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The over emphasis on work life and inability to find time on other facets of life is having a high negative impact on social and personal life. What impact is the high stress level having on lives of IT business professionals? How can an adequate work life balance be achieved?
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balancing

work & life
By Anilkumar C.S & Sandeep K.Krishnan
ou are working 15 hours a day, traveling 2 or more days a week, spending less than a day at home with family, hooked to computer for more than 30 % of your work time and have a munch when ever you get time - welcome to the world of the new age professionals. When meeting targets is the prime concern, work world is no longer geographical time constrained, and increased competition demands faster outputs, it is imperative that you give your maximum to be in the game. The traditional 10-5 work timings only exist in select government organizations and in papers related to employment contracts. This generation of professionals accepts that work timings are driven by the work demands rather than preset office hours. In this article we examine the critical issue of worklife balance of new age professionals. The over emphasis on work life and inability to find time on other facets of life is having a high negative impact on social and personal life. Here we also share evidences of high stress level and low work-balance concerns of IT business professionals.

- the new age dilemma

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Work pressure - the root of the problem
If you were a traditional employee, the work clearly begins and ends during the office hours. The new age knowledge work demands stretch of work beyond the normal office hours. Putting forth the normal issues related to work overload, David Posen suggests that external demands from bosses/clients/coworkers, corporate culture, deadlines, internal drive to do more and fear of negative effects like bad performance review demands employees to do more than what is normally expected. The increasing emphases on team work especially in new age industries like IT imply that an employee stays with the team and participate even if his presence is not essential. Interestingly one IT professional noted

that though he completed most of his work, the project leader and other coworkers made sarcastic comments when he had to leave for home around 7 in the evening while the official requirement of working was only till 5 in the evening. Clearly we should also understand that the remaining team members and managers involved were spending their time till late night in the office. Mostly professionals blame the external factors like client requirements and deadlines for extended office hours. Increasing competition in various sectors especially service demands more outputs in lesser time. Essentially it boils down to increased working hours for the employees. The inability of professionals to say 'NO' while approached for taking up more responsibilities also leads to increased workload. Many perceive that showing reluctance to take up responsibilities/ not staying late in the office may lead to negative impact in performance appraisal and career progress. Adding to this, self driven individuals who are highly career oriented or perfectionists spend most of the time worrying about work quality or quantity. When quizzed about regular long working hours one junior professional replied "I have an ambition to work in US within 2 years. And for achieving this, I know I have to put in extra efforts". Another employee jokingly commented "I don't have an A/C or computer in my place of stay and in this hot climate it is better to be in office during night hours." The trend of spending more time in the office for a valid reason or otherwise slowly builds up addiction to work and detachment from normal social life. All these factors in total or specifically create the over emphasis of work life in an individuals available time. In a modern work environment, the technology related factors like time spend on responding to emails, bombardment of information and lack of physical activity as much of the time is spend on a computer work station also leads to work pressure and associated

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Top Management - IT Firm
Balanced 16% On the edge 21%
spheres - individual, family and the social circle. Clearly the increasing work load takes it toll on the health of the individual. Less time is spent on physical exercise and leisurely activities causing health related issues like obesity, increasing blood pressure and associated detrimental effects. Lack of sleep due to work stress can have a negative impact on productivity. Research has shown that work-life imbalance can cause lesser job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intention to remain. At an individual level the thoughts of spending less time with family/friends and lack of involvement in family/ social activities can also lead to tension and symptoms of withdrawal from work. At the family level, the guilt of less time spent with family related issues can add to the work stress. The problem is doubled if both the husband and wife are working. Making compromise usually falls with the woman of the house. For example in a family where both the husband and wife is working in a software firm, the wife notes "if he was not working in the same industry there was no way where he could have understood me working 15-17 hours. We really don't know how to manage after a child". Many new age professionals feel that extended work hours is taking a toll on the social network. Lack of time leads to missing key social functions and leisurely time spent with friends and relatives. One house owner in a locality near to one of the technoparks commented "we prefer to give our houses on rent to software professional couples. They use the house only for sleeping and the houses will remain just like it is not occupied". One manager who works with a large multinational firm says that he works atleast 15 hours a day and Sundays are generally spent sleeping or maximum an outing with the family. If email and mobile phone does not exist, there was no way to get in touch with even close friends and relatives. The above shown work life balance quiz was administered to two samples. The first sample consisted of a 19-member top management team of a major IT firm in Kerala. The results in the chart (Figure 1) clearly show that the majority was facing issues with work/life balance. 63% of the respondents faced trouble in

