Does a Life Outside of Work Exist Today?

At the end of 2013, there were more mobile devices than people on earth. In consequence, the work-life balance has changed. Some say for the better, some say for the worse. But one thing is true: gone are the days of working 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and then resuming personal life without any distractions in the evening. Today there really isn’t anyone demanding that employees not work outside of work. In fact, it’s encouraged. Since every mobile device, tablet and computer imaginable is Wi-Fi accessible, the line between work life and home life has blurred tremendously. Why not get a jump-start answering tomorrow’s emails at 11 p.m.? You can synch your work email to your smartphone. Didn’t have enough time to finish that project? No problem, work on it remotely.

With so much instant access and connection to everything, there are many benefits for businesses all over the world. Working from home and work makes time management more effective and simplified. But when your home also becomes your office, how do you or your employees know when to clock out?

It is impossible to be 100 percent “on” all the time. This means if an employee is working eight hours per day at work, then working from home after hours, it’s likely they will burn out. Hopefully that imminent burnout won’t happen while they are on the clock, but it may be inevitable with this lifestyle. According to a recent study, 67 percent of HR professionals think their employees have a healthy work-life balance, but 45 percent of employees feel they don’t have enough time during the week.

Some companies like Google and Patagonia, are taking steps to mitigate the effects of changing work lifestyles. Benefits such as flextime hours, gym time during the workday, nap-pods, free meals, on-site daycare, and even free transportation are helping to revolutionize the work environment. In turn, studies have found that employees who have more control over their time work harder, develop a deeper loyalty for their company, and produce higher-quality work. These programs, which would have been labeled as luxuries ten years ago, are steps in the right direction as they invent new standards for employee benefits globally.

“Technology has expanded the 9-to-5 workday into the 24/7 workday, which has made it extremely difficult for employees to have personal time. … In the future, every company will have flexibility [programs] and those that don’t will lose the battle for the top talent,” said Dan Schawbel, Founder of and New York Times best-selling author of Promote Yourself, in a recent interview with Psychology Today.

The blending of professional and personal lives is inevitable, especially in career fields that require smartphones and computers. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t look for innovative solutions. So the question is this: In a world where technology is integrated into every aspect of life, how does one balance work and life?

Tips to Help Distinguish Work-Life Balance at Your Company:

  1. Start a Dialogue: Sit down with your employees and create guidelines. For example, make it a rule that nobody sends email between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. See what works for your employees and, in turn, what works for your company. The outcome may surprise you!
  2.  Consider FlexTime Hours: If your company hasn’t already jumped on the flextime train, now may be the right time. Allowing employees to schedule their own eight-hour time block between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. can do wonders for their health and for your company’s growth. Consider a trial period of two to three months to see if flextime hours work for your business.
  3.  Give Them Time: It is an old-fashioned school of thought that employees will work less if they are given more free time. In fact, studies have shown that employees feel indebted to their company for the “gift” of free time and, in turn, work harder because of it. Some ways to give your employees more free time are options to work from home, a shorter work day on Friday, an exercise program during the day, or a longer lunch break.