Managing the work-life balance

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Today’s blog post is from one of the many Office Companies that we work alongside and is written by David Saul, Managing Director of Business Environment.

The term “work/life balance” probably appeared sometime in the late 70s, and has continued to seep into public consciousness until it became the recurrently debated topic it is today. The overriding meaning of this phrase is one that can still be open to interpretation, however it is generally thought to reference the degree of success an individual has when it comes to balancing their daily (very rarely) 9 to 5 alongside a positive and happy family life.

I was recently browsing the Telegraph when I was struck by an article in which the journalist, Katherine Rushton recounted the time she met an American businessman from New York. This New Yorker described Europeans as lazy, and stated that our business ambitions are permanently stymied by our obsession with attaining the perfect work-life balance.

There’s no denying that the US has produced some of the world’s most successful business brains, yet one thing this article didn’t state is that the US recently ranked ninth from the bottom in the “work-life balance” category of an OECD Better Life index, measuring advanced nations. The US was placed far below Scandinavia and other EU countries; perhaps one might say this particular New Yorker was bitter?

It would be wrong to completely disregard this comment altogether. As a nation, we Brits really do place a great deal on getting the work-life balance down to a tee. Perhaps if we focussed less on achieving the immeasurable ideal of the perfect balance between work and leisure time we might indeed be slightly more productive. However, losing sight of this altogether could also prove grossly counterproductive, so what can be done?

An unproductive work-life balance isn’t a problem that can necessarily be fixed, it can however be managed. The growth of the internet, email and particularly smart phones now means that switching off from the day-job is proving increasingly difficult. Permanently moving the office home isn’t always the best solution, however having the flexibility to do so when required can, in my opinion, significantly help.

There have been many surveys that have found a correlation between working from home and an increase in employee productivity. One particular IBM study found that working from your living room increases productivity so much that workers can carry on for 19 hours more than other employees before feeling any interference with family life. Companies need to ensure that they are offering their employees this flexibility, particularly those with a hectic family life. Having homeworking resources in place can drastically improve both work and home life – just as long as there are clearly defined lines of work and play!

Remote working won’t necessarily remove the over time, but it can put work and family life back on a level playing field – just as long as you don’t mind the two operating side by side and your Blackberry joining you at the dinner table every once in a while.

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