In this article, we focus on respondents’ perceptions towards the balance between personal life and work. The research consisted of an online survey conducted on our platform questia.ro which was active between May 15th and May 17th 2018. The survey covered 500 respondents, with a +/- 4% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population.

Overview

We live in a world where every employee’s dream is for them to be successful, show their true potential, develop their skills, advance in career and live an exceptional life. Right?

However, the route towards this path is becoming slightly more overwhelming as employees are nowadays swimming in a pool of never-ending tasks. When they try to finish all their tasks and meet the deadlines, the 40-hour workweeks can easily turn into 45-50 or even more overtime working. Thus, prolonged working hours may begin to impact employees’ leisure time. In order to take back a little control of their lives, employees are starting to choose more flexible working hours, job sharing or even a freelancer path.

The Guardian reports that working flexible means that the employees have a little more freedom over choosing where, when or how they work. This might involve working part-time, remote or any other arrangements such as job sharing (splitting one full-time job between two people).

According to Entrepreneur, employees opt for job sharing because they work too much and thus don’t have time for leisure activities or have children or aging parents who need their attention. Telegraph defines flexible working as either part-time, or if full time, a work pattern that involves reduced hours, shift choices or the ability to work at home for some, or all, of the working week.

EHS Today states that “presenteeism” (where employees show up for work but don’t perform at full capacity) costs businesses ten times more than absenteeism. The definition of Presenteeism, documented by Investopedia, consists of “A loss of workplace productivity resulting from employee health problems and/or personal issues. Even though the employee is physically present at work, because they are experiencing problems such as arthritis, allergies, family illness or stress, they are unable to fully perform their work duties and are more likely to make mistakes in the work they do perform”.

The main reasons why workers would want flexible working schedule include increased control over their work-personal life balance, reducing the time and energy spent commuting from home to work, having more time for study and leisure activities and more opportunities to care for children, parents, etc.

A GCC Insights report by Global Corporate Challenge states that on average, employees take 4 days per year of sick time while they admit to being unproductive 57.5 days a year. This means that almost 12 weeks per year (equivalent to 3 months or one quarter per year) employees are paid to work but are not fully effective, which is not advantageous neither for the employees nor for the businesses. This means that a person is working at 75% of their maximum productivity level. It is also reported that the amount of “lost time” can be reduced up to 10 days per year by businesses who offer a workplace culture that promotes health and happiness.

In order to improve productivity, employers should focus on reducing presenteeism. According to the GCC Insight’s data scientist, Dr. Olivia Sackett, businesses shouldn’t use absenteeism rates as an indicator of productivity: “Businesses use absenteeism rates as an indicator of engagement and productivity because it’s easy to quantify. If your employee is at their desk or on the work site, you can tick a box.”

The study also reveals that presenteeism is much more expensive to an employer than absenteeism, 10 times higher to be exact.

One of the many causes of presenteeism is believed to be the increasingly insecure workplaces, according to Dr. David Batman, GCC’s chief medical officer: “[T]he world of work has become increasingly insecure. Employees at all levels worry about the uncertainty of their futures and that of their families and increasingly do not know who or what to trust. Disposable income is challenged and it is very hard for many to meet all their financial demands.” He also points out that the 2008 financial crisis has had a very high impact on the level of stress of the employees.

Another aspect that might be at the basis of presenteeism is the stigma around health problems. Employees do not want to admit to depression, anxiety or any other mental illnesses because of the fear they might be seen as incompetent or unqualified. However, these illnesses affect sleep and thus, fatigue impacts the concentration and the memory and as employees do not want to be missing work, they show up in this capacity that is leading to unproductivity.

It is time businesses stop focusing on how many sick days employees take and think about what they are doing when they are at work and also recognize that individuals have different needs both inside and outside of work. This means that employers should become more open to allowing flexible working hours and/or remote hours and promote a culture where employees are not penalized for reporting personal issues or health problems affecting their performance.

According to The Employment Trends Survey, 97% of the UK businesses who participated in the study, “see a flexible workforce as important to the competitiveness of the UK’s labour market and the prospects for business investment and job creation. Over half (53%) see flexibility as vital, in line with the results in recent years.”

The Guardian also reports that flexible working helps employees to improve their personal life – work balance and allows more time for them to focus on their health and wellbeing.

Furthermore, flexible working also positively impacts productivity. In the “Creating longer, more fulfilling working lives: Employer practice in five European countries” research from CIPD, is stated that implementing flexible working hours can improve staff engagement and motivation.

Flexible working is becoming more commonplace among the workforce because of technological advances and the employees’ right to request flexible working. Thus, technology makes it increasingly easier to work flexibly and thus allowing employees to work all the time, but flexible so that they can manage to handle other activities in between. Businesses who offer the possibility of flexible working for their employees are most likely to retain their employees and enhance their engagement and loyalty.

