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Work-Life Balance in Digital age We need to find ways to manage it to achieve a balance. Striking a healthy work-life balance is therefore more important while at the same time it is more challenging than ever before

By Sunil Wariar

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Digitalization has always redefined the way we work. This gives us more freedom to shape our work life, but as a result the lines between work and private life have been blurring with time. Establishing work-life balance in the digital age is, therefore, a continuous and ongoing journey.

Thanks to digitalization, we are more flexible to work when, where, and how we want to. Work was always done at the office and it was kept strictly separate from private life. Today, with growing connectivity, this clear-cut delineation is disappearing. The present lockdown due to COVID19 has only accelerated all of us towards working from home while encroaching our lives at home. With technology and digitisation this movement is only going to be more certain and normal. We need to find ways to manage it to achieve a balance. Striking a healthy work-life balance is therefore more important while at the same time it is more challenging than ever before.

As business leaders, we face this challenge on an organisational and also at a personal level. Looking back at our professional lives, we would find that our work mindset and approach have changed over time. We have adjusted to the new engulfing times in the digital age but there are some realities that we will have to accept while we try balancing our work with our personal/ private space.

With work life being reinvented, finding new ways of integrating all areas of life in a meaningful and productive way is a huge learning effort. There are a few things that we have to keep in mind to ensure an effective balancing of our work-life in the digital age

Live a culture of trust

A prerequisite for flexible work is giving employees more autonomy and empowering them to take decisions themselves. In order to do this, you need to nurture a culture of mutual trust, and create a safe environment for making and learning from mistakes. When employees can take more ownership, this will contribute to their engagement and fulfilment at work.

Lead by example

As a leader, we need to position ourselves as a role model and inspire the change we want to see. Walking that walk is essential to find support for your change agenda across the organization. We have to always dedicate to what we believe is right and push for the effective use of digital tech to grow our organisation into an enabler of work-life balance.

Look to reinvent

All of us should have an open mind to reinvent ourselves and constantly look for creative and innovative ways in doing our things. Adoption and learning of new technologies and trying to move out of our grooves and mindsets that we have habituated ourselves to, is a must so that we find more time for ourselves to think and nourish our mind.

Learn to unplug

Sometimes it's good to disconnect and get a digital detox. This allows us to put a focus on other areas of life in that moment. Like for instance, do not check your emails late on weekends and during holidays, and consciously take social media breaks.

Change needs time. It can be observed that a majority of senior executives still holds on to what they know. Because of this, mobile work still suffers from a reputation of being less professional. There is generally not enough trust to foster flexible work in the digital workplace. Despite this, we have to view change with optimism, even when faced with criticism or resistance from peers or superiors. We all have to be the changemaker and one should not get discouraged or feel like you need to justify yourself – push for the change that you know is right and needed.

"Work vs. private life" is a thing of the past.

Till a couple of decades ago, work was clearly separated from all other parts of life such as family, friends, hobbies, and sports. Earning money and career advancement is what motivated people in their work. A typical work week meant long hours at the office – something that our bosses may have really valued. With our teams, we sat closely together, so that we could easily catch up, discuss, and understand each other better.

How did we balance work and private life? We would take a day off in order to arrange personal things. And we would struggle to find some extra hours after work timings or tried hard to reduce the days staying late at the office by reprioritizing and managing expectations.

Obviously, back then, we could not easily dial into meetings or work from home – the technical infrastructure was simply not available. But also, the leadership style was different: it was based on hierarchy and command-and-control. Digitalization enables us to reinvent the way we work and manage. However, in order to truly put this into practice, leaders need to discard outdated mindsets and make room for new management practices.

Work-Life balance today is a matter of integration

These days, life is much less compartmentalized. Work has become interwoven with all other parts of life. We are increasingly more driven by purpose and meaning, also in our workplace. Today, in quite a few jobs one can work from home or at the office to be as effective. Doctor's appointments and sports can be planned into our working day, and we need not feel limited by the fixed office hours or even feel guilty.

Mutual respect and trust act as an important vehicle in teams to put flexible work policies into practice. But change is never easy. At an organizational level, it needs to be carefully managed and well-communicated. And, old habits die hard; and we need to push ourselves to change the way we work. Working from home is something we need to consciously plan, though sometimes for a lot of us, it still does not feel completely right when we attend to a doctor's appointment during lunch breaks.

Blending of work and life in the digital age

Digitalization and technological advancement are helping us to reinvent the working world – something that has been long overdue. The future of work will surely be more flexible. Not only mobile work will be the reason for this, but also other policies such as new forms of unpaid leave, part time employment and even sabbaticals. But this transition also calls for new strategies to organize work life effectively. For all organizations, finding ways to work smartly and flexibly and yet be effective is an ongoing journey.

As business leaders, we need to pave the way and establish a culture that empowers and encourages employees to balance work and private life. Only by leaving outdated management practices behind and embracing a new mindset, we can truly grasp the benefits of digitalization and create more resilient and sustainable workplaces. Workplaces where employees have fun, feel engaged and are happy.

Sunil Wariar

Chief Human Resource Officer, Future Generali India Insurance Company Limited

As Chief Human Resources Officer, Sunil is responsible for the strategic alignment of HR with Business objectives; drive employee productivity and engagement through a structured talent management and people development program.  

He joined Future Generali on Sep 2009 as Head HR for Life and Non-Life companies. In September 2015, he was promoted as CHRO for FG Non-Life. 

Sunil has a career spanning over 32 years across varied sectors including Insurance, Financial, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing. He has worked with Cipla Ltd, Lakme Ltd, Bluestar Ltd, CEAT Ltd, Herbertson Ltd, United Spirits Ltd, and Reliance.

Sunil holds a Bachelor’s degree in Science from Mumbai University. He has also done Masters in Management Studies from Mumbai University. 

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