Work-life balance has gone for a toss; who is to be blamed?

The pandemic has blurred the line between work and personal time, but somebody has to set things right.

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When the pandemic struck last year, and people were forced to work remotely, most of us thought it would be a blessing in disguise. However, after having worked from home for over a year now, the belief has been slightly shaken. All those who rejoiced that the time spent on office commute could be saved and spent on family and hobbies are now realising how wrong they were. Worse still, their bedrooms and living rooms have been turned into permanent places of work!

The office environment is meant for people to spend time working, on a set agenda. The workplace is controlled and owned by the employees and the management. At home, on the other hand, things are different. Neither the employees nor the management have any control on the work schedule, because the home — which is the new workplace — is not owned by just one person, but a whole family — spouse, kids, parents. So, keeping oneself organised and focused, amidst the innumerable distractions of domestic life is quite a challenge.

That is not all. As industry experts point out, managers are not always very conscious of the personal space of the employees. So, all in all, as the majority feel, there is a very thin line between work and personal time, and that too is rapidly vanishing.

“I believe that the larger share of the responsibility will rest with the employees. In our organisation, for instance, we do not fix any log-in or log-out time and our employees also honour the practice with honesty. There will be many other organisations following a similar practice. It is the employees who need to be honest and organised.”

Ravi Kumar, head – HR, Roche Diabetes Care India

Who is responsible?

Who is to be blamed? Who is responsible for this disruption caused in our work–life balance? Is it the employees who are unable to organise themselves and be disciplined or is it the management that needs to structure and clearly define the working schedule for the employees, and make that line between personal life and work life thicker?

HR leaders unanimously agree that the responsibility to set things right should be shouldered by both employees and employers alike. But who should have the larger share of the responsibility?

“I believe that the larger share of the responsibility will rest with the employees. In our organisation, for instance, we do not fix any log-in or log-out time and our employees also honour the practice with honesty. There will be many other organisations following a similar practice. It is the employees who need to be honest and organised,” says Ravi Kumar, head – HR, Roche Diabetes Care India.

Striking a balance

According to Kumar, people have been unable to clearly set boundaries for official work and personal work. “Physically and mentally, people have not been able to divide their work time and personal time,” shares Kumar.

So, as per Kumar, employees need to create a balance between their work life and personal life and organise themselves in such a way that they stay productive and strike a balance.

“Employees need to be organised and disciplined to create a work-life balance. On the other hand, the managers also need to be very mindful of each and every employee’s personal time. The managers will need to structure the work schedule on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This will help them keep everything on track and ensure business continuity.”

A senior HR leader from the engineering and manufacturing sector

On the other hand, Manish Majumdar, an HR consultant, also believes that the responsibility needs to be shared but the larger share needs to be managed by the employers and managers.

“In many companies I have observed that managers are rarely conscious about the personal time of their team members. Actually, this reduction of ‘commute time’ which employers keep referring to has become a curse for the employees. Managers think that employees are all at home and unable to go out anywhere, and therefore, can be called up any time. But this should not be the case,” mentions Majumdar.

Sensitising managers

In fact, Majumdar shares that, even companies who were very particular about not disturbing employees post working hours during pre-pandemic days, seem to have forgotten to follow the practice.

Majumdar opines that organisations should focus on training their managers to be conscious of people’s time and respect everyone’s personal space. On the other hand, he also believes that HR should focus on connecting with people, keeping a check on whether they are made to work extra hours and collect this data. They should then coach employees on how they can manage their time working from home, give them tips on developing workspaces within their houses and facilitate them with the required tools and technology for better productivity.

“In many companies I have observed that managers are rarely conscious about the personal time of their team members. Actually, this reduction of ‘commute time’ which employers keep referring to has become a curse for the employees. Managers think that employees are all at home and unable to go out anywhere, and therefore, can be called up any time. But this should not be the case.”

Manish Majumdar, HR consultant

One of the HR leaders from the engineering and manufacturing industry who did not wish to be named, agrees that the responsibility of creating the right balance between work and personal life needs to be shared by employees and employers both.

He believes that when one is working from home, one cannot work in peace all the time as there is bound to be interference. On the other hand, managers are also anxious to follow up frequently.

“Employees need to be organised and disciplined to create a work-life balance. On the other hand, the managers also need to be very mindful of each and every employee’s personal time. The managers will need to structure the work schedule on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This will help them keep everything on track and ensure business continuity,” shares a senior HR leader from the engineering and manufacturing sector.

Maintaining work-life balance has always been a challenge, and this challenge has only grown during these times when organisations are following a hybrid work model. A balance can only be struck if the employees and their managers work in harmony and invest genuine efforts to make this happen.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Completely agree to Mr.Majumdar. It definitely needs to be a shared effort and a little more maturity from the Managers.

    Another point to be noted, this happens more when the employee is single or not staying with their families.

    Not really sure which HR law book mentions that a single employee doesn’t have a life.

  2. Dear Ravi, This is a great article… My views on subject…
    Though it is more to do with individual employees … People have not taken their properties with a thought of working at home or how many have separate rooms for each individuals… Each kid has his online classes, if both Husband and wife are working, they both have their own offices online… It is much easier for saying that is individual responsibility… How many companies have thought of giving some extra allowance for employee to manage their extra need of continues internet that topbgigj speed else one cannot attend a single video call….. Lot more needs to be discussed from both sides…..

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