The more time we spend working, the less time we have for ‘real life’ – whether that’s spending time with family, hanging out with friends or simply getting housework and chores done. It would seem to follow, then, that those who work the longest shifts would have the worst work-life balance, and vice versa. But this is not always the case. In fact, money transfer comparison website MoneyTranfers.com has compared three recent surveys to contradict that notion.
Two of the surveys showed that people have, on the whole, been clocking up longer hours while working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. One came from NordVPN Teams, and showed that employees were spending an average of 11 hours a day logged onto work computers in January 2021, versus 9 hours in January 2020. Another survey, from remote team-building company Wildgoose, found 44% people were expected to do more work while WFH. People also said they were now taking shorter work breaks and felt the pressure to be “always on”. But a third survey, from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, found a majority of British home workers, across all age groups, felt their work-life balance had improved during the pandemic. People also said their overall wellbeing had improved.
When asked how home working had impacted their work-life balance, net sentiment was 36% positive among 16-29 year olds, 47% positive among 30-49 year olds and 48% among 50-69 year olds. And when asked how it had impacted their overall wellbeing, net sentiment was similarly positive (though less emphatically so), at 19% for 16-29 year olds, 23% among 30-49 year olds and 26% among 50-69 year olds. It would seem the benefits of homeworking on work-life balance are great enough to outweigh even an increase in hours, workload and pressure.
Shorter hours ≠ better work-life balance for EU too
MoneyTransfers.com has also analysed the results of a study from Eurofound, which asked citizens of EU countries about their working lives during the pandemic.
It ranked the countries from best to worst for work-life balance based on how often in the last two weeks they’d worried about work outside of working hours, felt too tired to do housework, felt their job kept them from seeing family enough, and worked in their free time.
When this ranking was compared to the number of hours the same respondents said they’d worked on average over the last month, there was only a weak correlation.
The most stressed country – Greece – worked among the least weekly hours (38.6). And the least stressed country – Denmark – worked the second-highest number of weekly hours (42.4). Poland also fell outside the line one might expect, with the longest working hours (42.6) but a relatively good work-life balance (you can explore the full data below.)
Evidently, creating a good work-life balance isn’t simply about how many hours a day you spend working. It’s about factors like being able to work from home, set boundaries and get everything you need to do done.
It’s also a subjective concept. It’s about how much you feel like work encroaches on your free time, how tired and stressed it makes you, how much time you want to spend working – and how much time you can spend working without getting that infamous parental work guilt.