Are smartphones giving employers 'unrealistic expectations'?

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A recent study has found that the line between work and home life is continuing to blur.

Randstad’s 2015 Workmonitor study showed that this is mostly due to the rising use of ‘smart’ devices causing employers to change expectations around work availability.

The report analysed these expectations across the Asia-Pacific region, finding that more than half of New Zealand employers expected their staff to be available outside of their paid hours.

Although this may seem a significant proportion, this was one of the researcher’s lower findings in comparison to other national workforces.

Eighty-nine per cent of Chinese employees were expected to be available outside working hours, while the same went for 79% in Turkey and three in four workers in Hong Kong.

According to Brien Keegan, New Zealand manager at Randstad, technology has led to increasing conflict when it comes to maintaining a good work-life balance. He suggested that in today’s world, this has become more of a “work-life ‘blend’”. 

“You could be watching your kids playing rugby while emailing clients,” he said.

“It's the first time in history in which we've worked like this, and it's all been facilitated by the rise of technology.”

He added that although some workers may resent this, others do not feel concerned about the intrusion into their private time.

“Anecdotally, a lot of employees say that they are happy to be on-call outside of work,” he said.

Keegan suggested that while most of us now have “an office in our pockets”, the expectation of constant availability is particularly applicable to those in the sales or service industries.

“There is a real pressure to be faster, quicker to respond and more globally minded,” he said

“Kiwis who work for global companies may be expected to work when the rest of the world wakes up – this may mean spending an hour at the desk after you've put the kids to bed.”

However, the ‘blur’ Keegan referred to was also found to have affected the way people conducted themselves in the workplace.

The survey found that almost three-quarters of employees in the Asia-Pacific region now felt comfortable dealing with personal matters in the office.

It was also found that there was a link between these employees and those who often worked outside of their contracted hours.

Employers who allowed staff to deal with these issues at work were found to have more productive workplaces.

“Such workplace flexibility encourages employees to be more productive,” Keegan said.

“Workplaces that offer flexible but secure working conditions also foster more productivity.”

While Randstad found that many workers were happy to clock up additional hours – even on days off or over a long weekend – this was less applicable to longer holidays.

While the right to a holiday was widely acknowledged in New Zealand – just 30% of employees said they had been expected to work during a holiday – other workforces were less fortunate.

In China, for example, 81% of employees had worked during holidays from work.

However, almost 40% of New Zealanders said that they would be happy to attend to work during a holiday – although, again, this is low compared to other nationalities.

Three-quarters of Indian workers said they liked to stay connected to work matters during periods of leave.

Keegan said that although personal and working lives were increasingly merging, he believed that unrealistic expectations would eventually be met with resistance from workers.

“At some point people will reach a threshold where work life intrudes too greatly on life at home,” he said.

“At this point some pushback will occur.”

Keegan advised that HR should discuss employees’ limits with them at the outset of a job or whenever a change in management occurs to avoid this.

“If you understand the expectations of your employee and vice versa you can both be better prepared for dealing with workplace demands in and out of the office.”

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