For decades, employees have been struggling to balance their work and private lives. Factors that contributed to a bad work-life balance were more responsibilities at work and / or at home, longer work hours, and having children, to name a few. Having a good work-life balance results in less stress, lower burnout rates, and an increased sense of well-being. During the last decade, employers have come to realize that providing environments that support work-life balance for their employees not only benefits the well-being of their workforce, but also results in lower absence and churn rates since employees would be more loyal and productive. Employers and HR departments implemented various strategies to promote the work-life balance concept, including telecommuting and flexible work hours (flex working).
At first glance, this approach seems to make sense and worked well in some cases. For instance, the Australian Telework Advisory Committee (ATAC) found in 2012 that telework reduced OPEX (rent, maintenance, parking, travel, etc.), increased efficiency, made the workforce more inclusive (adding rural areas-based and disabled workers), and made employees happier with their work. However, in many cases, it also had a reverse effect. To enable employees to work from home or flexible hours, the line between private and work life became blurry. Work and non-work activities started to overlap, especially with the use of digital tools such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. As a result, it became hard for employees to set boundaries, stick to work hours, and prioritize activities.
Employers, on the other hand, found out that not all employees have the same work-life balance goals. HR departments were tasked with finding out what the objectives of each employee were and how the company could help to determine them, such as working remotely a couple of days per week or changing their daily work schedule. Overall, companies struggled to combine policy, support for the individual employee, and cultural change (David Clutterbuck, April 2003).
Fast-forwarding to 2020, the work-life balance changed almost overnight when the COVID-19 pandemic made its presence felt around the world. Suddenly, all non-essential workers started to work from home (WFH) during consecutive lockdowns. The availability of information and communication technologies made it possible for them to perform the tasks normally done in the workplace. Although some employees preferred WFH to keep a better work-life balance, some employers were concerned that productivity would decline in a time when many companies are struggling to survive.
In the time of Covid-19, coordinating work and family demands by setting boundaries to maintain a physical, temporal and psychological equilibrium has become even more difficult. This conflict between work and personal life demands has magnified emotional exhaustion. It has become possible to keep these domains separate from each other. That’s why we have seen a shift from work-life balance to work-life integration. By integrating work and non-work activities, spending time and energy to conduct these activities in parallel has become manageable. But to integrate these different domains, employees must be able to manage the time, location, and quantity of work. A flexible work arrangement will integrate work and life and enable the balance between them.
Technology has a positive impact on work-life integration, making it easier to manage work and private life by creating an in-office culture while working from home to boost productivity.
Technology helps employees work smarter by connecting them with their team across borders and collaborating on projects. The right digital tools do not only have a positive impact on the work itself, but also increase output and boosts revenues for the company. These digital tools must therefore be smartly deployed to make the work environment seamless across spaces. This must also enable employees to find new ways to separate their business from their private life and communications. This means that the company must support phone communications as well as corporate resources by deploying digital tools to automate operations and adapt to the current situation, including access to the corporate CRM, call recording, and other systems.
With no time to prepare or plan (hardly any organization had factored a global pandemic into its business continuity planning), organizations had to provide these digital tools almost overnight in March 2020, putting technology interfaces in place to support working from home while deploying policies, practices, and processes to ensure work-life integration. Companies had to deploy a different set of IT capabilities for collaboration (chat, voice, virtual meetings, screen-sharing, teleconferencing, etc.) and for access to the corporate network using remote access services. More importantly, the digital tools must also allow for establishing a work schedule/routine had to that avoids blending home time and work time.
However, with remote workers using their own or company-issued laptops and smartphones, separating private and business calls and messaging interactions has become an issue, not in the least due to the stringent privacy laws. For example, recording business communications and entering them into the CRM or call recording system is a challenge since the employees use their devices – including their cell phones – outside of the corporate network and telephone system. To address this issue, a solution such as mobile2CRM is called for. Such a solution only captures – records and stores – business-related or service/support-related conversations in the CRM and call recording systems for later references and more analysis using more sophisticated AI-based BI systems for example without any privacy violation issues regardless of whether the employee uses a company-issued or they use their own BYOD phone. It is a powerful digital tool for solidifying work-life integration, benefitting both employers and employees.
For example, a major financing firm was faced with its support center staff working from home. Calls still needed to be recorded, even on BYOD cell phones and tablets, while complying with employee privacy regulations. The firm used Mobile2CRM to protect its staff’s privacy by introducing a virtual business profile that included a virtual number, messaging app, and SMS on the cellphones of the support staff. This enabled them to record and later access the customer call recordings using their own cellphone. In addition, this functionality provided analysis and performance improvement tools, such as reports and call recording data. Apart from optimizing performance and increasing effectiveness, it also gave peace of mind that no personal information would be captured and recorded by the firm.
To make working from home, on the road, or any other out-of-office location effective and to support work-life integration, a solution that keeps business and private cellular communication completely separate is a must. The solution allows employees to better integrate their work and private lives while resting assured that their privacy is protected.