Work-Life Blending: More Freedom, Less Free Time?

by Guest Contributor, 5 minutes read
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Until a few years ago, a good work-life balance was deemed key for successful relationships between companies and employees. But times have changed. Today, companies are increasingly shifting their focus to a new model that has taken company culture by storm: work-life blending. While it offers employees a lot of freedom, it can also become a burden. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of this new concept and discover how you can implement innovative models that will change the way employees view working hours in your company.

Fixed hours versus flexible time management

Let’s start off by taking an in-depth look at work-life blending. Work-life blending is a management system for working hours that blurs the lines between office life and private life. It is a result of digitalisation and the perpetual interconnectedness resulting from it – in short, its part of the new concept Work 4.0.

Most employees are pleased with the technical devices they receive from employers, such as smartphones and laptops, and the advent of the new digital mode of operation. Often, these devices are free to use privately. However, they do come with the drawback of constant availability. In the age of project management, frequent deadlines and customer customization, the 9 to 5 job is increasingly becoming a distant relic.

This is where things become difficult: Who records office hours? How can we deal with overtime? Industry has come up with a solution: trust-based working hours, often referred to as flexitime – a concept that includes working from home after regular office hours.

Working after hours

A recent Samsung Study revealed that three-quarters of research employees at the company are work-life blending. 75 percent complete personal tasks at work, while 77 percent do additional work in their personal time. By all accounts, flexitime seems to actually increase productivity. Four in ten (38 percent) say that this model enables them to get more work done in the same amount of time, while 32 percent believe that work-life blending reduces stress.

Work-life blending also has positive effects on employee retention and motivation. A Great Place to Work found that the ability to work flexibly was important to a quarter (24 percent) of UK workers – and a third (32 percent) of millenials – when looking for a job. Conversely, Smith Institute discovered that while 60 percent of UK workers claim they are spending more time working, only 10 percent believe they are getting more done. One quarter (25 percent) believe they are actually accomplishing less. While it seems to be the productivity model of the future, work-life blending does pose risks to employee motivation.

Work-life blending: A model for the future?

In light of these drawbacks, how does the future look for this model? One thing is certain: work-life blending requires a great deal of flexibility – from everyone involved. For many professionals, flexible hours are an essential requirement. Companies have to adapt to this shift in working trends to remain viable in the ever-important “war for talent”. Conversely, companies increasingly require flexibility from their employees. Working by the book will no longer cut it. Employees have to go above and beyond and show a willingness to put in more work than their peers outside regular office hours to climb the ladder.

Many employees see their personal time eclipsed by their careers and find it difficult to retain a healthy distance to their job. Flexitime increases employees’ freedoms and allows more wiggle room in how they do their job. At the same time, long hours are spent finishing projects at home, creating substantial mental strain.

Lighten the load with the right incentives

Dealing with this problem starts with your employees. Get them to rethink the way they work and focus on flexibility and openness. Get the most out of work-life blending by showing your employees the possibilities it entails.

Retaining a high level of employee motivation in a Work 4.0 environment starts with the proper incentives. Make the transition to a new way of working exciting for your employees with an appreciation for their contributions, as well as a positive work environment.

The topic of recognition and acknowledgment entails opportunities for career growth, salary, trust, and appreciation. Equally important are a state-of-the-art working environment and a collegial team. Focusing on these points will produce a productive work atmosphere and help motivate employees to brave the demands of work-life blending.

Lightening the load can also be an important motivational tool. Make sure that employees are entitled to sufficient breaks. Consider rewarding employees for particularly long days – with a day off for example – if an employee went above and beyond to complete a project.

Task distribution among several employees and job rotation is also helpful. Give your employees the possibility to regularly switch workspaces. You’ll be providing them with new stimuli and making sure no one ends up in a rut. Keeping everyone sharp and on their game by making sure they are presented with varied new tasks to tackle is an effective strategy to reduce job frustration and mental strain.

Work-life blending – dealing with risks and seizing opportunities

In the age of digitalization, the borders between work and free time are becoming increasingly blurred. Work-life blending is the unavoidable conclusion. Make sure this shift doesn’t take a toll on your employees by following a few simple steps to lighten the load and help retain a healthy trade-off.

Make sure your employees have enough free space to complete personal tasks, such as doctors appointments during office hours. In return, they will be more willing to work from home after hours in good spirits. It comes down to maintaining a healthy balance between the demands of a position and the freedom of the employee to deal with it effectively. Make sure employees do not feel overwhelmed and show appreciation for their work – and they will stay highly motivated.