Technology has made it possible for more and more people to work from anywhere and at any time with a single computer. However, experts warn that “flexible working” is synonymous with “always on the job.” In addition to placing a mental burden on workers, it can also increase the secretion of stress hormones, which can be detrimental to health.
Work-life balance: flexible working can make you ill, experts say | Money | The Guardian
The concept of “work-life balance” is often talked about as a way to achieve a diverse lifestyle not only at work, but also at home and in the community. Not only in Japan, but also in the U.K., the government and companies are promoting flexible work styles such as telecommuting, teleworking, and part-time contracts to achieve work-life balance, but as Professor Gail Kinman of the University of Bedfordshire, an in-house counselor, says, “As these ideas advance, the concern grows. As we move forward, the concern is growing,” she said.
If you keep working all the time and worrying about work, your body’s systems don’t get back to normative levels, so you don’t recover properly,” Professor Kinman said. He warned that flexible work practices can cause people to stay “on” forever, because “even when you get sleep, you’re not sleeping ‘properly,’ and your immune system is weakened.” When working at home, exercising, cooking, or other hobbies, or drinking alcohol, are recommended as immediate ways to get into “relaxation mode.
It has also been pointed out that psychological conditions at work can cause serious illnesses, as Professor Simon Wessely of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said, “We don’t know why, but we do know that psychological conditions at work are associated with heart disease.
Another major problem is that technology has made it possible to work more flexibly, but also to work “faster” and “harder. While there are many organizations that advocate “flexible work,” we need to remember that “flexible work” only works well when employers are given choices.
The average length of the workday has decreased in recent years, but at the same time the percentage of working couples has increased, and many people find that housework and domestic tasks are piling up. According to the Office for National Statistics, half of those working in the UK are satisfied with their work/enjoyment balance, while more than a quarter said they are not. Furthermore, in 2015, 1.4 in 100 people took time off for “work-related stress, anxiety, or depression.
Another major work-life balance issue is that it is becoming harder to get a stable job in the first place. The current situation where people are isolated from their social networks because they cannot find appropriate work needs to be addressed.
What kind of company does not have “work-life balance” as a mere slogan?
Heldergroen, an advertising company from the Netherlands, is one of the companies that are implementing a “better work-life balance. The office is small, but has a large dining table at the entrance and an espresso machine in the kitchen. The work desk is retractable, and they have created a spacious area to hold lunch time, yoga classes, and events.
Not only is the “office open,” but there is no overtime work. Advertising managers can take two weeks off, and CEO Sander Veenendaal says he begins negotiations with employees’ requests with a positive “yes” first. Furthermore, in pursuit of a “better way of working,” staff members are not even allowed to check their work e-mail outside of working hours.
Veenendaal is opposed to the “new way of working” often seen in IT companies, saying, “I don’t believe that everyone can work anywhere. Especially when it comes to advertising, work is done by bringing people together. And that can be very stressful.
Veenendaal dropped out of college to start his own company and worked hard to make it a success. Naturally, the stress was mounting, and one day a friend advised him to close the company for three weeks during summer vacation and two weeks during winter vacation, and to have two or three nights of free time a week. Of course, Veenendaal responded, “That’s impossible,” but his friend encouraged him to finally take the vacation.
The advice has stayed with Heldergroen to this day, and by setting aside days when he works “from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM,” Veenendaal is able to spend time with his children.
By limiting the hours, he says, staff can focus on their work and spend less time playing games or texting as a distraction. On the other hand, staff who “want to be promoted” can increase their work hours, but in that case they are told something like, “I know you can get things done,” and a check is taken to see if they “enjoy their work.
When asked, “Do you think increasing employee work hours would increase revenue?” Veenendaal answered “yes,” but then asked, “But does it make sense? I don’t think so. You have to think about what you won’t be able to do. If I work more hours, I will be more successful, but I won’t be able to spend time at home with my children. That is a big loss for me.