Today’s increasing reliance on new and evolving information technology in employment has given new meaning to the term work-life balance.
That's because the 21st century proliferation of digital/mobile IT tools to do our jobs is radically transforming how and when we work in fundamental ways. The question now is whether the transition to the virtual workplace will be a smooth or bumpy road?
The IT revolution has allowed many companies to become more competitive and efficient by liberating high-performing employees with new flexibility for important family and caregiver responsibilities. That's due in large part to more employers embracing mobile/digital work strategies for eligible employees, primarily remote work (aka telecommuting or telework).
Benefits to Employers & Society
Many studies have shown this modern approach to work has proven successful in boosting employee productivity, job satisfaction, health, morale and engagement. At the same time, employees are being held more accountable and companies are saving money by consolidating or eliminating expensive office space.
There's also the added benefit to society of helping the environment by reducing pollution via time consuming gas guzzling commutes. Moreover, family-friendly and flexible business practices are a valuable incentive to attract a new generation of workers, especially Millennials, whose strong desire to strike the appropriate work-life balance may be non-negotiable.
Embracing the Virtual Workplace
The new workplace reality is clear, regardless of whether employers choose to accept or reject it. That is, the antiquated brick-and-mortar workplace paradigm is shifting to a virtual business model, one in which work is defined more by what one does and less by where and when one does it.
The old-school ways of doing business are neither practical nor productive at the dawn of a new century in which mobile/digital technology has become an integral part of the work culture.
Progressive employers in the public and private sectors understand that the future is now. Many have acted accordingly by embracing virtual work practices to simultaneously enhance employee productivity while also improving the increasingly important work-life balance.
Good News, Bad News
The good news is that many employees are being empowered to work smarter, faster and more productively via the virtual workplace.
The bad news is that failure to disconnect may also decimate the very distinction between work and family time.
To wit: many employees can’t seem to break away from checking their smartphones and tablets 24/7 and responding during off duty hours. Therefore, as work-life policies become more ingrained in the work culture, we need to be mindful that constant connectivity takes a toll on one’s health, family and relationships.
Where to Draw the Line
According to the esteemed Mayo Clinic: "When your work life and personal life are out of balance, your stress level is likely to soar.” This in turn may result in any number of serious physical and mental health risks for employees which hinder bottom line productivity while increasing absenteeism and health care costs for employers.
So where should the line be drawn between leveraging high-tech tools to improve the work-life balance while also making sure that employees know when to disconnect?
Some leading high-tech companies like Google are taking a scientific approach to address such questions by conducting massive workforce studies.
The bottom-line is how to make the work-life balance mutually beneficial to employers and employees alike in today's hyper-connected information age.
And therein lies the real challenge ahead.
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Note: This post first appeared on LinkedIn.
* All views and opinions are those of the author only.