Our CEO, Steve Haworth, discusses why the line between work and personal time is thinning and how employees can get the balance right
This year marks five years since legislation gave all UK employees the right to request flexible working from their employer. Since then a highly mobile workforce has emerged. Employees are making the most of the flexible working freedoms and the ability to work from anywhere.
While freedom and flexibility being embraced is a positive thing, this shift has also led to a significant blurring of the lines between work and personal time. As fixed office hours have become a thing of the past, the distinction between work and personal time has become less obvious.
The 24/7 nature of technology and flexible working freedoms means that employees are finding it increasingly difficult to ‘switch off’ from work. Our survey on flexible working practices revealed half of employees have had one of their holidays disrupted by work.
Evidently, this problem gets worse the further up the career ladder you go. This is especially true for those who work in big cities such as London. It might seem common practice for our work life to bleed over into our personal life. But what if the dynamics were reversed? How acceptable would it be if our personal lives were constantly interfering with our work?
The double standard
Employees may be doing the school run before heading to work, spending quality time with their children, or going to medical appointments. And employers are increasingly encouraging mobile and flexible working because of the benefits it brings, including increased staff satisfaction, improved productivity, and cost savings. But employees are expected to ‘make up’ the time.
The trade-off to being able to catch up in their own time is that it is not clear when work hours actually end, making it hard to switch off. For employees, constant interruptions from work, during their personal downtime, is not promoting a healthy work-life balance. Having work-related apps and emails on personal devices may help to facilitate flexible working, but it also exacerbates the “always-on” culture.
Technology as a solution
To prevent work taking over every moment of our lives, it is crucial that employees create clear boundaries and actually stick to them. Rather ironically, technology has also created the tools to help us achieve this balance. This is exactly why our business communications app, Re:Call, was created.
For example, employees can use the app to divert their calls out of hours or turn on the ‘do not disturb’ mode which blocks all incoming calls until turned back off again. These features offer an avenue through which employees can better structure their work commitments.