Redesigning Work For The Hybrid Era

A year and a half (and counting) after COVID-19 lockdowns spurred one of the most significant evolutions in office work since the introduction of the internet, a geographically distributed workforce is customary, whether temporarily or indefinitely through hybrid-work models.

But in the rush to remote work, many organizations fell victim to the inertia of tradition and missed the opportunity to design work to fit specific needs of the business and remote employees themselves. As hybrid-work models emerge, leadership and team members need to partner in designing how work is defined, evaluated and compensated, starting with remote work.

This begins with mapping the outcomes needed to support business operations and how that work contributes value to the organization. This exercise can bring some stability and logic to compensation models in a remote environment. Rather than basing compensation on location, organizations need to devise structures that reward team members on their impact to the business.

While this can be a difficult exercise, employees will benefit greatly from not only knowing how their work generates revenue, serves customers or cuts costs, but also how much they’re valued because of that work.

Another aspect of redesigning work is to rethink what purpose “the office” serves in the hybrid era. Traditionally, offices have operated as the place for executing all the types of work needed in many job roles.

This includes “heads-down” work (research, analysis, customer support, coding, documentation, training and development); “heads-up” work (ideation, knowledge sharing, networking, strategic planning); capability demonstrations; and research and development. In actuality, though, heads-down work can be performed anywhere, while heads-up work has been facilitated best by the physical presence of other people.

In a world in which workers have unprecedented access to information about and alternatives to work, leaders must reimagine the basics of the working relationship to deliver on the promise of working from anywhere. Top talent, especially, will gravitate toward organizations with the widest range of work flexibility — increasingly essential in today’s highly competitive labor market.

What follows is step-by-step guidance, based on client engagements, on redesigning work for the hybrid age.

Devising a role-specific location rating

With hybrid workplaces, it will be important to redefine what types of work and work-related events are best done where. To do this, businesses should first identify the core activities that each individual role in the organization is responsible for completing.

From there, cross-hierarchy task forces can be created to evaluate the remote fitness of each of these activities by taking a look at how effectively specific job activities — not tasks — can be completed outside or inside the traditional office setting. This exercise must be completed using direct input from individual employees and their managers.

To complete this exercise, the following numerical values should be defined for each job activity:

  • Time spent: The estimated share of time that should be dedicated to each activity
  • In-office and remote ratings: Based on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing the function is best completed effectively in-office and 5 representing the function is well-facilitated remotely

Organizations can then combine these values to create a location rating (Time Spent X Rating / 5) that can be used to develop a location strategy for each role. By mapping these results, organizations can start to paint a clear picture of where roles can be located based on the work they do.

By incorporating these details into job descriptions, businesses can also help potential job candidates clearly understand what will be asked of them, what resources will be available to them, with whom they will work closely, etc. (in addition to the available compensation range). Within any job description, estimates should be included as to how much of the role can be performed successfully outside of the traditional office setting.

An interesting outcome of the heads-down/heads-up model is that senior leaders — many of whom have struggled to communicate the purpose, value, urgency and details of a return to the office order — are the very people whose jobs are most focused on the collaborative, heads-up work best supported by an in-office presence. It may be that senior leaders will be most apt to be found in the office vs. the majority of other workers who will find a balance between remote work and an in-office presence.

Mapping out a healthy workday

In addition to categorizing and evaluating the activities and outcomes for each role, businesses need to assess and map how team members should work together. This assessment should include specifics on meetings: their purpose, how they can be conducted effectively, how participants can contribute productively, and when they should be scheduled. Meeting hygiene should also be detailed, including calendar blocks to protect team members from rampant over-booking.

An ideal schedule would incorporate the following key tenets:

  • Mental health protections: Taking breaks for water, nourishment, exercise/stretching and mind clearing; schedule blocks for deep work (up to four hours per day), motion-activated thinking and logging off for the day after a reasonable contribution to the business.
  • Intentionality: When bringing team members together for meetings, be clear about the purpose, the objective and any necessary pre-work. Implement a multitasking-free zone to make space for undivided attention and engagement. No more meetings about meetings. Identify specific reasons to use video calls — not every call requires people to be on-camera.
  • Flexibility: Asynchronous work is a given with distributed teams. Identify and flag activities that require simultaneous effort to make sure team members are properly supported to complete tasks and activities according to plan. Schedule appropriate heads-up working sessions to complete synchronous work. Grant team members the autonomy to schedule all other work as they see fit.

For a more extensive look at updating corporate strategy to attract top talent by supporting employees who — for whatever reason — wish to work outside of the traditional office setting, see “A Guide to Modernizing Talent Management in the Hybrid-Work Era.”

