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The over emphasis on work life and inability


to find time on other facets of life is having
a high negative impact on social and personal life.
What impact is the high stress level having
on lives of IT business professionals?
How can an adequate work life
balance be achieved?
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balancing
work & life
- the new age dilemma

By Anilkumar C.S & Sandeep K.Krishnan

Y
ou are working 15 hours a day, traveling 2 or that though he completed most of his work, the project
more days a week, spending less than a day at leader and other coworkers made sarcastic comments
home with family, hooked to computer for more when he had to leave for home around 7 in the evening
than 30 % of your work time and have a munch when while the official requirement of working was only till 5
ever you get time - welcome to the world of the new age in the evening. Clearly we should also understand that
professionals. When meeting targets is the prime the remaining team members and managers involved
concern, work world is no longer geographical time were spending their time till late night in the office.
constrained, and increased competition demands faster Mostly professionals blame the external factors like
outputs, it is imperative that you give your maximum to client requirements and deadlines for extended office
be in the game. The traditional 10-5 work timings only hours. Increasing competition in various sectors
exist in select government organizations and in papers especially service demands more outputs in lesser time.
related to employment contracts. This generation of Essentially it boils down to increased working hours for
professionals accepts that work timings are driven by the employees. The inability of professionals to say 'NO'
the work demands rather than preset office hours. while approached for taking up more responsibilities
In this article we examine the critical issue of work- also leads to increased workload. Many perceive that
life balance of new age professionals. The over emphasis showing reluctance to take up responsibilities/ not
on work life and inability to find time on other facets of staying late in the office may lead to negative impact in
life is having a high negative impact on social and performance appraisal and career progress. Adding to
personal life. Here we also share evidences of high this, self driven individuals who are highly career oriented
stress level and low work-balance concerns of IT or perfectionists spend most of the time worrying about
business professionals. work quality or quantity. When quizzed about regular
long working hours one junior professional replied "I
Work pressure - the root of the problem have an ambition to work in US within 2 years. And for
If you were a traditional employee, the work clearly achieving this, I know I have to put in extra efforts".
begins and ends during the office hours. The new age Another employee jokingly commented "I don't have
knowledge work demands stretch of work beyond the an A/C or computer in my place of stay and in this hot
normal office hours. Putting forth the normal issues climate it is better to be in office during night hours."
related to work overload, David Posen suggests that The trend of spending more time in the office for a valid
external demands from bosses/clients/coworkers, reason or otherwise slowly builds up addiction to work
corporate culture, deadlines, internal drive to do more and detachment from normal social life. All these
and fear of negative effects like bad performance review factors in total or specifically create the over emphasis
demands employees to do more than what is normally of work life in an individuals available time.
expected. In a modern work environment, the technology
The increasing emphases on team work especially related factors like time spend on responding to emails,
in new age industries like IT imply that an employee bombardment of information and lack of physical
stays with the team and participate even if his presence activity as much of the time is spend on a computer
is not essential. Interestingly one IT professional noted work station also leads to work pressure and associated

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spheres - individual, family and the social circle. Clearly


