Is work-life balance really balanced? At the moment, the answer is… no.

Mar 31, 2022 | Blog

Our Chief Commercial Officer Kim Fenton was recently interviewed on the 2CC radio station regarding the topic of work-life balance. To listen to the interview, please click the file below.

 

Since coming out of the COVID-19 lockdowns across Australia, there’s been a massive shift to so called ‘work-life balance’ as a priority. However, it seems it’s not really balance we’re talking about. It’s actually a one-way shift, and in the end it won’t be good for anyone.

Firstly, let’s define work and life. For the purposes of this article, work is the service you provide for an income. Life is everything outside the service you provide for an income.

Post COVID, work-life balance has been defined in very stringent terms. Work can never interfere with life. If it ever does, that is considered unhealthy. In contrast, life is absolutely allowed to interfere with work. In fact, it’s encouraged.

So, how does this impact, who does it impact, and who will pay for it?

The How:

This one-way shift of life over work 100% of the time means productivity will decrease. I hear a lot of talk about how much more productive we all are post COVID, and I’m looking for evidence to support these claims. Sadly, I can’t find much in any sector. I see shops that are short staffed, restaurants that are closed some days, and schools with no teachers for some classes. I see standards of customer service decreasing and wait times for goods and services blowing out. And the way companies explain this decrease in service? “Oh, it’s COVID.”

They’re not lying. But it’s not the actual virus wreaking havoc. It’s the ‘human behaviour’ component of COVID. Employers across Australia are experiencing this almost without exception. We have enough people in the country, they’re not all infected with the virus, not even close, and yet there are chronic staff shortages. Many companies can’t find staff to hire, and when they do, the commitment to show up each day often isn’t there.

The Who:

It impacts us all, in varying ways:

1.      The business – large scale staff shortages lead to decreased productivity, decreased income, increased operating costs, decreased wage growth and decreased efficiency. It becomes more expensive to run a business.

2.      The employee – the increased inefficiencies means employers have to hire more staff to get the same job done, to compensate for all the time off everyone is having to ensure work never inconveniences us. This means the opportunity to offer pay increases is decreased because more people need to get paid for the same or lesser outcomes.

3.      The consumer – increased staff and operating costs need to be passed on to the consumer meaning we all pay more for less.

4.      The economy – if businesses operate inefficiently and costs rise, that has a negative impact on inflation, the value of the Australian dollar and our economy as a whole.

So who pays?

In the end, everyone. The economy, the employer, the employee and the consumer.

There should never be a time when family or health is compromised for work… ever. We all know life has to be in good order to ensure people are happy and secure and able to contribute positively in all aspects of their lives including work.

At the same time, we need the return of actual balance. Right now the chips are down. Many businesses, big and small, are struggling to emerge from the economic walloping they have experienced. Some have already folded; more will soon follow. We need a return of the ‘group mentality’ if we’re going to save the day.

The shift towards prioritising each individual at the expense of the success of the group is dangerous ground. History shows, from the dark ages to more modern times, when individuals work towards benefits for their group, everyone benefits. The group is then in a position to look after the individuals in it, which they must do. That is true balance.

There are a lot of self-assessed claims of increased productivity out there right now. People deciding for themselves they’re so much more productive. As a customer, I really am looking for visual or experiential business outcomes that support those claims across many sectors, including my local baker who was closed today due to staff shortages. Although an unpopular stance, I just can’t find many examples of this alleged increased productivity. Just because people say they’re more productive doesn’t mean they are. Financial and service outcomes I see and experience every day just do not support these claims.

As individuals, we may not realise the impact of our reduced productivity. To the group, it is devastating. The only way to stem the current economic crisis we are all in at present is to work our way out of it, with everyone showing up, working efficiently, and being supported by their company in return. There really is no other way to save our economy, our country and our future.

Thank you to those of you who show up every day and give it your all. You are utterly inspirational and I am grateful.

This article was written by our Chief Commercial Officer Kim Fenton.