The era of the traditional ‘nine to five’ work day is almost gone, and is being replaced by more flexible work schedules that often cross time zones and may include nights and even weekends. Technology provides the ability to work from anywhere and at any time. That said, the trade-off can be challenging for employees hoping to find that right work-life balance. As we’ve seen recently with high profile executives stepping down, work-life balance is not one size fits all.
Despite the demanding – and occasionally extended workdays of today’s corporate world, work-life balance IS possible. The path to a proper work-life balance simply hasn’t caught up and been mapped out for us yet. As a society, we always refer to the future workplace as no longer somewhere we go, but more something we do. Because flexible work schedules have taken over the workplace, having balance is vital to not just our careers, but out every day well-being.
The following are three simple steps to get started on that path to a better work-life balance:
1) Create your own flexibility in your Work Schedule
As mentioned, most of today’s workforce is governed not by a regular 9 a.m.-5 p.m. schedule, but a, 24-7 always-connected culture. Establishing a flexible work schedule allows workers to be everything else they need to be outside of work (a parent, a spouse, a caretaker, a volunteer, etc.) The ability to collaborate with colleagues, and manage everyday life goes hand-in-hand with a flexible schedule and is crucial to how we work. When achieved, workers experience better collaboration – without the stress of needing to be at one place – and an overall increase in productivity. For these reasons, more companies are adopting a flexible work policy, which is also a great tool for recruiting/retaining employees.
2) Adopt the right tools and technology
Technology is the backbone of a flexible schedule. Achieving a work-life balance is possible if you have the right tools to do your job – regardless of where you are. Leveraging video collaborative technologies will allow employees to complete tasks when on a business trip and allow them to have more everyday life experiences. With video collaboration technology, employees are also more engaged and feel part of the organization when working from home full time. Additionally, employees can work from anywhere and still get the job done and it allows them the flexibility to make time for their families, hobbies, fitness routine and or other social activities. We now live in a connected 24/7 world, but that does not mean we should work 24/7. In fact, collaborative technologies allow us even more freedom to challenge the status quo and be able to connect from any location at any time.
For example, if you can’t attend a meeting, collaboration technology is can be used to facilitate a live meeting and record the meeting so you can view it later. Think of this method of video recording/streaming technology as a DVR for business.
3) Establish Boundaries
Establishing a flexible work schedule still means you’re responsible for your tasks. A flexible work schedule is only as successful as you make it. If you are working remotely, make sure you are accessible to your colleagues. At the same time, set healthy boundaries so do you don’t receive those 3 am phone calls from someone in Europe, where it is midday. And don’t feel guilty to block off some time on your calendar during the day to rest … especially if you have a long day/night of meetings on the horizon.
Be transparent with your team. Aside from scheduled meetings and calls, let them know when you are available and online while also letting them know when you have personal commitments (but also add that you will respond to any emails and voicemails accordingly). Don’t forget to allow them the same flexibility.
My personal story…
Working for a video collaboration solutions company has afforded me the opportunity to see the working world far differently. At Polycom, new technologies on the market today are allowing employees to realize we truly can work from anywhere, from any device, at any time. Having a global role based in Singapore, I can certainly vouch for this notion.
I regularly use audio and visual communications to connect with enterprises and government agencies located around the world, counseling them on how to improve processes and optimize operations. In the past, working with international companies meant countless hours of travel time and having to move around schedules to deal with varying different time zones. Virtual meeting rooms have done away with this. At Polycom, every employee is given a personal Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) with the usual office phone number and email account. I use this VMR for my weekly team meetings, regular projects meetings, one-on-one meetings, partner training sessions and customer meetings. Team members connect to the same VMR while working on their respective task or project. This is similar to calling a colleague seated in the cubical next to you whenever something comes up – except that it is done virtually using video. Some people call this the “wormhole.”
The future workplace provides us with an opportunity to have work-life balance. It wasn’t that long ago that we were confined to our desks at the physical office for eight or more hours a day. With more companies embracing flexible work schedules and cutting-edge technology, it’s safe to say that the work-life balance has finally evolved and is possible.