How the COVID-19 pandemic will affect work-life balance
The future of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unpredictable, but one thing we do know is that we will get past it at some point. While that could be days, weeks, or months from now on a global scale, places such as China and South Korea are gradually returning to normalcy. But, with all the rather sudden changes to both our personal and professional lives, many of us are left wondering what normal even means anymore. In this Pacific Prime Dubai article, we’ll look at how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect work-life balance.
Working from home during COVID-19
For many, the idea of working from home has always sounded like a fantasy – fun to imagine, but rather impossible. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned that fantasy into a reality by making work from home the new norm across the globe.
As the first country to go on lockdown, China began what is being called the “world’s biggest work-from-home experiment.” One by one, other countries followed suit in an attempt to reduce social contact and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, only 7% of workers in the US had the option to work from home on a regular basis. According to a SHRM report from March 2020, 67% of employers surveyed were working towards allowing employees to work from home.
An International Workplace Group survey from 2018 found that around 60% of UAE employees worked remotely at least one day a week. Industry experts expect more companies to allow employees to work from home once the COVID-19 crisis is over. Whether you’ve worked remotely before or it’s entirely new to you, there is no denying that working from home during the pandemic is a unique situation.
Revealing the work-life imbalance
The current crisis has put work and home under the same roof. Aside from doing their best to work from home, many employees are also juggling their children’s schedules, their partner’s or relative’s needs, and so much more. Now more than ever, employers and peers can see the struggle involved in managing it all. As we speculate the things COVID-19 will change forever, one significant shift that we can all hope for is the realization that the around-the-clock work culture does more harm than good.
When we hear the words “ideal worker”, we think of a person who lives and breathes their job. This person is available at any hour, on any day, of every year throughout their career. We know that this archetype is far from realistic, yet it seems to have become an unspoken goal of employers and employees alike.
That ideal worker would find it impossible to develop healthy relationships, take care of their children, and tend to their own needs. With daycares and schools closed, employees with families cannot be expected to work as normal just because technology makes it possible. Compensation for being an ideal worker is also imbalanced, with professions such as consulting, law, and finance earning more per hour than professions that clock in 40 hours per week.
In addition, there’s a professional stigma surrounding flexible work arrangements – where employees are seen as less committed and less productive by not being in an office or working different hours. When people ask for flexible work hours or less travel, they know that simply asking could hurt their performance reviews and their chances of being promoted. But the notion of the ideal worker is perhaps most punishing for the parents who put in extra hours of caregiving on top of their working hours.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier for knowledge workers to continue their tasks at home. However, a similar level of responsiveness is becoming expected of low-wage workers as well. This is despite the fact that their job security and flexibility doesn’t match that of higher paid workers. During this time, the ideal worker expectation is put on delivery drivers and store clerks, who risk exposure to the virus with little reward.
The cry for reshaping the way in which work is done, such as questioning the value of a 40-hour work week, is nothing new. What is new is the current opportunity that companies have to reevaluate which traditional workplace practices are actually necessary, as opposed to conventional.
What work-life balance could look like after the pandemic
Employers have the chance to choose quality over quantity when it comes to work. They can start to value the motivation and creativity that comes from a stroll or a nap, instead of keeping a seat warm in an office. They can value smart responses over quick ones, or time spent being productive over time spent at work. This pandemic has shown employers that employees have responsibilities outside of work, and that they need to see to them.
While time will tell if the lesson is here to stay, it’s evident that people want more freedom in choosing how to balance their work and personal life. If we can come out of this pandemic with a system that caters to real workers instead of idealized ones, we’ll not only see healthier and happier employees, but improved business performances as well.
How Pacific Prime can help
Whether you’re curious about adding flexible working hours to your employee benefits plan or are looking for small business health insurance or international health insurance, Pacific Prime is here to help. As a global employee benefits broker and health insurance company, we’ve worked with corporations across the globe to help them find the best plan for their needs and budget.
If you’re an expat in the UAE, you can keep up to date with the latest news by following our blog, which covers topics such as: COVID-19: What expats must know about Dubai’s 24-hour restrictions.
Contact us with any of your questions or to receive a free quote or plan comparison today.
When she’s not writing, she’s likely searching for a new restaurant or cafe to try, reading or doing yoga.
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