During the last decades, the term work and life balance has been used so often that it became a banality, and no one really remembers what it exactly means.
Hello. My name is Emma. I’m your work colleague of the future. Because of sitting for hours in a bad position, my back is permanently bent. Due to poor blood flow, my legs are full of varicose veins. I have a rotund stomach caused by a sedentary position and dry and red eyes from long hours of staring at a computer screen. Thanks to weight gain caused by a sedentary lifestyle, my ankles and wrists are puffy, my skin is sallow, and I have stress-related eczema. My health problems are a result of years of working at an office and spending six hours a day in a chair, staring at screens.
Emma is a model based on the results of a report called The Work Colleague Of The Future, which surveyed 3,003 office workers from France, Germany and the UK. The survey found that 50 percent of respondents suffered from sore eyes, 49 percent from backaches, and 48 percent from headaches. The life-sized doll of Emma has been displayed in a few offices in the UK in order to make employees think about how much time they spend at the office, how much effort they put into work and whether it does not get in the way of other important areas of their lives, such as health, family or entertainment.
Is there any Golden Mean?
The natural tendency in life is to find stability. The challenge is to balance all areas of our activity, and it is not always easy. If, however, we are unable to divide our time between work, family or friends, and keep a well-balanced life, there can be physical or emotional health consequences. This is why many companies introduce the work-life balance policy.
The idea of this approach came to the business in the 1970s and 1980s and was the answer to problems arising in the world of work, such as workaholism and occupational burnout. When managers in big companies realized that employee satisfaction and well-being play a crucial role in work quality, they began to investigate how different areas of life influence each other, and how they stimulate people to become better employees as a result.
Work-life balance- is it really meaningful?
During the last decades, the term work and life balance has been used so often that it became a banality, and no one really remembers what it exactly means. If we were to define it shortly, we would say that it is a state of balance in which time spent on work and time spent on other aspects of life are in perfect proportion. It is, of course, a very individual matter but in general, the balance is about performing different functions but not combining them. At work, we fulfill the roles related to our professional duties. Outside of work hours, we are not employees or specialists, but friends, partners or parents. The balance is maintained when, in our view, we devote the right amount of time to each of these roles and derive satisfaction from them.
With the introduction of new digital communication technologies, many social life observers claimed that they would bring an end to the work and life balance concept. It is because contemporary means of communication contribute to the fact that it is increasingly difficult to draw boundaries between work and private life. The employee stays in touch with the company even 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Particularly vulnerable to such inconveniences are people from the IT industry, who deal with modern technologies on a daily basis.
Work-life balance and the IT industry
Surprisingly, contrary to this fact, it seems that the IT sector is a leader in the implementation of good work and life balance policy. According to the HRK Employer Branding Work-life balance. Niewykorzystany potencjał [Work-life balance. Unrealized potential] report, IT companies have the lead position among enterprises that balance work and private life. It is mainly due to the fact that in this industry, a very common practice is to implement solutions and technologies that enable employees to have flexible working hours and forms of work. For IT employees, it is not a problem to perform some individual tasks in different locations. IT companies also implement the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, which allows the use of employees’ mobile devices in the workplace for the needs of professional duties, and promotes remote work at the same time.
Benefits and their meaning in employees comfort
It is also worth mentioning that the growing importance of work-life balance in IT is also related to the limited supply of highly-qualified candidates. Companies have to compete for employees not only in terms of salary but also in benefits. The number of the latter varies and depends on the company. The most popular benefit is flexible working hours that can be adapted to one’s individual needs. This solution might be really useful, especially for parents who bring their children to school. It could also be a convenient thing for those who want to avoid rush hours full of traffic jams.
Thanks to flexible working time, it is also easier to pursue personal passions or to maintain an active lifestyle (e.g. regular morning visits to the gym). Another popular element of work-life balance in IT is the possibility of remote work. In some companies, you can work at home for a certain number of days per month, in others – when various random events occur. When it comes to employment under IT contracting, telework is often performed on a daily basis. Sometimes, companies also decide to employ part-time or job-sharing employees (two people share one position among themselves). Other solutions practiced by IT companies as a part of the work-life balance include, for example, additional days off (e.g. on name-days), unpaid sabbatical leave for months, special programs for parents (e.g. birthing school, kindergartens, Christmas presents, etc.) or premiums for hot meals.
It seems that the IT sector, like no other, provides many benefits and tools to maintain and implement the idea of work and life balance. IT employees are lucky, as they have all the possibilities to maintain control over all aspects of their lives. It is important that everyone employed in the industry be aware of these possibilities so that they never share Emma’s fate.