According to a study undertaken by the Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index of 2016, the Work-Life Balance statistics in India have been rated amongst the “worst”. Pick up the survey reports from any daily and the one aspect of work-life that has excruciatingly been highlighted in the last couple of years is the factor of ‘Work Stress’. According to a World Health Day report by ASSOCHAM in 2015, 42.5% of corporate employees in India suffer from stress.
Medically identified as ‘occupational stress’, the feeling of uneasiness stems up with our inability to manage priorities better. Working late nights to meet commitments, feeling obliged to communicate even over vacations, dodging through demanding work schedules, we have always been aware of the work pressure that has existed. But when the very same work pressure transcends into work stress, leading to an array of health issues, its beyond repair time to address the elephant in the room.
Today, with the facility of ‘instant connectivity’, we have allowed our personal and professional lives to entwine in a web of opportunities. Challenges intrigue us and routine makes us feel stagnated. And in a situation like this, attempting to craft a single approach that caters to every individual’s need within an organization, is a doomed attempt right from the start.
It All Begins With Denial
First, the seed of restlessness is sown. Consuming more than needed cups of caffeine or chai. Followed by body aches and mild irritation that trail you like a caterpillar. It then slowly evolves into anger tantrums and insomnia, causing sudden outbursts of migraines and anxiety, while also disrupting the working environment and happiness at work. Eventually, the moth of depression flares its mighty wings and overpowers our sense of sanity.
Organizations often interpret this phenomenon as a result of a bad working environment, a low pay, or even an intolerable boss. But the problem dwells much deeper. When the fear of competition competes with lack of motivation, leading to the biggest hazard – A stagnant career growth; the lack of communications internally begins to surface.
It’s not really like we do not possess the potential or capacity to make things work. But what does one comprehend when at times, the repercussions of an unbalanced work-life should be borne by the family? Or when carrying the baggage of familial responsibilities to work becomes a necessity.
Work–Life Integration As A Unified Concept
Call it perks of technology that has got us much closer than expected. We have been classically conditioned to address every single buzz when we receive a message or an email, no matter what time of the day. Putting it bluntly, the tropical line that differentiated work-life from personal life, has now been smudged.
‘Work-Life Balance’ simplistically meant leaving work at the doorstep of our homes and picking it up the next day. But ‘Work-Life Integration/ Blend’ goes beyond tangible barriers. It believes in incorporating the ease of working, while maintaining high tabs on productivity.
Not Just Situational, But Also Occupational
Has it ever crossed your mind that creating an integrated work-life blend could actually mean striking a deal with the ‘stolen moments in life’? Or even mixing and matching your habits according to the occasions that surface.
When at workplace: Taking a break when you know that you have stretched your thinking limits. Putting the laptop in a sleep mode and randomly doodling. Listening to music and making a presentation while grooving to the beats.
When at home: Watching an advertisement in between a soap opera and wondering how your clients can benefit from the concept. Sipping a cup of coffee on the breakfast table and consuming news over social media, rather than the traditional newspapers. Adapting to the office lingo of numbers when talking to your better half about home finances.
It isn’t really a pre-defined set of norms. It is meant to be tailor-made to suit your needs. This is what work-life balance is all about.
Instilling The Right Interventions
Why is it so important that your employees enjoy a work-life integration? Well, off late, conversations revolve around how in the upcoming ‘Revolution of 2020’, an entire civilization of millennials will slowly surpass the Generation X and Baby Boomers at the workplace. Familiar terminology? Well, wake up! Because it’s happening right now!
Although millennials get pegged down for suffering from the ‘instant gratification syndrome’, they are relatively more equipped at the multi-tasking act of balancing and blending in. In the current age of digitization, where augmented and virtual reality is carving out a niche for its existence, organizations must do away with traditional concepts of working, and pick quality over quantity to survive. At a delicate time like this, an employee friendly work culture becomes the driving force, for stabilizing the pace and establishing an ultimate work-life blend.
Cultivate The New Generation Employee
Promote a work culture that helps align the organizational goals and company values with that of an individual. Identify arenas of opportunities before implementing initiatives. Leverage the power of technology. Integrating cost effective options of working remotely induces loyalty, and flexibility in work schedules promotes a sense of accountability. An organization that encourages work-life integration as a top down approach, is rated with a higher guarantee for job satisfaction.
Experiences do matter. But now is also the need to ‘Work Harder AND Smarter’. If your organization seek all-rounder high performing individuals that can blend into the company culture, be prepared to cater to their diverse sense of work expectations as well. Appreciation and recognition programs do go a long way, in the long run.
Aligning To The ROWE Way Of Life
The ‘Results Only Work Environment’, more popular as ROWE, has provided great results at the workplace in the past. It is a simple concept that indicates how providing individuals with complete control to balance their personal commitments with work deliverables, can make a huge difference to their levels of productivity, thus, reducing their work stress as well.
However, understanding the drawbacks and limitations of a ROWE workplace, we suggest strategically incorporating this concept into your internal Performance Management Systems. While individuals are already motivated to excel and perform better, add in a slight nudge of flexibility that focuses more on ‘ethically attaining positive results’. An environment that gives you the freedom to self-evaluate your potential and design your own work schedules, as long as the final output makes an impact, within the desired time frame. An epitome of flexibility that produces the desired results.
The future is now. Striving to strike the perfect balance is a myth. Striving to enjoy the best of both worlds is a more sensible thing to do.
A Healthy AND Happy Balance
With the digital age progressing at a lightning speed, each one of us must gear up to make things work. Career oriented or not, ambitious or aspiration, we need to up our games and stay one step ahead of time, every single day. Our industries have become unsparingly competitive, our job profiles have evolved, and resulted in a more demanding career. And as the saying goes ‘With great power comes great responsibilities.’
Yet if you are debating the question of ‘Why adopt a lifestyle that embodies work-life integration?’ Understand that it is for the sheer reason that it induces a healthy atmosphere, both towards our personal as well as professional lives. And at the end of the day, when we prepare to tuck ourselves in for the night, the one thing that should truly matter the most, is having been able to live the day to the fullest, by giving our focused and dedicated 100%! Be it shopping for ingredients to make the perfect dish or cracking the brief to incorporate a new product into an existing brand image.
Our actions are impacted by our decisions and our future is an amalgamation of all the choices that we either chose to meticulously embrace or walk gracefully away from. Work-life integration is definitely the new route for tomorrow, and it’s time everybody hops onto the bandwagon.
As a wise woman once said, “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” Sometimes the best decision to make our future bright, is how we integrate situations with our life today.
This article first appeared on the print publication of Indian Management Magazine. To know more about Work Environment, click here.