With office in our pocket many employees work outside set hours

The line between work and home life is becoming increasingly fuzzy, according to a recent report by HR and recruitment specialists Randstad.

Spurred on by the rise of mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets, expectations around work availability outside of traditional hours have altered significantly in the past decade.

According to the 2015 Randstad Workmonitor study, which analysed work expectations throughout the Asia Pacific region, 53 per cent of New Zealand employers expected staff to be available outside of paid hours.

While this might sound like a significant percentage, it pales in comparison to other countries. In China, 89 per cent of employees are expected to be available outside work hours, closely followed 79 per cent of employees in Turkey, and 75 per cent of employees in Hong Kong.

Advertisement

Brien Keegan is the New Zealand country manager for Randstad. He says that technology has led to increasing conflict when it comes to work-life balance, and feels the concept is changing and morphing into what could be called "work-life blend".

"You could be watching your kids playing rugby while emailing clients," he says. "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."

While some may resent this intrusion into their precious private time, many others are unconcerned by being asked to work outside set hours. "Anecdotally, a lot of employees say that they are happy to be on-call outside of work," says Keegan.

The figures reflect this.

Keegan says that most of us now live with "an office in our pockets" in the form of smartphones, and that there can be an expectation of constant availability outside of paid work hours. He believes that is particularly true of those who work in sales or in the service industry.

"There is a real pressure to be faster, quicker to respond and more globally minded," he says. "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."

The flipside to the employer expectations can be found in the way we conduct ourselves at work.

The survey revealed that 71 per cent of employees in the Asia Pacific Region felt comfortable dealing with personal matters in the office, and that there was a correlation between the people who worked outside of regular hours and those who dealt with personal matters in the workplace. Interestingly, workplaces that allowed employees to deal with personal matters at work often have a higher level of productivity.

Advertisement

"Such workplace flexibility encourages employees to be more productive," he says.

"Additionally, workplaces that offer flexible but secure working conditions [such as allowing work from home] also foster more productivity."

While many of us seem to be happy to work outside office hours, even on days off over a long weekend, it's a different story when it comes to our longer holidays.

Fortunately, the right to a holiday is firmly enmeshed in our working culture and translates into employer expectations. Only 30 per cent of New Zealand employees said that they were expected to work during their holidays; this compares to 81 per cent in China.

Having said this, 38 per cent of New Zealand workers reported that they would be happy to attend to work matters on holiday, as they like to stay involved. But again this figure is minimal when compared internationally; in India, for example, 75 per cent of people say they like to attend to work matters when they are on leave.

Keegan says that while the lines between personal and working life are likely to become increasingly blurred, he feels that unrealistic expectations will eventually be met with resistance. "At some point people will reach a threshold where work life intrudes too greatly on life at home," he says. "At this point some pushback will occur.

"I heard of one particularly bad case in which a senior staff member was in labour and the CEO of her company insisted of having a meeting with her right then."

He says that by making your limits clear from the outset of a job or whenever there is change in management can help to mitigate such problems.

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