists. Largely, many of the classic destinations for holidaymakers are considered out of bounds or risky – hardly helpful for those who need to unwind. Similarly, the ‘staycation’ has become a key fixture of annual leave but if you work from home, this puts very little ground between your role and your chance for relaxation.
Some are readdressing the concept of work-life balance by simply integrating anti-burnout measures into their daily schedules. For example, SurveyMonkey has an unlimited leave policy called ‘responsible paid time off', where employees decide how many vacation days they should take. Such policies, however, can sometimes cause workers not to take time off, rather than risk being seen as taking too much.
Another key example is Slack. Since April, all of Slack’s employees get a Friday off together once per month – a change the company says it’s keeping until the end of the year (and which works because its employees are spread over different global regions). This, the company said, forces employees to take more downtime to account for their higher stress.
Slack also has a top-down approach to advocating balance. When the company CEO took a week off, he encouraged those under him to do the same. Robby Kwok, Senior Vice President for People at Slack, told Bloomberg: “If your leaders are not taking time off, it does not matter how much you say to the company ‘take time off’. They’re going to model that behaviour.”
So, does the traditional view of work-life balance still apply? It’s really too early to tell whether life will return to some form of normality in the near future, but data such as that created by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that the vast majority of employees want to readdress the amount of time they spend in the office, meaning regardless of what comes next, things have changed and as such, leaders need to be thinking about what that means for the health and wellbeing of their employees.
Source: Executive Grapevine