Organisations have to mitigate the negative consequences of overworking, and ensure purposeful frameworks and policies are in place to safeguard employee welfare, Pia Broadley, Head of APAC, Dropbox, writes. Here are three ways to achieve that.
The notion of working fixed office hours has been drastically impacted as the pandemic forced many to shift from offices to working out of their bedrooms and living rooms. This change in workplaces has caused boundaries between home and work to grow increasingly obscure as employees find it more and more difficult to switch off.
According to a survey by the National University Health System’s (NUHS) Mind Science Centre, 61% of those working-from-home reported feeling stressed as compared to 53% of frontliners. Although it is well-established that overworking leads to burnout and a decline in wellbeing, employees in Singapore are in fact suffering from a poorer work-life balance. A study done by Kisi shows that overall, Singapore came in second out of 50 for top overworked cities. Yet, Singapore also ranks first in remote working (51.3% of jobs are workable from home). It is clear then, that remote working has not positively impacted work-life balance for most even though it should, and has strong potential to.
To mitigate the negative consequences of overworking, organisations need to ensure that purposeful frameworks and policies are in place to safeguard employee welfare.
An employee’s power - the 'non-linear' approach
The first step towards a better work-life balance when it comes to remote or hybrid working is to adopt a non-linear approach when it comes to tackling each workday. Although it might seem unconventional to use such methods, remote working, when adapted to ascertain the success of both asynchronous and real-time collaboration, provides the perfect opportunity for increased productivity.
Remodelling a company’s culture to shift away from the traditional work week gives employees the authority to decide where and when they should do their work.
For this to take flight, leaders in an organisation cannot just pay tokenism to their words, but should pave the way with their actions. Specific policies detailing necessary steps should be implemented to lead mindset shifts among all employees across an organisation.
For example, companies can implement fixed meeting hours across different markets and teams for inter- and intra-market collaboration, but leave each individual employee to take charge of their own independent work. Employees can then structure their diaries around their own preferred work patterns, whether they’re early birds, night owls; whether they have to schedule their work around looking after their children; or even undertaking the role of a caregiver to elderly relatives.
By driving this shift away from the traditional concept of the '9-5' workday, employees have true control over their calendars and have more capabilities to focus on other things they love out of work. Gaining full flexibility over their time allows employees a better work life balance.
Switching from ‘always-on’ to ‘available only at-’
Despite the steps we take to work asynchronously, it can be hard to take a step back and log off when the lines between home and work are blurred. Due to the ‘always-on’ culture adopted since the start of the pandemic, many sometimes lose track of time while working, being caught up in it without having to ‘go home’. In other cases, employees feel pressured with the need to appear online to convince management that they are still easily contactable.
According to a report by Randstad, 70% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 44 felt more stressed since the pandemic started and wanted to improve their work-life balance. While changing mindsets is a part of the paradigm shift accelerated by frameworks in place, another shift that needs to take place is the way technology is used. Across organisations, technology tools are a double-edged sword. On one hand, it does result in 24/7 connectivity, meaning employees are contactable around the clock and therefore do not log off. But on the other hand, it means increased efficiency and more productive ways of working.
The latter should be applied to keep employees motivated and to reduce increased risks of burnout. Policy implementation, when coupled with the benefits of technology, is a formidable solution to promoting healthy work-life culture.
For example, while a company can implement policies that call for fixed meeting hours that require all employees to log on, employees should also be encouraged to interrogate their calendars and be mindful of whether meetings are necessary or not.
Coupled with technology such as video and screen recording tools - like Dropbox Capture - to give feedback, employees can also connect across countries and time zones for less urgent tasks, as and when suits their schedule. This change can ensure that employees are logging off on time rather than spending the entire work day and more in back-to-back meetings.
Cross-collaboration while remote working has also been made more effective with tools such as online scrum boards to assign and delineate complete and incomplete tasks; brainstorm applications that allow for virtual sticky tools and real-time visual discussions. Companies should leverage on such tools to help employees free up time for more efficient work.
Paving a new way of working
Be it hybrid, fully remote work or new models like 'virtual first', companies must implement and make clear the kind of policies in place that provide employees with the support they need. Organisations should also take that extra step to reassure employees that they place high importance on the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, no matter where they work.
The pandemic has dictated a significant shift in allowing companies to give employees more flexibility with their work hours. Employees should feel empowered to work efficiently and have the capability to enjoy their desired work-life balance, leveraging the benefits of fixed flexibility in the workplace.
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