On any working day, the average full-time employee is likely to spend at least 50% of their waking hours at work. Let that sink in. That’s 50% of our precious time accounted for every working week; time that could be spent doing the things we love, with those we love!
The tired phrase “work-life balance” has been bandied around as a standard we should all aspire to achieve; the feeding of a notion that our work and our personal lives need to be juggled somehow, as competing aspects of our waking existence.
As a psychology graduate turned market researcher, my fascination has always been in understanding human behaviour and experience. Whilst both disciplines advocate the importance of objective reasoning, I must confess that it is both my professional and personal observations which have fuelled this article. I am seeing an exciting shift taking place which I believe presents an incredible opportunity for our working world. A shift which fundamentally dismantles the previous “work-life balance” notion, in favour of something I see as “work-life collaboration”.
Having carried out many employee feedback studies at B2B International within all manner of businesses across the world, it is clear that our human needs remain the same. Ultimately, the factors which drive employee engagement can be distilled into four core needs:
Self-development and training – ongoing opportunities for learning and progression, which are tailored to the needs of the individual, are critical. Most businesses fall into the trap of a one size fits all training programme that does not account for nuances across teams, countries or departments. Moreover, training needs should be revisited regularly, since new skills or requirements may need to be introduced, as the business or market changes.
Autonomy, empowerment and recognition – happy people are asked for their input and ideas. They are entrusted with responsibilities, given the autonomy to “get the job done” and therefore continually challenged in their roles. However, feedback and recognition is needed by management here, so that any efforts made do not go unnoticed and so that employees feel valued and supported.
Communication and connectedness – as many businesses grow, then it becomes more and more difficult for different teams, departments or offices to communicate and work together. Many start to operate in “silos” which can lead to less seamless or efficient ways of working. Opening up the lines of communication within and across teams is paramount, since connectivity is key to driving a more consistent internal culture.
Clear direction and leadership – tied to communication, management play a crucial role in helping align everyone to the direction the business is moving in. A sense of purpose is important and the most engaged and motivated employees understand how what they do fits in and makes a difference across the wider business and even more importantly, to the wider world, aligned to their own personal values.
On this last point particularly, “work-life collaboration” describes a shift in mind-set that is happening right now. Social consciousness is cultivated by greater connectivity and communication, enabled through increasing social media usage. Research has shown that Millennials and Centennials want more meaning and purpose attached to their roles, aligned to their own personal interests and beliefs. If this need is not met, then they are more willing to seek out new opportunities and ventures.
Bringing my personal experiences as a Millennial to the table, it is of no coincidence that platforms which engender self-development, creative thinking, health and wellbeing, inter-connectedness and social contribution are on the rise. There are countless examples which inspire personal values and wellbeing to be brought into our working lives…. from thought-leadership platforms such as TED, to the growing following of philanthropists such as Tony Robbins.
In summary, “work-life collaboration” is a term which recognises that our personal and professional lives may no longer be mutually exclusive. For businesses that recognise this shift and take the necessary steps in speaking to their employees, there is ample opportunity to build greater employee engagement and turn that 50% of people’s waking hours at work, into something truly meaningful and enjoyable.