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Are You Ditching Work-Life Balance Because You’re Afraid of Losing Your Job?

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Are You Ditching Work-Life Balance Because You’re Afraid of Losing Your Job?

Balance

    Some people think that life balance is a thing of luxury, something you pursue when times are good…that we should work like dogs  to remain indispensable in this unpredictable economy. But wait a sec. Weren’t we were already working like dogs, before we added in the fear of losing our jobs? Here’s what got me going on this subject:

    In the post Keep Your Job: A 10-Point Survival Guide at CNNMoney/Fortune, Anne Fisher quoted some sobering numbers:

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    According to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management 60% [of US employers] plan to cut headcount. Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm that closely tracks layoff statistics, predicts 1 million more pink slips in 2009, and says the job market may not bounce back until 2011.

    She goes on to share 10 excellent points offered up by executive coach Deb Bright but #7 made me gulp:

    For now, forget about work-life balance. A major preoccupation when the economy was humming along nicely, “having time for outside interests has to go right out the window now,” says Bright. “You need to concentrate on doing whatever it takes to make yourself indispensable.”

    If you’re listening with one ear, it might sound like logical advice, but a little trickster lives inside that suggestion. Work-life balance isn’t solely about balancing work and play. It’s about how you work, what you value, finding ways to match your values to your employer’s values, and accomplishing workplace goals with clarity and finesse.

    In contrast, here’s what FedEx Kinko’s employees found out about themselves thanks to DM News and the Work-Life Balancing Act:

    Nearly half – 47% – of those polled in FedEx Office’s Finding Better Balance survey say finding a better work/life balance is even more important to them in 2009, compared to last year.

    The survey, released today, queried 501 full-time, U.S. workers. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 58% believe it will be more important to find better work/life balance in 2009, compared to 46% of those age 35 to 54, and just 30% for the 50-and-over group. In addition, 86% say they plan to actively pursue this better balance this year.

    “As we start a new year, it’s common for employees to take stock of the last 12 months and evaluate their priorities at home and in the office,” said Tracy Brightman, senior vice president of human resources for FedEx Office (formerly FedEx/Kinko’s), in a statement. “Proper work/life balance is a key factor in employee satisfaction and productivity.”

    Among those surveyed, 49% said they planned to take advantage of all vacation time in the new year; 44% said they would prioritize projects, and 42% said they would create a weekly to-do list; 41% said they would leave work at a reasonable hour and 36% said they planned to take lunch breaks on a consistent basis.

    Lack of Balance Adds Pounds to Your Body, Mind and Spirit

    Forgetting about balance is rooted in fear. And I’m guessing that a large proportion of people recently laid off we’re working like dogs to be indispensable. With so many more people on the brink of losing their jobs, fear needs balance to be a useful emotion.

    If you’ve been working hard at becoming indispensable, it’s likely that you’re working late, powering through lunch, skipping workouts, ditching networking and playing with friends. You’re probably also missing soccer games and not too thrilled about doing homework with your kids, not to mention being coherent enough to perk up your resume and research possible career opportunities. If this is true for you, you’re going to be scrambling to make up for lost time if you lose your job.

    Living in balance in a down economy is essential, not only for your wellbeing outside of work, but to assure you remain agile and flexible and capable of making good, values-based decisions in and about your work. As an example, if you were interested in maintaining a competitive advantage and being in shape to meet the next opportunity with confidence, wouldn’t working out make great sense? Who feels agile and flexible and confident with 20 or 30 extra pounds? And what about the burden of weight you’ll carry in your mind and spirit?

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    Work smart and strategically. Make sure what you choose to say yes to at work serves the company’s larger goals and your career goals. Less is more. And the only time more is more is when it’s more of less.

    Your 2 cents?

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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