Keahn Gary is a Senior Manager with Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. Her research with the CFoW focuses on modernizing value systems

Source: Redesigning Work For The Hybrid Era

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Critics:

As companies continue adjusting their structure between remote and in-person work, leaning into the hybrid model can provide the best of both worlds—but not without its own set of challenges.

Wherever your organization is during this transitional period, here are 8 key tips to help design a hybrid model that’s inclusive of your entire population and to help your employees thrive in the middle ground.

Get your copy to learn:
  • 8 keys to make your hybrid workplace successful and keep your employees engaged.
  • How to prioritize the health and wellbeing of your employees in times of transition and uncertainty.
  • How a Homebase for Health® allows your organization to communicate a clear vision and adapt to the unexpected.

More contents:

The future of work: A bright future for the world of work

The shock: Labour markets are working, but also changing

Essential workers: The biggest losers from covid-19

Home working: The rise of working from home

Automation: Robots threaten jobs less than fearmongers claim

Government policy: Changing central banks—and governments

Flexicurity: The case for Danish welfare

How to think about work: Pessimism about the labour market is overdone

The future of work

A bright future for the world of work

The shock

Labour markets are working, but also changing

Essential workers

The biggest losers from covid-19

Home working

The rise of working from home

Automation Robots threaten jobs less than fearmongers claim

Government policy

Changing central banks—and governments

Flexicurity

The case for Danish welfare

How to think about work

Pessimism about the labour market is overdone

Sources and acknowledgments

The future of shopping: The return of one-to-one commerce

The marketplace: E-commerce profits may become harder to make

The merchants: The rise of the rebel brands

The travelling salesmen: Independent retailers may choose multiple sales channels

The food stall: The importance of “omnichannel” strategies

Mass craftsmanship: How to know what customers want

People: Shop assistants and the retail renaissance

The future: Welcome to democratised retail

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Will Inflation Last Into 2023? Global CEOs Say Yes, While Key Price Indicator Hits Record Level

Inflation is worrying chief executives globally, according to a survey released Thursday by the Conference Board, a business research group, and data shared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday backs their concerns.

Key Facts

Some 55% of CEOs expect higher prices to last until mid-2023 or beyond next year, according to the survey.

Rising inflation is the second-most common external business worry for CEOs, trailing only disruptions caused by Covid-19, after being just the 22nd most cited concern in Conference Board’s 2021 poll.

Supply chain bottlenecks were the most common explanation for the rising prices among CEOs, and 82% of respondents said their businesses were impacted by rising input costs, such as raw materials or wages.

The poll was conducted between October and November of last year among 917 CEOs in the U.S., Asia, Europe and South America.

Big Number9.7%. That’s how much the Producer Price Index, a measure tracking the prices manufacturers pay for goods, rose in 2021, the highest year-over-year increase since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began calculating the statistic in 2010. The PPI is considered a forward-looking indicator for consumer prices, meaning that the highest inflation U.S. consumers have faced in four decades could climb even further.

Tangent

The Conference Board survey found that the U.S. has faced unique labor issues during the pandemic. Labor shortages were considered the top external threat to business by U.S. respondents as a record number of Americans quit their jobs, but were not higher than third on the list of CEOs from other countries.

A primarily remote workforce is also a mostly American phenomenon: More than half of American CEOs said that they expect 40% or more of their workforce to work remotely after the pandemic, compared with just 31% of CEOs from Europe and 17% of CEOs from Japan.

Further Reading

Inflation Surge Is on Many Executives’ List of 2022 Worries (Wall Street Journal)

Inflation Spiked Another 7% In December—Hitting New 39-Year High As Fed’s Price Concerns Rattle Markets (Forbes)

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I’m a New Jersey-based news desk reporter covering sports, business and more. I graduated this spring from Duke University, where I majored in Economics and served as sports editor for The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper.

Source: Will Inflation Last Into 2023? Global CEOs Say Yes, While Key Price Indicator Hits Record Level

The Critics:

The 48 professional forecasters surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics were asked when the so-called core inflation rate (which leaves out food and energy prices) might return to the 2% range that the Federal Reserve targets (and that was commonplace before the pandemic).1 Right now the rate—as measured by the year-over-year change in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Personal Consumption Expenditures price index—is 4.1%, the highest since 1991.23

Most respondents said it would take at least until the second half of 2023, including more than a third who forecast 2024 or later. Since the survey was conducted in mid-November—before the omicron variant of COVID-19 was identified—it doesn’t account for how that news might impact their outlook.