Moreover, The 2017 World Happiness Report states that work-life balance is now one of the strongest predictors of happiness. Unfortunately, workers are dissatisfied with their work due to the lack of work-personal life balance and in most of the cases, this is because they feel overwhelmed and underappreciated, with little control over their own lives and schedules.

According to The 2014 National Study Of Employers, employees with flexible work options are more likely to have better mental and better physical health, experience less stress and improved sleep patterns.

Moreover, Forbes reports that individuals working long hours (over 55h per week) had a more than 50% increased risk of atrial fibrillation compared with those working standard hours.

According to a research from flexible working experts, Timewise, who surveyed 3k UK adults on how they work and how important flexible working is for them, almost 9 out of 10 UK’s full-time employees either would like to work flexibly or already currently do. It was reported that millennials (aged 18 to 34) are the most innovative in terms of ways of working with 73% of those who work full-time, doing it flexibly. However, out of those who do not work flexibly (37%), 64% would prefer to.

A Romanian research study regarding stress among employees who surveyed 804 people aged 18+ at the beginning of 2017, depicted the following main conclusions:

  • 99.7% of Romanian employees are stressed
  • 52% feel alienated by their family
  • 91.4% have no patience in their relationship with other people
  • 93% often feel depressed
  • 72.6% cannot talk freely about their own feelings when they are sad
  • 98% often feel tired and exhausted
  • 68% sleep less than 7-8 hours per night

The level of stress among Romanians is high, over 80% of the population showing symptoms of physical, emotional or social stress. Moreover, emotional stress among employees increased to an alarming percentage of 11%.

The study also reports that women experience a higher level of stress compared to men, especially social stress. Youngsters experience more often fatigue and exhaustion, depression and tensions in the relationship with others, compared to other generations.

Behaviors that support or generate high levels of stress are those related to poor eating habits, fatigue, irritability, and tensions in relationships with others.

Depending on the position occupied in the company, it was found that non-managerial positions tend to have physical, emotional and social manifestations that disturb employees’ balance more often than those occupying a managerial position.

According to Business Review, organizations could provide access to health and sports centers, onsite childcare, flexible program, part-time jobs, compressed working weeks and flexible daily start and finish times in order to improve the work-life balance of their employees. Furthermore, the article also states that “Balance is not just something nice to have; it positively affects individuals’ wellbeing and task engagement. When there is an imbalance, the employee might not have enough time for one domain or takes work stress home or the other way around.”

Results

Out of the people we surveyed, everyone is currently working either by being employed, working as a freelancer or being the owner/manager. Most of the responders (46.6%) are employed with high education, followed by a little more than a quarter (28.0%) who are employed with medium education.

Most people (54%) tend to affirm the ratio between their professional and personal life is balanced with 13% saying is very balanced and 41% stating is fairly balanced. Moreover, 35.2% of users say the equilibrium between career and personal life is decent.

We then asked our responders how they perceive this ratio of people around them. Interestingly, when changing the perspective to others, more people are perceived as having a very unbalanced ratio between their professional and personal life (17.6%), compared to only 7.4% when they reported to themselves.

Our responders seem to believe that they efficiently blend their professional life with their personal life. Thereby, more than half of the respondents state that their professional life does not negatively affect their personal life with 19.9% saying this doesn’t happen at all and 33.9% saying their professional life impacts in a negative way their private life, but very rarely. However, more than a quarter affirm that this situation might happen but a few times a month (16.9%) or a few times a year (11.6%).

Moreover, it seems that even though professional life might interfere more often in their personal life, the other way around happens even more rarely. Over three-quarters of respondents (78.8%) state that their personal life is not negatively affected by their career, with 39.6% saying this doesn’t happen at all and 39.2% saying it happens very rarely.

Furthermore, our responders seem to find the balance between their private life and their career quite easily, with more than a half of them (56.1%) stating that balance between professional and personal life can be achieved without any stress (24.8%) or rarely with stress (31.3%).

Next, we asked our users how often they happened to find themselves in the following situations in the last six months. Our responders seem to not encounter very often the situation when they do something wrong at work or miss doing something because of personal life problems with 35.6% saying this does not happen at all and 51.6% saying it happens rarely.

The same goes for missing doing something or performing badly at home because of professional life problems with 33.5% saying this does not happen at all and 45.6% saying it happens rarely. However, as stated before, personal life seems to be impacted more by professional life issues than the other way around. Thus, 20.9% of people happen to miss doing something at home because of work problems while only 12.8% happen to miss doing something at work because of personal life problems.

Almost three-quarters of responders didn’t have to cancel plans with friends or relatives because of work with 23.1% saying this does not happen at all and 51% saying it happens rarely.

People tend to work overtime from the office, but not when working remote. Almost half of them have worked overtime from the office in the past 6 months while only 17.6% have worked overtime remote.

In the end, as Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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