What is the number one thing that comes up time and time again when speaking to candidates about what makes an opportunity attractive?
Salary increase? No.
Big bonus or OTE? Nope.
You’ve guessed it…Work life balance.
Every. Single. Time.
What does this mean? Why are people now valuing their time over their money? Willing to take a cut on their base salary or earning potential for the possibility of this elusive ‘work life balance…’
Journalists often like to brush these views off as just ‘millennials’…or perhaps those who have earned huge sums and now no longer need to worry about their finances? As an Executive Search Resourcer, speaking every day to candidates across multiple industries and experience levels, I can tell you it is not.
Are we becoming more ‘Nordic’ with our priorities? Or, with an increase in companies offering flexible working hours, unlimited holiday allowance and better paternity leave options – is it just that we are only now able to put our home life first?
In times gone by – the longer hours you worked, the more time spent chained to your desk, the better employee you supposedly were. It was something to be bragged about. On the most part – this view is finally changing. Sweden has cut down it’s working day to 6 hours and received higher productivity as a result. A study shows employees take less sick leave, have lower stress, work harder and feel more valued due to this change.
In contrast to this, how many times have you checked your email before or after work, taken your work phone or laptop away with you or answered client calls when with family or friends?
Should we all be ‘unplugging’ when we leave the office or integrating our work with our home life? Are these two principles mutually exclusive? Will working ‘smart not long’ with shorter hours and thus higher efficiency, proper breaks at work – leaving your desk and (gasp!) the building, makes us as happy as the Danes?
According to The Mental Health Foundation, we should be keeping a check of the hours spent thinking or worrying about work, in addition to the weekly working hours we put in, to correctly evaluate how balanced our working life is. The Norwegian working environment act from January 2006 emphasises that there is a time for job contribution and a time for rest, family life and free time.
With a reported figure of more than 40% of UK employees neglecting other aspects of their life because of work which may then increase their vulnerability to mental health issues, more than a quarter of employees (27%) feeling depressed when working long hours and one third feeling anxious (34%), – it’s hardly a wonder that the Nordic countries have a lower rate of employee sickness.
Add to that that countries such as Norway have not only a large sick day allowance, but also days if your children or elderly parents fall ill and I think we can begin to understand why employees feel more valued, trusted and able to leave their work stresses at work.
Traditionally, Norwegians are motivated by more by personal development and a good culture rather than financial or other quantitative rewards, a concept we are only now catching up to. Well known for their heavy tax rates – it is no surprise that health and home life scores highly on their list of priorities.
With pioneers such as Arianna Huffington (arguably one of the most influential women in the western world) promoting well-being as the answer to a successful career – as evidenced by her own health and professional experiences, and big-name brands such as Netflix and Virgin promoting unlimited holiday for staff (‘We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’ Netflix), it’s shocking that (in general), we as a Nation are so far behind
So, what does work / life balance mean to you? Getting home before seven? Not working weekends? Being able to nip off early one day a week to coach your sons football team?
And what would you sacrifice financially to gain this?
Or, more importantly in this day and age, should you have to sacrifice anything at all?
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