OPINION: Why technology is crucial to the ‘work-life’ balance. By Steve Gandy, CEO of MeetingZone

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When we think of our well-being and work-life balance, we often associate it with our place of work. 

The Good Growth for Cities Index, published by PwC and thinktank Demos recently, highlighted that Reading and Bracknell, hotly followed by Oxford and Edinburgh, are officially the best cities to live and work in the UK. The research ranked UK cities against 10 criteria including employment, health, income and skills, housing affordability, commuting times and environmental factors. It follows similar research last year from PwC that ranked London (over Berlin, Stockholm, Paris and New York) as one of the best cities of “Opportunity” in a report that examined intellectual capital and innovation; culture; technology readiness; and travel accessibility to the rest of the world.

Our growing interest in such surveys shows how we’re all – employees, HR and management – much more focused on well-being and work-life balance. And that’s a good thing. But for me, external factors such as location are just part of the equation. Today’s companies rightly scour over all sorts of indicators of work-life balance, including employee churn, employee satisfaction and hours worked. But what often gets forgotten by management is the impact of technology in creating that sense of well-being, which in turn can lead to content and productive employees.

PwC conducted extensive research earlier this year into attitudes amongst 400 SMEs ranging from 10–1,000 employees about deploying Unified Communications (UC). UC brings together a huge range of services, from email to web conferencing and telecoms to sharing data. They found that management was focused, quite understandably on how UC technology would make the organisation successful and improve bottom lines such as productivity, costs and efficiency savings.

But what they’d overlooked was the more intangible, ‘softer’ benefits such as the ability to improve the workplace environment and to empower employees. If you look at the table below from PwC, it’s clear that there’s a disconnect between how they ‘expected’ to benefit from UC and the actual ‘realised’ benefits they received. Across the board the realised benefits exceeded expectations. But while you’d expect productivity, efficiency and even collaboration gains from UC deployments, the really interesting bit was how the deployments impacted employee perceptions of well-being.

 
Source: PwC SME Survey, February 2015 (n=400)
 
Often management make assumptions that employees are equipped with the right equipment or that their tools are ‘good enough’, so they are reluctant to rock the boat to invest in new technology. PwC saw that a UC deployment achieved a whopping 54 per cent uplift in employee well-being. That clearly highlights that employee’s value being given technology that make their jobs and collaboration easier.

For me the big worry was the marked difference between the 8 per cent well-being benefit that management expected and the realised 54 per cent. This shows how out-of-touch management really are with how employees feel about their jobs. What’s happening is that senior management are not fully aware of the need for their employees to have ‘the right tools for the job’, or how and why it can affect the creation of contented, happy and productive employees.

Put simply, technology has the ability to transform the way people work not only by delivering smarter communications, improved productivity, and cost and efficiency savings, but also by enhancing their work-life balance and well-being, which in turn leads to better staff morale and an increased desire to perform to the best of their ability.

About Author

Gary Eastwood

Gary Eastwood has over 15 years of experience as a technology and business journalist and editor. He has held editorship positions on customer magazines for Microsoft, CSC, and EDF, as well as on B2B magazine Mobile Enterprise. He is the former Deputy Editor of Computer Business Review. In a freelance role, Gary has contributed numerous features and articles to a broad range of publications, including New Scientist, Computer Weekly, MIS, Marketing Week, Corporate Financier, Real Business, Wireless Business Review, and driven marketing communications projects for clients, such as Intel, the Confederation of British Industry, IBM, Logicalis, the Department of Trade & Innovation, and many others. Gary has written many white papers on a range of ITC subjects for Datamonitor. He is also an editorial photographer and business videographer, and has authored and ghost-written four books on photography. He is the Co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, which provides contract/customer magazines for a growing list of clients, and publishes the B2B magazine for business leaders, Strategist.