Search

COMMENTARY
HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Published: 11 Jun 13
1837 views


John Henderson

Why flexibility is important to work-life balance

BY JOHN HENDERSON

There's no dispute about the desirability of work-life balance. Without it, health and relationships suffer, stress levels soar, and work productivity falters. There's plenty of research to illustrate these ill-effects.

Less black and white is the issue of what work-life balance is. More than half of people say they have turned down a job because of concerns about its impact on work-life balance but each person may define work-life balance differently. One person's 'demanding but interesting job' is another person's 'relentless treadmill'.

Are long hours always detrimental? 
A good example of a grey area in work-life balance is working hours. Intuitively, one would say that work-life balance necessitates shorter hours, but there are stats that appear to confound this.

There's a good example in the latest Regus Work-Life Balance Index. In the Index the three major economies with the highest work-life balance are Mexico, India and Brazil, all of them significantly above the global average. Yet, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, employees in Mexico and Brazil are more likely to work very long hours than the OECD average (India is not included in the OECD study). Indeed, Mexico has some of the longest average working hours in the OECD. So there's more to work-life balance than not spending too long at the office.

Flexibility is key to well-being
One factor is control and people's freedom to choose how hard they work. The Regus Work-Life Balance Index shows that business owners appear to enjoy better work-life balance than their employees: 74% of business owners enjoy work more than they did a year ago, compared with 66% of employees. The difference is that business owners can make their own decisions about where, when and how much they work.

The logical extension is that employers should offer this choice to their staff - letting employees adapt their working hours to fit their lifestyles, and giving them flexibility over work locations in order to help them cut their commuting. As well as facilitating a more harmonious work-life balance, flexible working has a lower environmental impact.

Location flexibility matters as much as time flexibility
Offering a choice of work locations is especially helpful in metropolitan areas. With urban sprawl and worsening traffic congestion making commuting ever more time-consuming, allowing employees to work closer to home frees up hours each week - time they may use for work as well as non-work activities.

At Regus locations all over the world, we're seeing more and more usage by people who are working away from their main office locations for some or all of the week, and using our local business centres instead. In the process, Regus, the world's largest provider of flexible workplaces, is helping customers from a one-man-band to the world's largest company to be more productive, and we're giving them the flexibility - and freed-up time - to work their way.

Unfortunately, businesses still have a way to go. Just under half (49%) of participants in the Regus Work-Life Balance Index say employers are doing more to help reduce commuting. It's a sizeable percentage, and higher than the previous year, but, even so, more than half of respondents don't feel that companies are addressing the problem.

A tool for talent retention ... and more
During a time of economic stress in developing countries, it's tempting for employers to say "Not right now" on the issue of more flexibility. But when key personnel can be the difference between corporate success or struggle, it is crucial to let staff work in ways and places that suit them.

Without flexible working, key staff may leave - especially those in Generation Y who have less corporate loyalty. Moreover, with 72% of businesses globally saying that flexible working improves their productivity, the benefits could extend beyond talent retention.

So the message for businesses of all sizes is: don't delay in giving choice or control over working hours and locations. And whilst we're on the subject, there are a few other elements to consider as well:

• Make use of technology, and of providers that can help you access it. For example, Regus offers products such as video-communication and Businessworld that can help workers to cut commuting and business travel, and work where and when they want.

• Ensure that 24/7 mobile technology doesn't force work into people's personal lives. In research in Hong Kong, over four in ten workers had negative sentiments about the impact of technology on work-life balance. People complained they could never really switch off, even while asleep or on holiday.

• Consider device flexibility (for example, choice of phones and tablets, access to social media) as well as flexibility over working hours and locations. Two-fifths of Generation Y-ers have said this is so important to them, they would accept a lower-paid job for it.

• Learn from the young. The Regus Work-Life Balance Index found that Gen X (born 1965-80) and Gen Y workers (born 1980-) enjoy better work-life balance than Baby Boomers. This may be because they have already asked for and obtained flexible working. In a survey of recent graduates, 70% expected some flexible working in their jobs. Given that, in the Regus index, 81% of younger workers achieve more at work than they used to, compared with 69% of older workers, we could all learn from their example.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

John Henderson

John Henderson

John has been with Regus for 12 years. Initially beginning as Director for Best Practice in London, he soon moved to Australia to help set-up the Regus Asia-Pacific office. After almost five years of development, he moved with the Asia-Pacific office to Hong Kong and has been based there ever since.

Contact Information



Sign up for our newsletter

 

Do you know more about this story? Contact us anonymously through this link.

Click here to learn about advertising, content sponsorship, events & rountables, custom media solutions, whitepaper writing, sales leads or eDM opportunities with us.

To get a media kit and information on advertising or sponsoring click here.

Tags: flexibility, work-life balance, Regus Work-Life Balance Index

LATEST HR & EDUCATION JOBS »
  • No jobs posted on this category.
PRINT ISSUE »

Subscribe Now
Singapore singled out in Asia for weak M&A appetite

329 views

Is the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail project still on the right track?

