Does flexibility come with a price?

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Does flexibility come with a price?

Despite flexible working, employees remain ‘always-on’ for fear of falling behind on their increasing workloads

With work–life balance being heralded as one of the most important things for organisations to focus on, flexible work options were born. This included employees managing their own work hours, and working from home when necessary. Since then, in many, but not all industries, there has emerged a highly mobile workforce that has made the most of the flexibility offered to them, by working from anywhere.

Then again, it may not really be the boon that we all think it to be. For flexible work to make sense, productivity of the individuals has to be measured according to their output. With increasing workloads leading to workplace stress, employees may find that they have fewer options than to work through illnesses and deliver no matter what. A feeling of ‘letting the team down’ can also be a factor in employee presenteeism.

In the process, however, it can lead to a significant blurring of lines between work time and personal time. And in many cases it may even lead to employees working when they may actually not be feeling up to it. Fixed working hours have become a thing of the past and the distinction against personal time has become harder to see.

Whether employees choose to leverage a beneficial work option and take care of themselves, or they remain ‘always-on’ for fear of falling behind on their increasing workloads, is something that needs to be looked into. To understand presenteeism, it is important to locate its driver.

Rajeev Singh

Either managers or the colleagues will take some measures for the concerned individual so that delivering on time does not get compromised in any way

Ajay Tewari, VP-HR, Lupin, maintain that employers themselves will never allow this to happen purposefully. “Good employers will always make sure that any person undergoing ill-health will not be be made to perform at any cost. Health of the person would be given priority over work any day.”

Rajeev Singh, CHRO, ATG Tires reiterates the point that an employer on his or her part will make sure health takes top priority.”Whether it is working from home or from office, cases like these are always addressed. Either managers or the colleagues will take some measures for the concerned individual so that delivering on time does not get compromised in any way.”

Whether you are working from home for flexible hour or from office. Cases like these are always addressed. Managers or colleagues will certainly make some arrangement for the individual. So I don’t think delivering on time gets compromised in any way

Good employers will make sure that the person in question will not be made to perform at any cost. They will always make sure health is given priority over work.

Technology has an important role to play in this. With the 24/7 facilitation of tech combined with the freedom of flexible working, employees— both senior and junior staff— find it increasingly difficult to cut off from work. They may even be constantly interrupted during the holidays.

Ajay Tiwari

Good employers will always make sure that any person undergoing ill-health will not be be made to perform at any cost. Health of the person would be given priority over work any day

This may sound like a familiar situation. That is not to say it is all bad. Even during traditional working hours, employees may find the time to attend to their personal and familial needs. On the other hand, the trade-off is that they may be unable to successfully switch off outside of work whenever they need to.

Despite what the organisation may be vying for, there will always be a sacrifice to make. For instance, any organisation invested in its employees’ wellbeing will send home anyone dealing with mental or physical ill health. While this may mean an increase in the absenteeism for the organisation in the short run, for the future it may mean that employees are well rested and will abstain from longer absences.

Presenteeism may not be a result of the organisation’s practices. Instead, it can be the employee’s choice. For instance, companies may see a rise in presenteeism figures by choice, as a coping mechanism, and lesser absence. On the other hand, if the workplace environment is a safe one to speak about mental health, it may see a rise in the number of employees reporting mental ill-health. In either case, it is not a complete positive.

The fact of the matter is, there is always a cost to any initiative. The crucial thing is to investigate and understand the case behind the phenomenon.

Technology – the problem or the solution?

In the world of work today, organisations are encouraging flexible working with work from home and satellite offices. This is because it is beneficial to both the employer and the employee, in terms of increased satisfaction, productivity and cost saving.

According to a recent survey by recruitment platform Indeed, employees in India say that they would prefer two work-from-home days in a week. On the other hand, another report bought out by Expedia reveals that India is the most vacation deprived country in the world due to overwhelming workload.

Employees, however, are exposed to the other side of the truth. Constant interruptions from work take a dig at their downtime, throwing balance out of the window. While technology can facilitate flexible working, it may also contribute to an always-on culture where the individual is never completely free from work related updates.

Again, it is technology which can provide the solution. In 2012, Volkswagen turned off email outside of work hours in a response to email overload. Two years later, Daimler in Germany arranged for employee’s emails to be automatically deleted or redirected to another member while the former was on a holiday.

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