"We're living in a different world now in terms of employee needs, and companies have to offer alternative methods for getting the work done. Even under the most difficult circumstances you can have creative flexibility."
Anne M. Mulcahy
There’s a work revolution in our midst. But how do we make sure we get it right? Unsurprisingly, this work revolution goes hand in hand with the tech revolution. Technology has enabled us to access work wherever and whenever. A working day no longer has to be restricted to hours pinned at a desk. We are presented with the opportunity to have it all. Flexible living: do the school run, pick up that hobby, cook picture worthy meals, even go travelling, all whilst fitting in work around these activities. Great!... Great?
The Remote Dream
Instagram is now riddled with people living the remote dream. #vanlife is one hashtag for individuals travelling the world in (surprisingly) a van, and many of them are still able to work. The internet has become a gateway for all working possibilities. For those of you craving adventuring with a little more structure and security, I recommend taking a peek at Remote Year, a company that sets you up with work in a different country every month. Their instagram account is envy inducing…
Technology has the power to liberate the way we work. However, with every great power, comes great responsibility, and we can’t enter a work/ technology revolution blindly grasping at all the benefits we can see. A bit like trying to eat all your easter eggs in one go… it just won’t end well. The Guardian has an excellent article on how we need to think more carefully about the marriage of technology and the working world. This extract raises the issue perfectly:
Despite the fact that, for most people, work is less onerous than in the past, better supported by technology and communications, and protected by more robust employment laws. Many people cite work as the cause of, or trigger for their mental health problems, whether they are referring to the relentless out-of-hours drive for productivity, or the insecurity of the gig economy and zero-hours contracts.
There’s a tension between work being made easier by technology, and the anxieties and unhealthy ways of working that come with it. Not to mention, the heightened awareness of the numerous jobs everyone else is doing, and whether or not yours is fulfilling enough...
Working Life/ Living work
This Pool article, Work/life integration? No, thanks – I’d rather have balance, by Ruth Whippman,draws on another side of work flexibility. Her company introduced a work/life integration. Note the word ‘integration’. Work and life are now longer separate entities, but are thrown together in a mixing bowl, where it is difficult to feel totally relaxed with a glass of wine with a friend or at home with the family. Let’s be honest, we’ve been that person or with that person who's had to rush off mid meal for a work call, or has a couple of emails to send off before bed. The problem is, as Whippman articulates, our time is no longer protected.
However, it’s not the technologies fault. The technology is an enabler of different possibilities, and it’s us who need to figure out how best to use it in our lives. For example, for the remote worker, busy client, or multi-location company, video conferencing is a gem. Online communities are another technology treasure which connects employees, breaks down silos, spreads learning, and stops isolation. But the constant email twitch, working on a Sunday (because there’s always more to do), may not always be as helpful to our health.
France has taken a step forwards with their ‘right to disconnect’ law at the beginning of this year, where employees have the right not to send or receive emails after 6pm. However, is setting out such rigid boundaries appealing to everyone? Research shows that people are craving flexible lifestyles. A report released earlier this year revealed that there has been a 27% increase in self employment, with self employed women increasing by 50% over the last decade. It would seem strict time laws would be a step backwards, and there’s certainly not a ‘one size fits all’, when it comes to working hours.
Protect Your Time
So how can we make sure we do it right? David Steinberg in this INC video talks about how technology has enabled his work/life balance, where he can spend time with his children, be at the office less hours, and still get the job done. Something he touches on, is the key to getting your own work revolution right, ‘sitting next to my wife doing emails doesn’t count as spending time with her.’ It’s very easy to let your work bleed into social activities. Likewise, it’s very easy to let your social activities bleed into your work.
Tools For Flexible Work
This article emphasises time separation and has some other excellent advice on how to protect your work/life balance whilst working remotely. You may also find this Marie Claire article on apps to revolutionise your working life. It includes google keep (sticky notes for your phone
Managers need to be sensitive of burning out employees, employees or the self employed need to decide on their own work/life boundaries, and both parties need to respect these.