When we say less time at work, we’re not talking holidays, annual leave or simply cutting our hours. What we’re looking at here is a trend in flexible working. Modern technology and access to software such as the Cloud and VoIP systems that allow us to work from anywhere in the world at any given time of day or night are leading an increase in flexible working options. This means less time at work, say – in the office, for example – and more time elsewhere. For example, working from home, working flexible hours and potentially even working abroad. But what are the pros and cons of working less ‘at work’? Let’s take a look.
When it comes to flexible working the clue is in the title – it offers more flexibility. Gone are the days where working life means being at the office for 9am and staying there until 5pm when you make the traffic-packed journey home. Today, the majority of office-based work can usually be from anywhere, which allows room for the varied lifestyle of the modern human being. More companies these days are putting an emphasis on work-life balance due to the increasing trend of work-related stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, according to a report published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in late 2018, workload was the number one cause of anxiety, stress and/or depression in the workplace at 44%, while the other 56% was spilt across causes such as lack of managerial support, changes in the workplace and bullying. It is a serious issue that should be considered by employers. Potentially, flexible working options could help to reduce the burden of workload by offering employees more choice and more freedoms. Not only is this good for the wellbeing of employees, but it could result in less time taken off sick, which benefits employers too.
Cutting down on the commute. Working from home, for example, means cutting out any need to drive to work or use public transport. Not only does this save time, it allows for more quality time either side of working hours: time for a decent breakfast, or more time to cook dinner on an evening. This can be a great enhancer of wellbeing and can reduce stress. What’s more, cutting down on travel is also good for the environment, so this aspect of flexible working is sort of win, win.
All of this being said, it’s not all smooth-sailing when it comes to flexible working. At first glance, it looks like a very appealing option. Afterall, who wouldn’t want to work from home? I mean, you could even sit in your favourite pj’s, listen to your favourite music and sip your favourite coffee while getting your work done and earning at the same time. However, the reality isn’t so simple.
Turning your home into your workplace. This in itself can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it sounds much more appealing than sitting in a neon-lit office. On the other, however, it can be quite important to be able to separate your home and working environment. This is because lines can very easily blur and, if you don’t have a strong and assertive sense of boundary-setting, you could find yourself in one of two situations: 1. Your work will suffer because home-comforts becme too much of a distraction, 2. Your home life will suffer because it becomes less and less clear where the line is drawn between your home being an office and your home being the place you come to when work is done.
All in all, flexible working is only a positive thing for offering people more choice and giving more consideration to quality of life and work/life balance. But in order for it to be successful and worthwhile, boundaries need to be set, and people need to be strong and assertive enough to stick to them.