Top Management - IT Firm the increasing work load takes it toll on the health of the
Balanced 16% individual. Less time is spent on physical exercise and
leisurely activities causing health related issues like
obesity, increasing blood pressure and associated
On the detrimental effects. Lack of sleep due to work stress
Out of edge 21% can have a negative impact on productivity. Research
balance 23% has shown that work-life imbalance can cause lesser
job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and
intention to remain. At an individual level the thoughts
Balanced of spending less time with family/friends and lack of
involvement in family/ social activities can also lead to
On the edge
tension and symptoms of withdrawal from work. At the
Out of balance family level, the guilt of less time spent with family
related issues can add to the work stress. The problem
stress. Poor culture of the organization that is reflected is doubled if both the husband and wife are working.
through internal politics, lack of support, lack of Making compromise usually falls with the woman of
competence of supervisors/senior management and too the house. For example in a family where both the
much time spend on non core activities also lead to lack husband and wife is working in a software firm, the wife
of time and work stress. notes "if he was not working in the same industry there
was no way where he could have understood me working
Impact of increased work pressure - work-life 15-17 hours. We really don't know how to manage after
balance a child".
On of the direct impact of the work pressure would be Many new age professionals feel that extended work
the negative effect on the work-life balance. Work - Life hours is taking a toll on the social network. Lack of time
balance is generally understood by experts as the leads to missing key social functions and leisurely time
satisfaction and happiness both at home and work life spent with friends and relatives. One house owner in a
without much conflict between each other. Apart from locality near to one of the technoparks commented "we
the home or family factor, research also looks at the prefer to give our houses on rent to software
time spend on non work activities in general. professional couples. They use the house only for
Clearly the increased work pressure might cause sleeping and the houses will remain just like it is not
spending less time at home or non work related activities occupied". One manager who works with a large
causing personal and social sufferings at those fronts. multinational firm says that he works atleast 15 hours a
Research studies have found that most of the new age day and Sundays are generally spent sleeping or
professionals especially knowledge workers spend more maximum an outing with the family. If email and mobile
time at work and it directly impacts on the health of phone does not exist, there was no way to get in touch
individuals and family life. Lesser time is devoted to with even close friends and relatives.
personal health and leisurely activities. On the family The above shown work life balance quiz was
front the time spent with family is also decreasing. administered to two samples. The first sample consisted
The reasons for work-life imbalance apart from the of a 19-member top management team of a major IT
external factor of work pressure may be due to the firm in Kerala. The results in the chart (Figure 1) clearly
workaholic behavior or inability to compartmentalize show that the majority was facing issues with work/life
work and non work activities. Individual may build up balance. 63% of the respondents faced trouble in
characteristics that make them not to free themselves
from putting more and more at work causing sufferings
at other fronts. Apart from this the work life and family HMO
life boundary gets blurred as individuals do not stop
thinking about work at home. Many bring office issues Balanced 22%
at home and remain stressed. Sleep and time spent with
family members/friends are compromised for spending
time on doing extra work. Professionals may take time Out of
to finish pending work at home even when the time On the
balance 42% edge 36%
spent at home is less. The growing influence of
technology in life has resulted in fact that people no
longer remain disconnected. A week-end or evening
after work is not left alone by emails/official
Balanced
communications.
On the edge
Costs of work-life imbalance Out of balance
The effect of work-life imbalance covers three major

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balancing work and non-work activities. The study


revealed that the work life imbalance at the top
management level is in dangerous level. Most of the
employees at this level are working here after a long
stint in US companies and they bring in with them the
culture of overworking due to the demands of the
environment. Here also they mainly deal with the US
clients and this call for same kind of effort due to strict
timelines they have to follow. Once this becomes the
rule juniors are also not spared and slowly they will
become prey to the culture of overworking.
The same quiz was administered to a sample of 59
Homeopathy Medical Officers (HMO). As expected most
them had a better work/life balance compared to IT
business professionals. However interestingly we found
that lady HMOs were having more trouble in managing
work/life balance. Out of 42% who showed out of
balance (Figure 2), around 95% were women doctors
are suffering from acute level of work life imbalance.
Cultural factors also play an important role. In Indian
society, managing home and children and other home
chores are still the duty of women. This puts an extra
pressure on women professional like doctors, engineers,
architects and other professionals.

Managing self
Though lot of external factors can contribute to the
work-life imbalance, clearly defined work scheduling
and ability to compartmentalize work and non work
related activities can help an individual. The first thing
to do is to become aware of the problem. Then the
employee has to take a decision himself what is enough
for him in terms of money, success and satisfaction.
Then one has to fix boundaries and limits and adopt a
pattern that is justifiable based on each ones energy
level. The following are broad suggestions based on
work-life balance studies and experience of the authors.
 Avoid bringing work to home - Try to finish job
activities at home itself. Although some aspects of work
life would be interesting to share with family or friends,
try to avoid discussing core work related issues and
brooding over them at home.
 Try to spend time for physical exercise.
 Create schedules for work related activities - Take
enough time for each activity and reduce postponing of
critical activities. Pending work gets the mind
preoccupied and tensed. Many feel that left over work
can be taken home.
 Organize the work desk and coordinate with the work
related employees.
 Try to organize emails and other communications -
It may be helpful if a fixed time of a day is spent on
replying to emails and other communication.
 Take short breaks during work time - This will help
us to re charge our batteries.
 Change completely when at home - Spend more
time with family members and discuss more issues
related to home and social life. It is important that time
is spent on leisurely activities and have a very different
family/social life apart from professional concerns.

