Individuals, managers and families have to learn to accept the new phenomenon and adapt to the new working styles.
By Uma Ganesh
As we commence the new year and draw up the talent development plan for the workforce, one major shift that we see is the recognition by both employers and employees that the focus is no longer around work life balance but integration. Thanks to digital technology led communications and process frameworks, it is now accepted that it is not possible to simply cut off from work once you reach home. Similarly, urgent matters related to your children cannot wait until you get home. Completing one phase of activity to resume another is a thing of the past. With work chasing global time zones and work from home becoming a reality in many organisations, overlapping of work and personal spaces have become the norm and hence seamless work/ life integration is the new goalpost for people.
Individuals, managers and families have to learn to accept this new phenomenon and adapt to the new working styles. Concentrated training is required to orient the employees on social and emotional adjustments as well as the methods and systems for ensuring that the ball is not dropped for the business goals to be achieved. This orientation is necessary not just for employees but also for their families to help them cope with work situations and accept that work will follow their family at home or during holidays and they have a role to play in creating a conducive environment as much as the HR managers are working towards making workplaces accommodative.
Digital technology is the primary driver for this shift taking place, at the same time digital tools need to be smartly deployed to make the work environment seamless across spaces. In order to support this new work methods, fresh thinking would be required on policies related to confidentiality, security, access, attendance, leave and business reviews. This may not be a surprise for some organisations as some senior level employees are already habituated to this type of working but work/ life integration needs to percolate very soon across multiple levels and this change management would require to be handled with extreme caution.
Training tools to support anytime-anywhere learning as well as just-in-time knowledge support with the help of digital platforms need to be planned well. Employee engagement will be of a different order in such a scenario and workforce profile may also change with more employees being on temporary roles or work for a specific number of hours in a day and thus get compensated by the hour. Compensation structure and incentive schemes to encourage people to be available for working in this format need to be redefined to support better work life integration.
Work/life integration is an approach that attempts to create synergies between all areas that define ‘life’, namely work, home, family, health and leisure. In order to make this approach work, organisations are moving away from fixed number of hours of work to flexi working with productivity being the goal. While millennials and a large part of the workforce are savvy with digital technologies and like to define their own work pace, enabling them for taking ownership of their work related responsibilities and deliverables at their own spaces, would be critical. Employees would require to be supported by mentorship and AI led coaching facilitated by metrics and deep analytics of peers as well as that of their own performance thus motivating them to prioritise areas of work and excel in their output.
In order to make work/life integration a success, HR managers should focus on the benefits individuals would be able to get and once the individuals embrace integrated work/life, organisations would be able to experience the positive outcome.
The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company