777 views

The changing taste of Asian art collectors bodes well for the Western art market

54 views

MOST READ EXCLUSIVES

Here are the credit card deals you shouldn't miss during the Great Singapore Sale 2015

Here are the credit card deals you shouldn\'t miss during the Great Singapore Sale 2015

The GSS begins today.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
29 May 2015 | 29486 views
 

Bosch’s cutting-edge regional HQ is one of the greenest buildings you’ll find in Singapore

Bosch’s cutting-edge regional HQ is one of the greenest buildings you’ll find in Singapore

It boasts an automated sun-shading system.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
7 Jul 2015 | 14385 views

This retired banker's fintech startup makes complicated wealth management a piece of cake

This retired banker\'s fintech startup makes complicated wealth management a piece of cake

Mesitis provides low-cost aggregated wealth reporting for all investors.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
25 May 2015 | 9487 views
 

Husband and wife duo ditch plum banking jobs to shake up Singapore’s HR scene

Husband and wife duo ditch plum banking jobs to shake up Singapore’s HR scene

This small start-up has global dreams.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
8 Jul 2015 | 9083 views

10 smart ways to spend your GST Vouchers

10 smart ways to spend your GST Vouchers

Regardless of how much you spend, aim to spend it well.

by KRISANA GALLEZO-ESTAURA
8 Jul 2015 | 7889 views
 

Cocoa Colony to open 12 more outlets in Singapore by end-2015

Cocoa Colony to open 12 more outlets in Singapore by end-2015

The cafe chain seeks to target the masses.

by KRISANA GALLEZO-ESTAURA
21 Jul 2015 | 7317 views

Check out this quaint co-working space that occupies 5 conservation shophouses

Check out this quaint co-working space that occupies 5 conservation shophouses

It has private offices, an events space, and even a beer garden.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
22 May 2015 | 4953 views
 

TAIGER’s office bids goodbye to claustrophobia-inducing cubicles

TAIGER’s office bids goodbye to claustrophobia-inducing cubicles

Walls and windows function as a big canvas.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
15 Jul 2015 | 4289 views

Hootsuite boosts its APAC team opening a new office in Singapore

Hootsuite boosts its APAC team opening a new office in Singapore

Its VP talks about the importance of the company’s culture in line with opening the new space.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
18 Jun 2015 | 3040 views
 

Get bitten by the travel bug in Skyscanner’s quirky Asia-Pacific headquarters

Get bitten by the travel bug in Skyscanner’s quirky Asia-Pacific headquarters

Meeting rooms are named after Asian tourist spots.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
5 Jun 2015 | 3014 views

Bye bye blurry video calls: Here’s a WebRTC startup that offers close to HD video quality using any device

Bye bye blurry video calls: Here’s a WebRTC startup that offers close to HD video quality using any device

Find out how they are building the next generation of web communications.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
2 Jun 2015 | 2378 views
 

HAITE Group launches its first aviation training center in Singapore

HAITE Group launches its first aviation training center in Singapore

It is the first major investment by a Chinese aerospace firm.

by KRISANA GALLEZO-ESTAURA
13 May 2015 | 2014 views

El Mero Mero founder says Mexican food is not just about tacos and burritos

El Mero Mero founder says Mexican food is not just about tacos and burritos

See how a former legal professional pursued his passion for food.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
26 May 2015 | 1802 views
 

This handy app lets you book nearly any service under the sun

This handy app lets you book nearly any service under the sun

Find technicians, babysitters and more with Page Advisor.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
8 Jun 2015 | 1413 views

CtrlShift’s new office exudes a ‘wow-effect’ without being too grand

CtrlShift’s new office exudes a ‘wow-effect’ without being too grand

Paying attention to small details paid off.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
29 Jul 2015 | 1283 views
 

PwC Singapore launches its first Investment Fund Centre in Asia

PwC Singapore launches its first Investment Fund Centre in Asia

Expanding its presence in the asset management sector across Asian region.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
29 Jun 2015 | 1265 views

Singapore retailers turn to technology to boost productivity

Singapore retailers turn to technology to boost productivity

Shopping for the first child is always challenging for the parents.

by STAFF REPORTER
15 May 2015 | 1235 views
 

This app is out to prove that Singapore is anything but boring

This app is out to prove that Singapore is anything but boring

And Sugar helps SMEs in the process too.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
2 Jun 2015 | 1221 views

Hey, boss: This startup wants to be your all-around sidekick

Hey, boss: This startup wants to be your all-around sidekick

Alpha7 wants SMEs to join the Cloud.

by STAFF REPORTER
16 Jun 2015 | 1198 views
 

How do you like getting cash rebates when shopping online?

How do you like getting cash rebates when shopping online?

ShopBack introduces this concept in Southeast Asia.

by STAFF REPORTER
21 Jul 2015 | 1110 views

Get your head in the game: Testing challenges await the Internet of Things

Get your head in the game: Testing challenges await the Internet of Things

Industry experts share their concerns over security and testing standards.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
4 Jun 2015 | 1108 views
 

Need some help? This app lets you book a cleaner in five minutes flat

Need some help? This app lets you book a cleaner in five minutes flat

Sendhelper is the new breed of booking apps.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
26 May 2015 | 975 views

Leave your valuables unattended: This on-demand cleaning service offers $1m liability insurance

Leave your valuables unattended: This on-demand cleaning service offers $1m liability insurance

Book a reliable cleaner in seconds with Helpling.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
22 Jun 2015 | 948 views
 

Former strategy advisor reveals aspirations with his newest mobile app startup

Former strategy advisor reveals aspirations with his newest mobile app startup

Rediscover and fall in love with your city all over again.

by LEE ANNE BABIERRA
22 May 2015 | 921 views

Grant Thornton aims to grow staff to 200-300 people in Singapore

Grant Thornton aims to grow staff to 200-300 people in Singapore

Here’s what it will do differently compared to the Big Four.

by KRISANA GALLEZO-ESTAURA
29 Jul 2015 | 783 views
 

Asian corporates face tough balancing act as sustainability issues mount

Asian corporates face tough balancing act as sustainability issues mount

Discover the changing face of Asian CSR.

by MARIANNE ESTIOCO
1 Jul 2015 | 555 views
close Don't Show Again

STAY INFORMED! Get our free weekly newsletter