Forget work-life balance, strive for work-life harmony

Employers need to be more receptive to the needs of their employees

Sapience Analytics
Updated: Sep 8, 2015 08:03:12 AM UTC

Sapience Analytics, founded in 2009, has developed a patent‐pending software product that helps build a Mindful EnterpriseTM, and thereby ensures that employees and teams can achieve significant productivity improvement coupled with greater work-life harmony. The software aims to achieve more at work with reduced stress by adopting mindful work techniques. Sapience was named last month as a Gartner Cool Vendor in Content and Social Analytics, and is the recipient of several industry awards for its innovation and fast growth, including TiE50 (at TiEcon, Silicon Valley, California – 2014), Frost & Sullivan (Product Innovation - 2014), Dun & Bradstreet (Best Emerging India SME – 2013), NASSCOM (India’s Top 10 – 2013), IDG Channel World (50 Hot Global Companies - 2013), iSPIRT (InTech50 – 2015 and 2014) and Red Herring (Asia Top 100 tech start-up - 2011).

Work From Home arrangements help individuals give optimum performance while accommodating their personal commitments

Image: Shutterstock

I recently came across a global survey conducted by Ernst & Young about work-life balance. It was conducted from November 2014 to January 2015 with 9,700 full-time employees between the age group of 18 and 67, across eight countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, China, Japan and India. I was not surprised, but sad, to see that the survey found one-third of professionals saying that work-life balance is harder to find. Long working hours, increased work responsibility, excessive overtime hours, non-encouraging work environment and limited work flexibility are some of the commonly cited reasons.

The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life is important for the well-being of employees. Numerous studies and research state that employees expect a lot from employers to help them manage the increasing work and life demands. Without getting into a prescriptive mode, here is what I think employers can do to help their employees strike a better work-life harmony.

Offer work flexibility Irrespective of gender or country, people like to have work flexibility. It allows them to be more flexible with their schedules and achieve a positive work-life balance. With technology, it has also become easier to have flexible schedules and still fulfil job commitments.

The question that might come up is how, as an employer, you monitor and have visibility of the work. Well, again, technology can play a vital role here. If every employee’s work is tracked online and transparency is maintained across all team members about the work being planned and done, it can help in working as a team without being constrained to working from the same premises or working at the same time. It is about empowering employees to take charge as well as full responsibility of their work and thereby fostering team spirit. Yes, there is work that needs close collaboration and working from the same office location, but that generally tends to ebb and flow.

Reduce commute time aka allow work from home
The concept of work from home is an established concept in the West, and I am happy to see that it is fast catching up in India as well. Instead of spending hours in commuting to work, work from home arrangements help individuals give optimum performance while accommodating their personal commitments. New technologies and better connectivity are facilitating this culture. If you are worried that it will take away from the quality of work, you are wrong. Studies have shown that this flexibility makes the employees more responsible towards their work. After all, ‘time at work’ is more important than ‘time in office’.

Encourage leaves and time offs
While it is well-known fact that taking time off and vacations help in refreshing minds and spirits, there is a remarkable difference between Indian and global organisations when it comes to a committed approach towards employee leaves and vacations. For some reasons, taking less time off is treated as a sign of dedication and sincerity. I strongly feel that such culture should be discouraged. Instead of creating a vacation-deprived workplace, organisations need to start looking from the employee’s perspective and understand that seeing less of an employee may mean more of a rejuvenated and productive employee.

Empower employees to know how they spend their time
This is something which is not being talked a lot – in India, somehow it is believed that people perform well under pressure and when they are monitored by someone else – so much so that work monitoring and schedule monitoring are some of the KRAs of managers. Is it really required? Why not empower the employees themselves? Allow them to see for themselves how they spend their time - how much time is spent on core activities, meetings, social networking sites or phone calls – show them the mirror. Let them observe and learn how they spend their time at work and if that is the optimum use of their time. You would be surprised to see what giving control back on their time means to individuals. Armed with the visibility, individuals will plan their day better which would include being more effective at work and yet reclaiming the time they need to spend with families and cater to demands of life outside of work.As someone has very rightly said “You can't do a good job if your job is all you do”. Find a life outside work – rather than looking for work-life balance, where you have to choose one over other, strive for work-life harmony – which is an integrated approach to life, where work and play blend together in a way which is unique to you!

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