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Work/Life Balance Quiz


Directions: Answer true or false to each statement below

1. I find myself spending more and more time on i. True


work-related projects. ii. False
i. True 9. I can't remember the last time I read and
ii. False finished a book that I was reading purely for
2. I often feel I don't have any time for myself or pleasure.
for my family and friends. i. True
i. True ii. False
ii. False 10. I wish I had more time for some outside
3. No matter what I do, it seems that often every interests and hobbies, but I simply don't.
minute of every day is always scheduled for i. True
something. ii. False
i. True 11. I often feel exhausted, even early in the week.
ii. False i. True
4. Sometimes I feel as though I've lost sight of ii. False
who I am and why I chose this job/career. 12. I can't remember the last time I went to the
i. True movies or visited a museum or attended some other
ii. False cultural event.
5. I can't remember the last time I was able to i. True
find the time to take a day off to do something ii. False
fun-something just for me. 13. I do what I do because so many people
i. True (children, partners, parents) depend on me for
ii. False support.
6. I feel stressed out most of the time. i. True
i. True ii. False
ii. False 14. I've missed many of my family's important
7. I can't even remember the last time I used all events because of work-related time pressures and
my allotted vacation and personal days. responsibilities.
i. True i. True
ii. False ii. False
8. It sometimes feels as though I never even have 15. I almost always bring work home with me.
a chance to catch my breath before I have to move i. True
on to the next project/crisis. ii. False

How to score yourself:


0-2 Your life is in pretty good balance; just be sure to do what you can to guard that balance.
3-5 Your work/life balance is teetering on the edge; now is the time to make changes before the
problems overwhelm you.
5+ Your life is out of balance; you need to take immediate action to make changes in your work
and your life before things start crashing around you.

Source: Hansen, R.S. 2004. Work/life balance quiz scoring. [Online] Available: http://www.quintcareers.com/
work-life_balance_quiz_scoring.html.

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Role of HR
HR department can play a crucial role in implementing
policies and practices that aids reduce work stress and
work-life imbalance. Few initiatives that HR can bring
forth are listed below.
 Reduce unnecessary burden of fixed timings at work
- If some of the work can be done even at home during
office hours, enable the professionals to do so.
For example giving flexibility for employees to join
teleconferencing from home is a possibility.
 Implement flexi timings - Focus on the work output
rather than the time spent in the office.
 Reduce bureaucracy - Unnecessary time spent on
procedural issues like approvals should be reduced.
 Allow women employees to work from home
especially during pregnancy and immediately after
childbirth.
 Child care facilities - As child birth and child care is
seen as a major reason why women quit jobs, providing
the best facilities at work can help retain them.
 Facilitating fun and relaxation - Parties and fun at
work place can provide some relief to the professionals.
Also leave option for traveling with family and
compulsory offs after fixed time of continuous work
should be implemented.
 Providing health facilities at work place - Many large
organizations have health club facilities in the work place.
However it is important that individuals are encouraged
to use them.
 Provision for taking breaks during work hours.
 Building a culture of ownership - Getting the work
done through constant coercion and bossing should be
avoided and discouraged.
 Providing facilities that aid travel related to work,
education of children, relocation related to work etc.
Clearly the stress at work and time spent on
bureaucratic procedures at work place can be reduced
to aid productivity of time crunched professionals.
In conclusion, we note that the issues related to work
life imbalance is prone to grow in the Indian scenario.
As our businesses try to be more competitive, the
pressure on the professionals will keep increasing. It is
imperative and high time that we spend enough efforts
on understanding how to balance work and non work
activities. The search for success without caring for
personal health and family happiness may sound doom
in the near future. The solution lies with sound planning
at individual level and initiatives from the organizations
to aid productivity of the new age employees. HC

Anilkumar C. S is the Vice president- Corporate HR of Accel Transmatic Ltd,


Trivandrum. He was one of the promoters of Ushus Technologies Private Limited,
Technopark Trivandrum, which recently merged with Accel Transmatic Ltd. He
has rich experience in the manufacturing and software services industries. He
is involved in various training programmes including work-life balance. He is
also involved in teaching at the MBA level. He can be contacted at
anilkumarcs@yahoo.com
Sandeep K.Krishnan is a student of the Indian Institute of Management,
Ahmedabad pursuing Fellow Programme in Management. His area of study is
Personnel and Industrial Relations. He has published articles as book chapters
and in various journals of repute. He can be contacted at
sandeepk@iimahd.ernet.in

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