The Federal Reserve has determined that roughly 2% is a healthy middle ground for inflation, one that enables a strong economy without hurting people’s buying power too much. The longer inflation stays hotter than that, the more likely the Fed is to do things to put a lid on it,4 like raise the benchmark federal funds rate. That rate influences all kinds of other interest rates, impacting the cost of borrowing on credit cards, mortgages, and other loans.5

Inflation has been double that 2% sweet spot because of the pandemic’s disruptions to supplies and the labor market. It’s hard for businesses to manufacture and transport enough goods to satisfy consumers’ unusually voracious demand for stuff.

Personal income grew 0.5% in October compared with the month before, as wage increases more than made up for declines in unemployment benefits from the government following the expiration of pandemic-era relief programs, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday in its monthly report on income and spending.1

People were inclined to spend the extra pocket money, as inflation-adjusted spending accelerated for a third month, rising 0.7%. They also saved less of their disposable income—7.3%, compared with 8.2% in September—staying within pre-pandemic norms and a far cry from April 2020, when the saving rate hit 33.8%.23

All that extra money didn’t go as far as it might have, though. The report also showed core inflation (not including food and energy) rising to 4.1% from a year ago, compared with 3.7% in September, hitting its highest level since 1991. That was in line with what forecasters at Moody’s Analytics had expected, possibly signaling that elevated inflation isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Inflation is no doubt a headwind, but in October at least, it was not enough to stop consumers from spending,” economists at Wells Fargo Securities said in a commentary.

Six Tips To Retain Key Employees And Prevent High Turnover Rates

High turnover is a nightmare for HR personnel and the owner of a company. The loss of a valuable employee can be detrimental to growth. Not only can the loss lead to lower productivity, but it can also cost the company financially.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, in July 2021, about 4 million people quit their jobs and about 10.9 million positions were declared open. This year, the UK reported an employee deficiency that has had a crippling effect on its economy. In the tech industry, managers have said that the increase in turnover is at an all-time high.

As a business owner, when employee turnover is high, it is time to re-evaluate the business. You first have to determine why your employees are leaving before you know how to stop it. Some of those reasons could be a lack of one or more of the following: flexibility, support, growth, appreciation, vision and engagement.

There are many reasons why your employees could decide to leave your company. Now while one or two employees leaving may seem negligible, a large number of employees, especially important ones, is cause for alarm. Here are a few strategies you can implement to help prevent high turnover rates.

1. Have flexible work options.

One thing many individuals have realized since the pandemic hit is that they can have flexible work hours and still be productive. According to a report by Beqom (download required), over 70% of American workers would take a job with flexible working hours over a higher-paying one. Flexibility does not have to be in the number of hours alone. It may also be start time, vacation days or day-to-day regulations in the organization, among other things.

Most employees do not want to work in a harsh environment where rules are set in stone with no possibility of flexibility whatsoever. Rules in the workplace are important to ensure that everything runs properly; however, when the rules are too rigid, employees can start to feel smothered.

2. Offer your employees support.

Many employees value empathy in their employer and will likely seek out and stick with an employer that cares about their well-being as a person instead of just the value they add to the company. Ask your employees what area of their job they find unnecessarily taxing and how you can make it easier on them; an immediate solution may not be possible but making an effort is the first step. This could also help solve or prevent burnout. And according to a Microsoft report, 54% of employees say they are overworked.

Support employees in learning a new skill for their current role — it would ultimately serve both you and the employee. While it’s almost impossible to solve all the problems of your employees, offering support goes a long way.

3. Help employees reach their career goals.

This is one of the main reasons employees leave. If they feel as though they are not growing in their careers, they could be tempted to look elsewhere. An organization that promotes career-driven goals can help employees achieve those goals to the benefit of everyone involved.

If an employee is steadily growing at an organization and they see a good prospect for them there, they are less likely to move on. Help your employees attain this by creating avenues for growth; this includes networking programs, seminars, mentoring opportunities and so on.

4. Acknowledge and appreciate your employees.

A good way to motivate your employees is to always acknowledge when someone does a great job. Everyone wants to be recognized for their hard work, and if an employee isn’t feeling appreciated, it could cause them to consider leaving your company. Believe it or not, many employees value this more than salary. Appreciate employees when they do a good job in the way that most suits them.

5. Communicate your vision.

No one wants to work at an organization that doesn’t have a clear vision or is left out of the loop. As employees grow, your business must also grow in scope. Have a clear vision for the future of your business, and be committed to communicating it. Feelings of being left in the dark, or low/poor communication in general, can make employees consider leaving. Employees can’t share in your vision if it doesn’t exist or is unclear.