Out of balance 23%

Balanced On the edge Out of balance
stress. Poor culture of the organization that is reflected through internal politics, lack of support, lack of competence of supervisors/senior management and too much time spend on non core activities also lead to lack of time and work stress.

Impact of increased work pressure - work-life balance
On of the direct impact of the work pressure would be the negative effect on the work-life balance. Work - Life balance is generally understood by experts as the satisfaction and happiness both at home and work life without much conflict between each other. Apart from the home or family factor, research also looks at the time spend on non work activities in general. Clearly the increased work pressure might cause spending less time at home or non work related activities causing personal and social sufferings at those fronts. Research studies have found that most of the new age professionals especially knowledge workers spend more time at work and it directly impacts on the health of individuals and family life. Lesser time is devoted to personal health and leisurely activities. On the family front the time spent with family is also decreasing. The reasons for work-life imbalance apart from the external factor of work pressure may be due to the workaholic behavior or inability to compartmentalize work and non work activities. Individual may build up characteristics that make them not to free themselves from putting more and more at work causing sufferings at other fronts. Apart from this the work life and family life boundary gets blurred as individuals do not stop thinking about work at home. Many bring office issues at home and remain stressed. Sleep and time spent with family members/friends are compromised for spending time on doing extra work. Professionals may take time to finish pending work at home even when the time spent at home is less. The growing influence of technology in life has resulted in fact that people no longer remain disconnected. A week-end or evening after work is not left alone by emails/official communications.

HMO
Balanced 22% Out of balance 42%

On the edge 36%

Costs of work-life imbalance
The effect of work-life imbalance covers three major

Balanced On the edge Out of balance

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balancing work and non-work activities. The study revealed that the work life imbalance at the top management level is in dangerous level. Most of the employees at this level are working here after a long stint in US companies and they bring in with them the culture of overworking due to the demands of the environment. Here also they mainly deal with the US clients and this call for same kind of effort due to strict timelines they have to follow. Once this becomes the rule juniors are also not spared and slowly they will become prey to the culture of overworking. The same quiz was administered to a sample of 59 Homeopathy Medical Officers (HMO). As expected most them had a better work/life balance compared to IT business professionals. However interestingly we found that lady HMOs were having more trouble in managing work/life balance. Out of 42% who showed out of balance (Figure 2), around 95% were women doctors are suffering from acute level of work life imbalance. Cultural factors also play an important role. In Indian society, managing home and children and other home chores are still the duty of women. This puts an extra pressure on women professional like doctors, engineers, architects and other professionals.

Managing self
Though lot of external factors can contribute to the work-life imbalance, clearly defined work scheduling and ability to compartmentalize work and non work related activities can help an individual. The first thing to do is to become aware of the problem. Then the employee has to take a decision himself what is enough for him in terms of money, success and satisfaction. Then one has to fix boundaries and limits and adopt a pattern that is justifiable based on each ones energy level. The following are broad suggestions based on work-life balance studies and experience of the authors. Avoid bringing work to home - Try to finish job activities at home itself. Although some aspects of work life would be interesting to share with family or friends, try to avoid discussing core work related issues and brooding over them at home. Try to spend time for physical exercise. Create schedules for work related activities - Take enough time for each activity and reduce postponing of critical activities. Pending work gets the mind preoccupied and tensed. Many feel that left over work can be taken home. Organize the work desk and coordinate with the work related employees. Try to organize emails and other communications It may be helpful if a fixed time of a day is spent on replying to emails and other communication. Take short breaks during work time - This will help us to re charge our batteries. Change completely when at home - Spend more time with family members and discuss more issues related to home and social life. It is important that time is spent on leisurely activities and have a very different family/social life apart from professional concerns.

