A pan-European study, of more than 14,000 consumers, reveals that conventional work-life balance schemes are a thing of the past, with a significant proportion of European workers believing that there will be no return to the 9-5 working hours.
The study, “Hybrid Living Futures”, conducted by Samsung in collaboration with “The Future Laboratory”, examines how Europeans have adapted to the hybrid way of life – work and interconnection, both virtually and in real life, and examines the impact that this new way of life will have in the future both at home and in the workplace.
The conclusions of the study on the hybrid lifestyle in Greece are very important. Specifically, more than two thirds of the Greeks who participated (67%) feel that they have adopted a more hybrid lifestyle. Also, one in two (51%) view the new standard positively, compared to just 14% who feel negative about it.
At the same time, 56% of participants say that their view of the hybrid lifestyle has improved in the last 18 months. Moreover, 58% of respondents believe that the new way has created more free time for their personal lives, while 78% have made modifications related to the improvement or change of home in order to respond and make better use of the changes.
The “Hybrid Living Futures” study reveals the emergence of human resources that want flexible and shorter working hours in response to the void left by the decline of the traditional working day.
The “Flexperts” (flexible workforce) are now making use of the full range of their available work and personal time, taking control and setting their own pace, after a period where they were exposed and tried new ways of working.
At a pan-European level, 86% of people who adopted the hybrid model of life no longer want traditional working hours. The percentage that still shows adherence to this work routine is lower in Germany, Sweden and Poland, where only 7%, 11% and 12% of workers, respectively, prefer the traditional working hours of 9-5 over the flexibility of the hybrid lifestyle.
The founder and CEO of The Happiness Research Institute, Meik Wiking, worked with Samsung to examine the future of work patterns. As he explains: “As innovation and the necessity of flexibility replace face-to-face work, people are looking for guidance on how to achieve a balance between productivity and well-being, as hybrid lifestyles bring their own challenges
The dangers of an “always on” culture
While some have successfully adopted the hybrid lifestyle, one in five Europeans (18%) find it difficult to stop working and more than 26% either feel like they are working all the time or working until late at night. 41% of participants use the time they would need to return from work to complete household chores.
The French are second in the ranking of workers likely to receive employer support for the separation of domestic and professional life, from initiatives to encourage disconnection from work, to the provision of portable technology products. The Danish are more likely to create spaces in the house that will help them delineate their availability for work.
Looking to the future
To cope with the pressures of ‘always on’ culture, almost three out of five (57%) European workers are still looking for ways to put limits between personal and professional life. This proportion is high among Spanish workers (74%) and falling among the British (46%).
Smart technology is “working hard” to fill this gap and create meaningful connection in a physically disconnected world. Research shows that technology has helped two-thirds (65%) of Europeans adapt to new habits, while more than half (51%) report that technology helps them set new boundaries and regain control of their lives. One in six puts reminders on mobile (16%), an additional 13% use smart home appliances, 10% use time management apps, and 38% use smart devices or apps to manage time between work and home.
However, despite efforts to adapt, 83% of European workers are still looking for better technology and more support from employers to help them manage the new way of life and work.
“It is a critical point for businesses to properly manage the reality of the hybrid lifestyle. This study shows that employees now feel ready to prioritize their own needs.”, commented the Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Europe, Benjamin Braun.
As the world continues to evolve and people are moving again, businesses must rise to this challenge or risk losing the game. The pandemic has made people rely even more on technology to complete tasks. With physical presence in the office now considered an outdated concept, employers need to think carefully about how to meet the demands of the modern hybrid lifestyle.
“Smart technology has helped Europeans cope with the needs of their personal and professional lives, as one in five already uses the internet of things and smart devices. However, we are still a long way from completing the hybrid lifestyle.
Looking forward to the future, we are likely to see technology harnessed to monitor our mental and physical health as well as our happiness, with smart devices becoming helpers in our well-being.”
For employees who want to create stronger boundaries between work and personal life and better manage the hybrid way, Meik offers a series of tips.
Rest of the mind
The kingdom of Bhutan is internationally known for its choice to focus on the term “Gross National Happiness” to measure the well-being of its inhabitants, against the more economic index “Gross National Product”. For those who want a happier work routine, the practice of “brain brushing”, a simple and short brain rest exercise, with which the school days in Bhutan begin and end can be extremely helpful: By silently focusing on his breath for five minutes, one can rest his brain and escape the constant “roar” of work. For the success of the exercise, the employee should leave aside the computer and the tools of his work.
Dealing with loneliness
Working from home can create feelings of loneliness in people.
To cope with these negative feelings, one can schedule regular, physical or virtual, meals with friends or establish a meal, every Friday, with a friend or partner. In this way he can boost his mood and morale and in combination with the scheduling of tasks and appointments, to know how he has spent his time and to keep distinct boundaries between work and personal life.
Managers and employers can set an example by setting healthy boundaries in the workplace even by introducing a virtual badge label “don’t disturb.” When someone works from home, they can be interrupted by phone calls, emergency online meetings, emails, and notifications. This can lead him to try to “squeeze” many tasks, which require full concentration, in a limited time. Since this is not easy, it is good that employees are encouraged to take time and move away for a while from the unstoppable flow of work.
Workers can also be encouraged to set their own boundaries. They can add a phrase to their email signature acknowledging that working hours may vary and that a response to their messages is not necessarily expected immediately.For example, if an employee sends an email at 21:00, they should be prepared that the response may come 12 hours later. It is also important to demarcate in the workplace and at home, so that colleagues and roommates do not interrupt working hours.
Contact with neighbors
The Dutch have a proverb saying that “it is better to have a good neighbour than a distant friend.People consider that neighborhoods that regularly organize activities are more pleasant places to live in. As people now spend more time in their homes it is worthwhile to emulate the annual “Neighbourhood Day” of the Dutch and to become more involved with local communities. The Dutch introduced “Neighborhood Day” to bring people who live in the same neighborhood together to do something good for each other, to share food, to play games and get to know each other. Now, with the plethora of connected devices, one can transfer this activity to the digital world, by scheduling virtual meetings for coffee, through a messaging and video platform, ordering food for a friend, or watching, via streaming, at the same time a movie with his friends.
Enjoyment of the natural environment
The hybrid lifestyle enables working from anywhere, a possibility that one can use to improve one’s happiness levels. A powerful finding from research on well-being is that people feel happier when they come into contact with nature. Walking to the office and enjoying the surroundings, meditation exercises looking out the window, breaks and walking around the neighborhood square can significantly enhance well-being, according to the study.
Research also reveals the important role of the home in adapting to hybrid lifestyles and setting boundaries.Two thirds of Europeans (66%) have made, or are planning, improvements at home for greater comfort in the new way of life. Almost half (48%) of participants have created new spaces in the home to set boundaries between work and personal time while two out of five (41%) have decided to move, choosing a home that best suits the new lifestyle.