6. Involve your employees.

No matter how good you are at running a business, not seeking your team’s input before making decisions could have devastating effects. When all the decisions are made without the input of employees, the work environment starts to feel like a dictatorship where ideas and input are not welcome. This can lead to employees moving to other companies where they feel like their opinion matters. Involve relevant stakeholders for each decision where it’s appropriate; there’s a balance to strike between stalling all decisions and authoritarian management.

As an HR professional or a business owner, you can help prevent high employee turnover or keep that star employee happy by keeping the above tips in mind. The most important thing is to recognize dissatisfaction in your staff and react in a timely way to offer solutions so they can continue being an active and productive member of your staff.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Marketing Consultant/Franchise Owner of Sylvan Learning Center of Murrieta, CA. Read Chastity Heyward’s full executive profile here.

Source: Six Tips To Retain Key Employees And Prevent High Turnover Rates

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The Stomach Moves To a Rhythm of Gentle Contractions. Any Change Can Be an Early Signal of Gastric Disease

Our stomach is a wonderful organ that turns what we eat into the nutrients and energy we need to maintain our health. At first glance, it might appear as a simple extendable muscular bag, but it has many sophisticated divisions of labour and functions that continue to puzzle researchers.

When food enters the stomach, a series of biological processes kick in to extract nutrients while continuously moving the content down the gut. The movement comes through gentle, rhythmic contractions, which is not surprising given there are three layers of muscle in the human stomach.

But how these muscles are coordinated and what happens when the controlling mechanisms break down are key questions researchers are seeking to address.

We know the movement is regulated by bioelectrical activity — much weaker but similar to the process that regulates our heart beat. By measuring the bioelectrical activity in the stomach, we can detect whether something is amiss with certain aspects of our gut health.

We only trust experts. We only publish experts. Support us

When food enters the stomach, it goes through a regulated sphincter valve called the gastro-oesophageal junction. The top-most portion of the stomach, called the fundus, can then expand to accommodate the increase in volume of the stomach.

The bottom portion, the antrum, works hard to break down food and mix it with gastric acid and other secretions into a pulpy fluid called chyme, ready for further processing in the gut.

The chyme is emptied at a controlled rate through another sphincter valve, called the pylorus, into the intestines. There, absorption of nutrients takes place. Interestingly, certain substances, such as alcohol, can partly bypass this process and get absorbed through the stomach wall directly.

When the stomach stops working

Our increasingly sedentary modern lifestyle has brought a rise in both the prevalence and severity of digestive disorders in developed economies.

For example, 34.2% of a community in Wellington reported dyspepsia, or indigestion. Some of the more serious diseases, such as gastroparesis and cyclic vomiting syndrome, have a significant impact on the quality of life for sufferers.

Different diseases of the stomach present themselves with largely overlapping symptoms. If the symptoms don’t go away after repeated visits to a doctor, an endoscopic examination (inserting a camera into the stomach) is usually performed. But about half the time it will show no obvious issues, which is frustrating for both the patient and clinicians.

More expensive medical imaging tests are available, including scintigraphy, which requires eating a low-dose radioactive meal, or MRI. Both scanning methods offer relatively short-term snapshots of what the stomach is doing.

Is there a better way of pinpointing what is wrong with the stomach? One potential answer lies in the bioelectrical source that powers the contractions of the stomach.

The pacemaker of the gut’s rhythm

There is an intricate grid of pacemaker cells (called the interstitial cells of Cajal) within the muscles of the stomach. They generate a rhythmic bioelectrical wave that regulates when and how the muscles contract.

Additional inputs come from nerves in the brain to kickstart contractions for digestion. We know the pacemaker cells and nerves can be damaged by disease, which results in abnormal rhythms of bioelectrical activation that make the stomach work less efficiently (or not at all).

Therefore, reliable detection of an abnormal bioelectrical rhythm offers a potential early indicator of problems associated with the stomach. Detecting this signal is tricky, as it is ten times weaker than the signal generated by the heart.

To make this happen, we are developing transparent and soft conductive polymer sensors to record the bioelectrical activity directly from the stomach during surgery. The data recorded generates further “signatures” that we can match to non-invasive recordings from the abdomen of patients in a conscious state. The progressive translation of research to clinical application has now achieved the first portable high-resolution recording system of the stomach.

While detection of stomach diseases offers some reassurance, effective treatment is the ultimate goal. We have shown that actively manipulating the gastric bioelectrical rhythm is possible through neuro-modulation. This controls how the stomach functions by delivering a minor electric charge to alter the signal from the brain to the pacemaker cells and muscles in the stomach.

We are now bringing together what we have learned from recording the stomach with a non-invasive stimulator to develop a strategy for actively maintaining the normal functions of the stomach. We hope these new findings and techniques reduce the number of doctor visits and improve the quality of life for sufferers of gastric diseases.

