The Future of Work-Life Balance

Claes Widestadh

Claes Widestadh

Head of Solution Development at eConnectivity AB

Finding the right work-life balance is a goal of many modern professionals while companies are looking for innovative ways to boost by productivity by encouraging their employees to live a balanced life. A growing number of companies even attune to the needs of their employees and not vice versa.

More and more corporations use flexible work schemes to attract and retain talent but a new generation of employees are ready to push further pressure on employers, searching for even better balance between work and personal life. Sometimes the answer for the companies lies in the introduction of new technologies, sometimes a deep cultural change is needed that may require complete management overhaul.

What Defines the Right Work-Life Balance

Different cultures and methodologies take into account different factors when measuring work and life balance. But the single most important factor is obviously the time an employee spends at work and respectively not at work. And that is why Dutch are enjoying the best work-life balance as in the Netherlands only 0.5% of employees work 50 or more hours a week as compared to an average of 13% in the OECD countries.

Where Work Life Alignment Works Best

Source: Statista

The above figures clearly show that work-life balance does not mean unproductive economy, quite the opposite. And the major challenge is related to creating a feeling you are not working when in the office as well as taking advantage of new technology to boost productivity and reduce the hours people spend at work.

Flexibility and Technology Are Key Drivers of Work Life Alignment

Technology enables you to work anywhere and at any time, often without even having the feeling you are at work. Hence, using new technology is a key factor in making employees both productive and happy. Having a gym in the office and offering many social security benefits is not enough to attract and retain talent when the generation of employees just entering the workforce is looking mostly for flexible work models that in turn enable a balanced way of life.

Work life integration now asks employers to offer their employees office tools they are willing to work with, which in fact is the main cause for the widespread adoption of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) policies across different industry verticals. Some companies are making a step further by adopting BYOE policies, where office workers are allowed to bring about everything that adds to a more productive and stress-free work process. This is not a very applicable approach in manufacturing environments but the trend is nonetheless present.

The great problem is how to attract and retain talent by convincing employees they are not actually spending hours at work but in a kind of private environment. Any technology can do the trick – from remote work platforms and tools to office lighting that adapts to one’s personal needs and preferences or a coffee machine that know the personal tastes of each employee.

You can try to use technology to engage and motivate staff but it will not work in a strictly hierarchical environment where top-down approach dominates management culture. Encouragement and friendly attitude by superiors at the work place are being used to bolster productivity for ages but a globalized workforce wants to be personally satisfied by what they do at work. Which in turn requires a shift toward corporate management strategies that have nothing to do with the traditional models of running a company.

Limits of Technology in Work Life Integration

Technology or flexible work hours cannot give you happiness per se. A knowledge-based global economy asks for mobilizing every skill and expertise available to you if you are to secure sustainable growth as a company. The traditional top-down model of managing a business does not provide the means for that anymore. Sure, you still have natural born leaders but the very environment asks for developing more horizontal ties in management and turning more employees into leaders if you are to be successful.

That said, implementation of new technologies for boosting productivity and creating better work places is great, but you need to make every effort to turn employees into collaborators and co-founders and not just workers for hire.

This is a problem and a challenge every growing or already established company is facing, even the most technologically advanced ones. Modern work talent wants to be a shareholder, figuratively speaking, not just being a stakeholder.

Work life alignment is not about balance only but also happiness and being a stakeholder or a shareholder makes a difference. A stakeholder is just an interested party on the table while the shareholder has the means to influence strategic decisions. So, it is not just technology that attracts and retains talent but the ability to be part of a corporate environment that encourages and rewards entrepreneurial spirit and innovative input, even at the lowest level.

Concluding Words

Development of an attractive company culture and worth-sharing company values precede and outweigh any technology adoptions. Achieving work life alignment will only work if your employees view themselves more as colleagues instead of paid workers and also when they do not raise the issue of work-life balance at all as they are happy spending certain number of hours at work.

You can achieve this by adopting a mix of technology advancements enabling flexible work models and creating personalized work spaces while offering a company culture where most people feel both contributing and being rewarded for their contributions.

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