By Thomas Hansen, Vice President of Worldwide SMB, Microsoft
If there’s one thing all small business owners have in common, it’s a passionate drive to create a successful company – and ensure that it remains successful. They’re personally invested in their business, and they like to hire people who share their focus and energy.
Why does that sometimes pose an issue? One word: boundaries. That drive to succeed, coupled with the availability of technology that makes it possible to work anywhere at any time, can result in work becoming all-consuming. When that happens, the potential for burnout becomes a real concern.
However, it can be hard to stop leisure and work from overlapping. In a recent study of over 5,500 employees at European SMEs, 73 per cent said that achieving a work-life balance is the most important aspect of their job — but three-quarters said they can be contacted by their place of work outside of office hours, and more than half reported working during this time. Many also admitted to regularly working before going to bed, after dinner and even while they’re on holiday.
Clearly, the traditional nine-to-five schedule has been disrupted. Can this change benefit both SMBs and their workers?
The key word here is flexibility. Research suggests that we can solve this dilemma by providing people with greater flexibility in when, where and how they work. And paradoxically, the technologies that are often linked with causing burnout can help avert burnout when they’re used along with processes, policies and workflows that empower employees to be more productive instead of eroding their personal time. In other words, they are part a business culture that values the needs of employees too. The good news is that many employees are already benefiting from this flexibility:
- Of the employees surveyed who held jobs that can be performed remotely, more than half (51%) reported that they can choose where they get their work done. This flexibility was highest in Romania, where two thirds (66%) have this choice.
- A third of employees (34%) are also empowered to decide when their work is completed, increasing to almost half (49%) in Poland.
- More than half of the employees surveyed credit mobile technology with saving time and boosting productivity, so they can get their work done and also have satisfying personal lives.
- And employees even indicated that this flexibility is driving greater innovation: nearly twice as many say they have their best ideas at home, rather than in the office (although Italy was the exception to this rule, with SME workers more likely to have their best ideas in the office by themselves, rather than at home).
Given this new norm, SMEs and their employees are realizing that their competitive advantage comes from what they do with technology in and out of the office. Mobility and the cloud are more than technologies – they represent the potential to change how we approach both work and leisure, in ways that can bring more control over where, when and how long we work and have fun, benefitting everyone.