Work-life balance can be promoted by flexible work schedule but beware of drawbacks

hands on keyboard

With a laptop or tablet, smartphone and Internet access, most of us have the technology needed to work at home.

A common topic in work-related conversations is work-life balance.

How can we be as productive as needed in our jobs but also have the ability to thrive in other aspects of our lives?

Two recent articles raised several key issues in considering work-life balance.

Phyllis Korkki’s “Yes, Flexible Hours Ease Stress. But Is Everyone on Board?” discussed two research studies that examined aspects about employees being able to work from home.

Certainly with the technology most of us have (or could have) in our homes, we can carry on as if we were at our work location. With a computer (tablet or smartphone) with Internet access, we can do all kinds of work tasks and can use our phones or Skype for work conversations or conference calls.  In some cases, many of our work interactions are conducted via phone or Skype even when we are at work.

Korkki cites a study financed by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers of Disease Control and prevention that found that when employees “were free to work where and when they preferred, as long as the work got done,” the employees almost doubled the time they worked at home. The employees who had those flexible work schedules were less stressed as compared to employees who didn’t have the option of working at home

Erin Kelly, a researcher involved in the study, said that a key to success for employees working at home is to have employers who can make the needed adjustments to the regular work routine, such as scheduling fewer face-to-face meetings, and who can focus on the employee’s productivity versus time spent at the office.

Korkki also includes a study by Kimberly Elsbach and Daniel Cable that found “Why Showing Your Face at Work Matters.” The researchers found that a factor that affects employers’ perception of employee effectiveness is “passive face time.” That means being seen at work – and just being there is enough. You don’t actually have to be seen working. The study found that was particularly true in white-collar jobs when supervisors may be considering passive face time as a factor in making decisions about team leadership.

The flip side of flexible work time is letting work time happen almost any time you’re at home. Instead of having an established work schedule as you would have at the office, you are working at times that you wouldn’t typically be working at the office, including nights and weekends. Sometimes the flexibility of being able to go to the gym in mid-afternoon, for example, means adjusting your work time to make up that time – working at night instead of attending to some of your non-work life situations.

iRules book coverThat leads to Steven Petrow’s column in USA Today. His column offers advice about how to help kids avoid getting caught up in cyberbullying. That doesn’t seem to connect with flexible work hours, but the column does include a possible tip.

Petrow includes the advice from Janell Burley Hofmann, a mother of five who has published iRules: What Every Tech Health Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up.

Her children must turn in their phones to her or her husband at 7:30 p.m. on school nights and 9 p.m. every weekend night. That keeps the kids from getting caught up in sexting or other phone-related activities when they should be doing homework or sleeping.

Perhaps some of us with flexible work hours need to think about turning in our phones every day to help us make sure that when we aren’t supposed to be working, we aren’t.

What advice do you have about work-life balance and managing your work location and schedule?

3 comments

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful collection of ideas for work-life balance. Whether you are a teacher or other professional whose work must spill over into time at home or someone who telecommutes or is self employed and working at home, finding balance and boundaries may be the most important element to keeping sanity.

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    1. Kay, thanks for your response. You’re right that seeming to have the control of your time with a flexible schedule can lead to having less management of your time if work can appear at every “ding” of an arriving email or text on your phone.

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  2. Very interesting ideas. And, as you often provide, practical approaches.

    Like

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