Associate Professor, University of Auckland

Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Auckland

Source: The stomach moves to a rhythm of gentle contractions. Any change can be an early signal of gastric disease

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Work-Life Balance: What Really Makes Us Happy Might Surprise You

Finding the right work-life balance is by no means a new issue in our society. But the tension between the two has been heightened by the pandemic, with workers increasingly dwelling over the nature of their work, its meaning and purpose, and how these affect their quality of life.

Studies suggest people are leaving or planning to leave their employers in record numbers in 2021 – a “great resignation” that appears to have been precipitated by these reflections. But if we’re all reconsidering where and how work slots into our lives, what should we be aiming at?

It’s easy to believe that if only we didn’t need to work, or we could work far fewer hours, we’d be happier, living a life of hedonic experiences in all their healthy and unhealthy forms. But this fails to explain why some retirees pick up freelance jobs and some lottery winners go straight back to work.

Striking the perfect work-life balance, if there is such a thing, isn’t necessarily about tinkering with when, where and how we work – it’s a question of why we work. And that means understanding sources of happiness that might not be so obvious to us, but which have crept into view over the course of the pandemic.

Attempts to find a better work-life balance are well merited. Work is consistently and positively related to our wellbeing and constitutes a large part of our identity. Ask yourself who you are, and very soon you’ll resort to describing what you do for work.

Our jobs can provide us with a sense of competence, which contributes to wellbeing. Researchers have demonstrated not only that labour leads to validation but that, when these feelings are threatened, we’re particularly drawn to activities that require effort – often some form of work – because these demonstrate our ability to shape our environment, confirming our identities as competent individuals.

Work even seems to makes us happier in circumstances when we’d rather opt for leisure. This was demonstrated by a series of clever experiments in which participants had the option to be idle (waiting in a room for 15 minutes for an experiment to start) or to be busy (walking for 15 minutes to another venue to participate in an experiment). Very few participants chose to be busy, unless they were forced to make the walk, or given a reason to (being told there was chocolate at the other venue).

Yet the researchers found that those who’d spent 15 minutes walking ended up significantly happier than those who’d spent 15 minutes waiting – no matter whether they’d had a choice or a chocolate or neither. In other words, busyness contributes to happiness even when you think you’d prefer to be idle. Animals seem to get this instinctively: in experiments, most would rather work for food than get it for free.

Eudaimonic happiness

The idea that work, or putting effort into tasks, contributes to our general wellbeing is closely related to the psychological concept of eudaimonic happiness. This is the sort of happiness that we derive from optimal functioning and realizing our potential. Research has shown that work and effort is central to eudaimonic happiness, explaining that satisfaction and pride you feel on completing a gruelling task.

On the other side of the work-life balance stands hedonistic happiness, which is defined as the presence of positive feelings such as cheerfulness and the relative scarcity of negative feelings such as sadness or anger. We know that hedonic happiness offers empirical mental and physical health benefits, and that leisure is a great way to pursue hedonic happiness.

But even in the realm of leisure, our unconscious orientation towards busyness lurks in the background. A recent study has suggested that there really is such a thing as too much free time – and that our subjective wellbeing actually begins to drop if we have more than five hours of it in a day. Whiling away effortless days on the beach doesn’t seem to be the key to long-term happiness.

This might explain why some people prefer to expend significant effort during their leisure time. Researchers have likened this to compiling an experiential CV, sampling unique but potentially unpleasant or even painful experiences – at the extremes, this might be spending a night in an ice hotel, or joining an endurance desert race.

People who take part in these forms of “leisure” typically talk about fulfilling personal goals, making progress and accumulating accomplishments – all features of eudaimonic happiness, not the hedonism we associate with leisure.

The real balance

This orientation sits well with a new concept in the field of wellbeing studies: that a rich and diverse experiential happiness is the third component of a “good life”, in addition to hedonic and eudaimonic happiness.

Across nine countries and tens of thousands of participants, researchers recently found that most people (over 50% in each country) would still prefer a happy life typified by hedonic happiness. But around a quarter prefer a meaningful life embodied by eudaimonic happiness, and a small but nevertheless significant amount of people (about 10-15% in each country) choose to pursue a rich and diverse experiential life.

Given these different approaches to life, perhaps the key to long-lasting wellbeing is to consider which lifestyle suits you best: hedonic, eudaimonic or experiential. Rather than pitching work against life, the real balance to strike post-pandemic is between these three sources of happiness.

By: Lis Ku , Senior Lecturer in Psychology, De Montfort University

Source: Work-life balance: what really makes us happy might surprise you

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