Work-Life Balance in the Time of Coronavirus

The pandemic and the subsequent rapid, widespread shift to remote work has created new habits and routines for the vast majority of workers. Particularly notable is the collapse of a work and home life separation. While that may have always been a myth, the concept of “work life integration” will continue to be a driving paradigm moving forward. This tighter integration is new for most people, forcing them to be on a conference call one minute and changing diapers the next, and it’s incumbent upon HR to understand the extent and effects of this integration and help implement effective strategies for the most stressed parts of the organization.

What We’ve Learned Over the Past Year

Overall, the span of the work-day is significantly longer today than it was in 2019 and early 2020. People are starting their day significantly earlier and ending much later, with the total workday extending by over 20% in most cases. Pre-pandemic, this was a warning indicator of burnout and stress. Today, most people have adjusted to this extended workday well. There are notable exceptions, however: parents with children at home are particularly stressed. As a parent of two young children myself I can attest that “breaks” throughout the day aren’t periods of rest but are instead filled with the work of parenting. As hybrid workplaces and increased remote work become normalized, organizations will need to account for different populations and ensure that workplace strategies are equitable for all groups.

This doesn’t imply that other groups aren’t fatigued. The pandemic has created higher levels of social isolation for all groups, and this has been coupled with a particularly turbulent social and political landscape. HR leaders, of course, cannot solve these problems. They can, however, understand that context and support their coworkers through challenging periods. If there’s one positive to the pandemic, it’s that we’ve been able to see our coworkers as whole people. Their family lives and personal situations are now exposed for colleagues to see. HR leaders can now fully engage with people at a deeper, intimate level to ensure they’re getting the support they need to succeed, and help them be less stressed in general.

How Data Can Help You Support Your People

Collaboration data is an incredibly useful tool for HR leaders in this effort because it can identify groups that are overburdened on the work side of the equation. Metrics like “Workday Span” (how long someone’s workday is on average) and “Manager Visibility” (calculated using meta-data from communication tools and channels) are essential to look at when working in a remote environment and are a major component of how Humanyze is helping companies address the impacts of remote work on their people. This particular metric can help reveal if managers are stretched too thin and not connecting with their direct reports sufficiently to support them in their work and growth. This provides an important, objective cue for HR to implement new processes, like quick weekly check-ins or daily team “standups”, for groups that aren’t getting sufficient exposure to their managers.

With a post-pandemic future approaching, now is the time for HR and business leaders to lead their organizations forward. By combining collaboration data with existing processes, HR can help identify teams that are overworked or under supported. Additionally, these insights can also flag which groups have found the right balance, as well as what sets them apart in order to replicate these desired outcomes elsewhere in the company. With this knowledge at hand, they can partner with managers in those parts of the organization that are struggling to help ease the conflict between employees’ personal life and work. By bubbling these insights up to organizational leadership, HR can play a major role in developing workplace strategies that ultimately lead to lower stress and attrition levels, all of which can be validated with collaboration data to show the immediate impact these strategies have on how people work.

These efforts need to combine traditional HR metrics with new, ongoing analytics from collaboration data. With this data, HR can demonstrate the value that they bring to the organization, and allow HR to drive organizational success. This journey has been made easier than ever as the vast majority of work has moved into online systems. Organizational muscles built today will become even more essential as people return to offices and hybrid workplaces proliferate, a more challenging environment to be sure. Companies that start using factual-based data today will be more successful at that transition, and get there with a happier, healthier workforce.

How is your organization dealing with work-life blending?

Last Updated 25 March 2021