The original concept of “work life balance” was accredited to a Welsh labour activist and manufacturer in the early 19th century.  The concept was to work 8 hours, have 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of rest.  In the age of digitalisation, and an always on/available culture, does the concept of work life balance really exist?  Do you get better work life balance now that many of us work more from home?

When you work in a physical office where your team are permanently based, you have a defined routine.  A commute into and away from the office.  A structured set of hours and even a dress code. In addition, you have a support structure and a platform to discuss challenges both personal and professional on an ad hoc/when needed basis.  You also have an ability to bounce ideas and generally gain reassurance that your decision making is accurate.  As such your work can be more interesting and gainful.

Conversely, working from home also has some distinct advantages.  The stress of sitting (or standing which, I always found to be the case), on a delayed train resulting in you being late for work or the frustration of not being able to find a parking space close to the office, are not ideal ways to start your day.  From an environmental perspective, your carbon footprint when working from home would seem to be a lot less.  Which for some individuals may contribute to a more improved feeling of work life balance.

As a recruiter talking to people about work life balance, the conversation centres on an ability to work remotely rather than in a physical office.  This can relieve some of the pressures of day-to-day life such as for parents needing to accommodate childcare needs, however it does pose more challenges than the problems it solves.  Specifically looking at a family structure, all very good working from home when you have children at school, however what happens when you pick them up.  Does your working day start at 8.45am when you have dropped children at school, and finish at 3.15pm when you pick them up?   If this is the case, surely work life balance in this instance is not where you work but what hours you commit to.

Different demographics of society have different challenges when it comes to working.  Parents have time constraints that are dictated by schooling hours that are out of their control, however those who don’t have children also have challenges.  Fitting leisure time into an already packed schedule is difficult and a large number of people that I speak to would want to swap commuting time for personal time and swap the money saved on commuting for more enjoyable activities such as exercise or socialising.

Employees who are at the early stages of their careers, or who have changed careers need to be trained.  Qualifications in some sectors are vital, but arguably on the job training is essential for all jobs.  Imagine you need to see a doctor or a lawyer who has passed their exams but has no on the job training.  How confident would you be in their ability?  Experience and training is what makes people good at what they do, and surely this is something you gain from experienced colleagues?  It could also be argued that you get more leisure time in an office environment as you are possibly experiencing more social activities and generally having greater interaction in socially.

Ultimately, it is difficult to quantify what constitutes a better work life balance as everybody has a different opinion of what leisure is.

The world is changing, and evolution never stands still.  At the turn of the 19th century there were people alive who had not benefited from the weekend, they were expected to work 6 days a week.  Work life balance was a consideration and was improved to incorporate a 2-day weekend.  Could it be that in the 21st century we see an introduction to the 4-day working week, with a day at home to partially work and partially have recreational time?  Or, taking things to a different level, instead of looking at days we work, could we introduce some form of flexible hours where a core number of hours are required, but the rest are made up on a mutually agreed basis.

Able Bridge Recruitment is an HR and Accountancy recruitment business that provides recruitment services to companies throughout the central belt of Scotland.  If you are seeking to hire staff, or are looking for a new job in HR or Finance, please do not hesitate in reaching out to one of the team on either 0141 7397080 or 0131 2023215.  Alternatively you can email info@ablebridge.co.uk

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