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Work/Life Balance Quiz Directions: Answer true or false to each statement below
1. I find myself spending more and more time on work-related projects. i. True ii. False 2. I often feel I don't have any time for myself or for my family and friends. i. True ii. False 3. No matter what I do, it seems that often every minute of every day is always scheduled for something. i. True ii. False 4. Sometimes I feel as though I've lost sight of who I am and why I chose this job/career. i. True ii. False 5. I can't remember the last time I was able to find the time to take a day off to do something fun-something just for me. i. True ii. False 6. I feel stressed out most of the time. i. True ii. False 7. I can't even remember the last time I used all my allotted vacation and personal days. i. True ii. False 8. It sometimes feels as though I never even have a chance to catch my breath before I have to move on to the next project/crisis. i. True ii. False 9. I can't remember the last time I read and finished a book that I was reading purely for pleasure. i. True ii. False 10. I wish I had more time for some outside interests and hobbies, but I simply don't. i. True ii. False 11. I often feel exhausted, even early in the week. i. True ii. False 12. I can't remember the last time I went to the movies or visited a museum or attended some other cultural event. i. True ii. False 13. I do what I do because so many people (children, partners, parents) depend on me for support. i. True ii. False 14. I've missed many of my family's important events because of work-related time pressures and responsibilities. i. True ii. False 15. I almost always bring work home with me. i. True ii. False

How to score yourself: 0-2 Your life is in pretty good balance; just be sure to do what you can to guard that balance. 3-5 Your work/life balance is teetering on the edge; now is the time to make changes before the problems overwhelm you. 5+ Your life is out of balance; you need to take immediate action to make changes in your work
and your life before things start crashing around you. Source: Hansen, R.S. 2004. Work/life balance quiz scoring. [Online] Available: http://www.quintcareers.com/ work-life_balance_quiz_scoring.html.

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Role of HR
HR department can play a crucial role in implementing policies and practices that aids reduce work stress and work-life imbalance. Few initiatives that HR can bring forth are listed below. Reduce unnecessary burden of fixed timings at work - If some of the work can be done even at home during office hours, enable the professionals to do so. For example giving flexibility for employees to join teleconferencing from home is a possibility. Implement flexi timings - Focus on the work output rather than the time spent in the office. Reduce bureaucracy - Unnecessary time spent on procedural issues like approvals should be reduced. Allow women employees to work from home especially during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth. Child care facilities - As child birth and child care is seen as a major reason why women quit jobs, providing the best facilities at work can help retain them. Facilitating fun and relaxation - Parties and fun at work place can provide some relief to the professionals. Also leave option for traveling with family and compulsory offs after fixed time of continuous work should be implemented. Providing health facilities at work place - Many large organizations have health club facilities in the work place. However it is important that individuals are encouraged to use them. Provision for taking breaks during work hours. Building a culture of ownership - Getting the work done through constant coercion and bossing should be avoided and discouraged. Providing facilities that aid travel related to work, education of children, relocation related to work etc. Clearly the stress at work and time spent on bureaucratic procedures at work place can be reduced to aid productivity of time crunched professionals. In conclusion, we note that the issues related to work life imbalance is prone to grow in the Indian scenario. As our businesses try to be more competitive, the pressure on the professionals will keep increasing. It is imperative and high time that we spend enough efforts on understanding how to balance work and non work activities. The search for success without caring for personal health and family happiness may sound doom in the near future. The solution lies with sound planning at individual level and initiatives from the organizations to aid productivity of the new age employees. HC
Anilkumar C. S is the Vice president- Corporate HR of Accel Transmatic Ltd, Trivandrum. He was one of the promoters of Ushus Technologies Private Limited, Technopark Trivandrum, which recently merged with Accel Transmatic Ltd. He has rich experience in the manufacturing and software services industries. He is involved in various training programmes including work-life balance. He is also involved in teaching at the MBA level. He can be contacted at anilkumarcs@yahoo.com Sandeep K.Krishnan is a student of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad pursuing Fellow Programme in Management. His area of study is Personnel and Industrial Relations. He has published articles as book chapters and in various journals of repute. He can be contacted at sandeepk@iimahd.ernet.in

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