So, you have read much about the benefits of work-life balance. While it’s true that maintaining work-life balance is essential for the holistic growth of a company, giving too much flexibility in this area may have disadvantages. The intention of this article is not to make any negative claims against work-life balance but to merely address the other side of the argument so you may think of the concept more objectively.
Before we venture into why this widely appreciated concept could mean the worse for your business, let’s understand what exactly work-life balance means. BusinessDictionary.com defines work-life balance as “equally and comfortably balancing an employee's chief priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle”. In other words, develop a system where an individual is able to carry out their work responsibilities without sacrificing their personal goals.
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The common elements of work-life balance
There are various types of work-life balance initiatives an employer can make. It can range from something as simple as allowing telecommutes or work-from-home options to offering training programs, child care services, time-off for following hobbies and more. To keep things simple, we will concentrate on the more popular aspects of work life balance offered by employers today. Some of the common elements in companies encouraging work-life balance are:
- Allowing schedule flexibility
- Allowing employees to work from home
- Encouraging short breaks throughout the day
- Allowing unpaid time off for life events
- Granting leaves easily
When the focus is on business development, employers inevitably lose focus on where to draw the line regarding these practices. Let us look at what could happen when flexible working is not monitored well or ‘goes too far’.
Development of a complacent attitude
It is important to build a rapport with your employees by understanding their personal issues and granting them a leeway to work around them. However, it’s equally important for employers to know where to draw a line.
When there’s freedom to work at individual schedules suiting employee needs, there’s room for them to take advantage, by not being productive, for example. Similarly, the many short breaks employees are allowed to take may turn into long ones, and the easy grants to take unplanned leaves will result in their absence from the desk too often.
If you’re not building a system of measurement to monitor some of these benefits, it may result in the employees developing a complacent attitude towards their job. Consequently, this leads to lower productivity, lack of ownership and accountability. If you want the welfare of your business, then you need to remind your employees about managing their responsibility efficiently.
Lack of communication and innovation
One of the most common challenges faced by employers who have a team working remotely is communication. While the reasons are genuine most of the time, the employee can ‘make a habit’ of such issues.
For instance, an employee working from home might be situated in a ‘bad phone network’ zone – thus, reaching out to them becomes challenging. This results in confusion and possible delays in completing the assignments. Similarly, there may be poor internet connection or electricity problems – common problems of today which makes the remote working option very inefficient.
There are other issues caused by the lack of presence and communication. In 2014, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned Yahoo’s longstanding practice of working from home stating that working together leads to increased collaboration and innovation when everyone is based in the same space.
The same happens when employees take long unpaid leaves for life events – they don’t spend enough time with other employees and become comparatively unfamiliar with the goings-on of the projects at hand, and team work quotient may take a hit as well.
Distractions and missed collaborations
Often, employees promise that they will manage work from home and stick to deadlines but are unable to do so due to genuine reasons. Be it due to having a pet or having constant distractions with a large family in the house, such employees are bound to be interruptions that won’t let them concentrate on their work.
An employee who enjoys scheduled flexibility can work perfectly well in his or her comfort zone if the project is being handled individually. But in the case of a group project, where one team member’s task depends on another’s, there’s bound to be a setback. The one who can choose his or her timings can’t keep up with what the rest of the team is doing.
If you’re an employer, give these aspects a thought and understand that while it’s important for you to help your employees work better, it’s also equally essential that you ensure the work-life balance is equally balanced. It’s always better to work smart than to work hard.