The Dark Side of the “Struggle to Juggle”

By: Kate Broadley

1D6A0555Last week I wrote about the some of the benefits for employers and employees of using flexible work practices. But I thought to be fair, I should talk about the challenges, or the dark side as I call it.

In reality, flexibility does not work in all workplaces. Yes I work from home, but not everyone can do this. One must be willing to work independently and alone. Of course there are fewer distractions and I get to avoid those unnecessary interruptions, but there is no office vibe or excitement, and no one to exchange ideas with. While this works for me, there are times in a business environment when your expertise is required and missed in the workplace, if you are not there! The type of work I do requires at times a quiet place where I can analyse information and write reports, so the home office is the perfect place. On the other hand, a lot of work requires you to be in the very hub of activity in the workplace. I don’t get distracted at home, but others find it impossible to focus.

I work in a small business with two fantastic directors, who are comfortable communicating with me through various mediums other than face to face, and who support and trust me to deliver what I need for the business. It helps that my goals and outcomes are clearly measurable. This has not come about overnight and I think it is unfair for employees to expect this. It has been created over time and built through trust, delivery of quantifiable and measurable outcomes, and some ups and downs along the way. In my opinion, without mutual trust, support and measurable outcomes, this type of flexibility cannot work.

And finally, I am never off the grid, given all the wonderful technological gadgets we now have access to, which create the opportunity for greater flexibility to fit work in and around all of life’s other activities. But whether technology has enabled greater freedom from the workplace is debatable. It is easy for working “anywhere, anytime” to turn into working “everywhere, all the time”. I check my emails all the time, I hate to admit this, but often before breakfast and even when on holidays. I am not expected to do this, but it helps me manage my workload. I like to multi-task, but does this simply exacerbate the “struggle to juggle” and put us at risk of burnout, which is one of the very things, flexible work practices seek to avoid?