Search

COMMENTARY
HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Published: 11 Jun 13
1562 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
    What factors are keeping expats rooted in Singapore?

    438 views

    What factors are keeping expats rooted in Singapore?

    459 views

    Can Asian private equity outgrow the west?

    147 views

    MOST READ EXCLUSIVES

    Singapore’s 10 most sought-after 40 and under investors

    Singapore’s 10 most sought-after 40 and under investors

    Check out who made the cut.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    19 Dec 2014 | 46249 views
     

    Singapore’s first permanent lifestyle market opens in Bukit Timah

    Singapore’s first permanent lifestyle market opens in Bukit Timah

    Over 20 brands and labels are gathered together under one roof.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    5 Jan 2015 | 33257 views

    Singapore’s top 5 work from home jobs

    Singapore’s top 5 work from home jobs

    Here are jobs that you can do while sitting on your couch or in your favorite coffee shop.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    11 Dec 2014 | 31416 views
     

    Singapore Business Review’s 2014 Class of 40 and under

    Singapore Business Review’s 2014 Class of 40 and under

    Meet a summa cumlaude graduate who rises from poverty to become JP Morgan’s head of corporate finance.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    12 Jan 2015 | 29792 views

    Find out the 10 most expensive districts to rent an HDB flat in Singapore

    Find out the 10 most expensive districts to rent an HDB flat in Singapore

    Glitzy Bukit Timah is off the list.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    19 Dec 2014 | 27658 views
     

    Singapore’s hot new restaurants in December

    Singapore’s hot new restaurants in December

    Japanese restos take over Singapore’s sizzling dining scene.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    17 Dec 2014 | 9653 views

    This food hub in Seah Street brings a throwback experience to dining

    This food hub in Seah Street brings a throwback experience to dining

    It offers an exciting lunch menu which changes every week.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    16 Jan 2015 | 6472 views
     

    Singapore’s first news aggregation app attracts 1 million users in two years

    Singapore’s first news aggregation app attracts 1 million users in two years

    Stay in the loop with news and lifestyle content from SBR and 600 other publishers.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    10 Dec 2014 | 3349 views

    Too many business cards? Why don’t you try Sansan’s business card management service?

    Too many business cards? Why don’t you try Sansan’s business card management service?

    After Singapore, this contract management company plans to expand in the APAC region.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    12 Feb 2015 | 2822 views
     

    This startup created the world’s first bed sensor technology

    This startup created the world’s first bed sensor technology

    No more patients accidentally falling off hospital beds.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    14 Jan 2015 | 2778 views

    Go inside the gorgeous new headquarters of Ingredion in Singapore

    Go inside the gorgeous new headquarters of Ingredion in Singapore

    Its state-of-the-art kitchen space is not to be missed.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    18 Dec 2014 | 2630 views
     

    Check out this integrated office cum lab of Friesland Campina in Singapore

    Check out this integrated office cum lab of Friesland Campina in Singapore

    A curved glass wall resulted in a 90% open-plan office.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    17 Feb 2015 | 2613 views

    Spencer Ogden gets funky with its newest trademark space in Singapore

    Spencer Ogden gets funky with its newest trademark space in Singapore

    The company invested over $1M to make this signature office possible.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    5 Feb 2015 | 2580 views
     

    What Singaporean investors can expect from Okinawa’s development

    What Singaporean investors can expect from Okinawa’s development

    A 40% tax cut in setting up business is expected to lure investors.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    12 Dec 2014 | 2262 views

    Meet INSEAD’s new chairman of the board

    Meet INSEAD’s new chairman of the board

    Find out how Andreas Jacobs plans to bring “business as a force for good”.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    14 Jan 2015 | 2250 views
     

    Jack Wills opens its first store in Singapore

    Jack Wills opens its first store in Singapore

    A 'fun' brand that values the Brit vibe. Put your game face on!

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    10 Dec 2014 | 2014 views

    The future of innovation: What’s next after Facebook and Twitter?

    The future of innovation: What’s next after Facebook and Twitter?

    A video version of Twitter might be under way.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    11 Dec 2014 | 1822 views
     

    What it’s like going into business with your significant other

    What it’s like going into business with your significant other

    A couple who founded an artisanal food outlet, P.Bistro, shares experience.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    9 Jan 2015 | 1777 views

    This could be your best pal when no one’s around to help during an emergency

    This could be your best pal when no one’s around to help during an emergency

    TagBio's ID-Life features accessories with critical info embedded in QR codes.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    16 Dec 2014 | 1529 views
     

    PocketMath makes buying mobile ad impressions easier

    PocketMath makes buying mobile ad impressions easier

    It integrates over 20 ad exchanges and offers over 20B impressions a day.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    9 Feb 2015 | 1335 views

    SFIC Institute's new training hub overhauls carpenters' career image

    SFIC Institute\'s new training hub overhauls carpenters\' career image

    It’s the first carpentry training center in Singapore’s furniture industry.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    10 Dec 2014 | 1326 views
     

    Kungfumath wants to revamp boring e-learning portals

    Kungfumath wants to revamp boring e-learning portals

    “Play with numbers” in its literal sense.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    5 Dec 2014 | 1309 views

    The heat is on: This office literally gets a bit hot for their green drive

    The heat is on: This office literally gets a bit hot for their green drive

    Discover how they execute their green initiatives in the office.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    22 Jan 2015 | 1285 views
     

    MetLife builds its first global R&D hub

    MetLife builds its first global R&D hub

    It bills itself as a first-of-its-kind innovation centre for the insurance industry.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    26 Jan 2015 | 1253 views

    FTMSGlobal Academy Singapore launches new weekend MBA

    FTMSGlobal Academy Singapore launches new weekend MBA

    The course fee is below $20,000.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    8 Jan 2015 | 1047 views
     

    Here’s how migrants can be sure their loved ones back home paid the doctor a visit

    Here’s how migrants can be sure their loved ones back home paid the doctor a visit

    This NRI-focused startup also gives migrants monthly feedback from the doctor.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    7 Jan 2015 | 961 views

    ENVision campaign‘s ‘hard truth’ could make you think twice

    ENVision campaign‘s ‘hard truth’ could make you think twice

    Singapore might run out of space for trash by 2035 and more.

    by KRISANA GALLEZO
    15 Dec 2014 | 770 views
     
    close Don't Show Again

    STAY INFORMED! Get our free weekly newsletter