We talk about it a lot, but does a ‘work-life balance’ really exist? What does it mean for people – and is it even a remote possibility in our age of hyper-connectivity?

Over the last decade, technology has become an even bigger part of our working lives, with companies regularly giving employees mobile phones,  laptops, and occasionally tablets. Many employees in the Netherlands also use these connected devices for personal reasons outside of office hours, further blurring the lines between work and free time.

What has this done for our impression of a balanced life?

This blurring of the lines between what constitutes ‘work’ and what makes up ‘free time’ has an impact on happiness. How does this topic make today's working population feel about their professional life – and their private one?

PageGroup decided to investigate this phenomenon by conducting a survey in June 2018 of 588 professionals in the Netherlands. The results show significant levels of ‘blurring between what constitutes their work life and their ‘free time´ with more than 33% of professionals and in the Netherlands more than 48 percent of managers working often outside of office hours, in the evening or at night.

More employees equipped with professional connected devices

It appears the old saying ‘always on call’ has never been so true. Over 71% of respondents are equipped with at least one device (mobile, laptop, tablet) from their company. When asked about what they use the laptop for, overall 59% said they only use it for professional purposes. However, the more senior a profile, the more the lines of separation blur, with 51% of managers saying they use the device for both professional and personal use. More than 53% of all employees use their phone for both professional and personal purposes.

Are employees ‘prisoners’ of their devices?

65% of people agree that their work devices have changed their lives, with 29% saying it was a positive change. The data shows that professional life really is encroaching on the personal. Over 52% of people answer their emails and more than 41% take business calls outside of office hours every day. Is this really the ‘new normal’ for busy office workers and executives? Why?

Two main ideas point to why employees connect outside of hours – responsibility (60%) and obligation (24%). Interestingly, the split between these two ideas differs when it comes to gender, with 32% of women feeling obliged to stay connected compared to 20% of men, whereas 69% of men are motivated by a sense of responsibility to be available, as opposed to 44% of women.

57% of people work during their holidays

Interestingly, 46% of respondents said they sometimes work during their vacation period, and 11% often. Even if this is a simple check of an inbox, or answering a phone call (or two), does this mean that disconnecting from work is a growing challenge in the 21st century?

European and Dutch labour laws are there to protect employees from overworking, stress and burnout, but are they fit for purpose? One route to help both the employer and the employee find that balance is remote working.  

Remote working: a good compromise?

Remote working lets employees work outside the office, normally on a voluntary basis, by using the connected devices that the company provides them.

A benefit to remote work for the employee (manager or non-manager) is the increase in control they have over their schedule – meaning that they can balance their workload with their other responsibilities.

Although this practice is widely known, from the study we see that 76% managers currently enjoy this perk more than employees who don´t hold a management role (67%).

About the study

Sample: the survey was conducted among a sample of 588 people in the Netherlands, including unemployed people, employees, and managers.

Methodology: the representativeness of the sample assured by an adjustment of the data (gender, occupation of the interviewee, proportion of people in a job).

Collection method: the interviews consisted of self-administered questionnaires completed online from over June 2018.

Discover more tips about how to improve your working life in our advice section.

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