Blend overtakes balance

American workers are outdoing their British and Australian counterparts when it comes to working during personal time. Heather Greig-Smith asks if demarcation of work and personal life is desirable.

154751255_82951205ba_oResearch by Jive Software published this week claimed that more than 90% of workers in the US and Australia, and more than 88% of British employees report working during non-business hours. Some of them are doing more than 10 hours ‘extra’ – 37% of Americans, 27% of Australians and 18% of Brits.

Holidays are no longer sacrosanct either: of those who take holiday, 50% of US and 51% of Australian workers devote some time to work while they’re away – compared with 34% of their British counterparts.

Technology boost

Undoubtedly, this is because technology is making it easier to stay in touch. Jive said more than half of those employed in the US (62%) and Australia (51%) use their personal smartphones or tablets for work-related purposes, as do 36% of Brits.

Nathan Rawlins, vice president of product marketing at Jive, says this drive to work in personal time is bad news. “Employees around the globe are spending far too much time on unproductive work: sitting through unnecessary meetings, wading through endless email, and constantly searching for long-lost documents—leading to more people doing their actual jobs on off hours.”

However, research does show that Generation Y workers (those born after 1980) see work differently from their parents. In its Future of Work report out last week, Chess Media Group pointed to a culture shift whereby workers no longer sacrifice personal happiness for work. Instead they believe they can achieve personal happiness through work.

Work-life blend

Generation Y is looking for a satisfying work-life blend, rather than work-life balance. That’s why so many of them are entrepreneurial: they’re not looking to minimise work, they want to enjoy it. Employers now have to find ways of accommodating the needs and requirements of people who have grown up with social media and technology and who do not divide their work from their personal lives so definitely in those interactions.

A survey in 2012 by Millennial Branding found that members of Generation Y are connected with an average of 16 colleagues on Facebook – instead of moving between personal and professional personae, they’re blending the two. These workers will reply to emails out of work hours and will expect to be able to undertake a reasonable amount of personal tasks during the day. This is a far cry from the expectations many of their parents have about work and keeping it in its ‘proper’ box.

Part of the repayment for employers offering flexibility does seem to be that their employees work more than they have to. The iPass global mobile workforce survey found: “Almost all mobile workers stretch their workweek due to their flexible schedules. Employees who said they worked more because of their flexible work schedules reported putting in anywhere from five to 20 additional hours per week. Fifty-seven percent work at least an extra 10 hours a week because they are given flexibility. The extra hours don’t daunt mobile workers.”

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