Mandatory telework: Surviving work-life conflicts.
Scientific Newsflash and Courses of Action
These days, millions of workers are finding themselves working from home. During a pandemic, how can work-life-family balance be achieved when a person has to simultaneously meet the demands of each of these spheres of life?
This initiative was made possible through a collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke and is supported by the Chief Scientist of Québec, with the Fonds de recherche du Québec.
Patrice Daneau is a PhD student in business administration (DBA) at the School of Management of the Université de Sherbrooke. He is interested in employee roles and behaviours to promote organizational health.
The contents on a purple background are the doctoral student’s recommendations.
WHAT IS MEANT BY…?
A type of work arrangement where work is involuntarily done outside of an organization’s physical location using information and communication technologies.
The breakdown of:
- physical boundaries between the workplace and the family and personal environment (e.g.: work space overlaps with living space);
- psychological boundaries (e.g.: having a meeting and watching children at the same time);
- temporal boundaries (e.g. always being available via collaborative communication platforms).
A person’s belief in their ability to engage in behaviours and complete tasks. It is the feeling that one can perform appropriately and the belief in one’s ability to adequately manage the demands of work, family and personal life. To feel capable of performing appropriately and to continuously foster this sense, it is important to:
- determine what to do (set a clear objective);
- determine how to do it (prioritize appropriate strategies);
- observe the results (self-evaluation or feedback from your circle).
When telework is mandatory, there are more chances of work encroaching on personal and family life.
Working from home can reduce work-family conflict. However, in the context of mandatory telework, setting boundaries between each of these spheres can be more challenging. Mandatory telework during a pandemic also forces us to play several roles simultaneously (e.g.: finishing a task for work while homeschooling).
The greater the number of hours a person spends doing mandatory telework, the less they can contribute to family activities or enjoy time for themselves.
The effort and energy invested in work can negatively impact the quality of the time and effort invested in family and personal life. Work role overload and trouble getting away from work, both characteristic of mandatory telework, can lead to physical and emotional fatigue.
A diminished sense of self-efficacy makes it more difficult to achieve balance in managing the time and energy spent on work and family; it also makes us less able to deal with and avoid work-family conflicts.
The confidence that workers have in their ability to simultaneously manage work and family roles and responsibilities is what promotes harmony between the different spheres of life.
FOR WORKERS OR COLLEAGUES
Be understanding and accept that an adaptation period is necessary.
- Take the time to listen to workers’ concerns and the difficulties they express to you concerning telework, while keeping the pandemic and each person’s personal and family situation in mind (e.g.: children at home, no private work space).
- Start a conversation with workers to find conditions and solutions that meet individual and family needs, as well as the requirements of each person’s job.
- ** Give employees some latitude so that they can establish a work pace and organize their tasks and work time by choosing periods of the day where they can be the most efficient and productive.
- Identify and express your needs, preferences and concerns about working from home and the difficulties you are experiencing.
- ** Establish a personalized work routine,
and, if necessary, set ground rules with family members (e.g.: no disturbances when the door is closed or during meetings).
Ensure healthy work conditions.
- ** Regularly ask your workers if they have the equipment and technology required to do their work (these needs may change during the next few weeks and months).
- Encourage them to log off at predetermined times during the day to promote periods of complete rest.
- ** Arrange your work space so that it is ergonomic (e.g.: adequate lighting, properly adjusted equipment), safe, neat and adapted to your needs.
- * Clearly separate work space from other spaces of the house to maintain a physical boundary to reduce distractions and unnecessary interruptions.
- Plan work breaks during telework days and stick to them in order to limit the impact of fatigue.
Rethink how work is organized and planned to ensure balance.
- Regularly review short- and medium-term priorities, expectations, deadlines and work distribution with your employees.
- * Make adjustments in work tasks, keeping personal, family and professional responsibilities in mind.
- Plan a work structure and organize your tasks and schedule based on daily objectives (e.g.: finish writing a document).
- Separate the time you want to spend on work from that spent on family and personal activities, and stick to this schedule.
Support the sense of self-efficacy
- ** Be flexible when the unexpected occurs.
- ** Offer positive feedback when you see efforts being made by employees to deal with their responsibilities at work and at home, and acknowledge them when they meet their work objectives.
- * Depending on how the situation evolves, offer training or skill development opportunities.
- ** Set small goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) to make it easier to balance the time and effort that will be invested in each of the spheres (e.g.: accomplish 2 hours of work and enjoy 30 minutes of leisure time every morning).
- ** Identify actions or strategies to meet your goals (e.g.: planning and prioritizing professional and personal activities).
- * Stick to your professional, family and personal commitments and take the time to enjoy meeting your goals.
- ** Discuss challenges, lessons and strategies used by each person to balance the different spheres of life while fulfilling their work expectations and demands.
- ** Remain empathetic and listen to their difficulties, even
if you are stressed yourself. Avoid comparisons or stigmatization (e.g.: so-and-so doesn’t have children, so it’s easier for him/her).
- ** Offer positive feedback when you see efforts being made by your colleagues to deal with their responsibilities at work and at home and acknowledge them when they meet their work objectives.
TO CITE THIS GLOBAL-WATCH SCIENTIFIC NEWSFLASH
Daneau, P. (2020). Mandatory telework: Surviving work-life conflicts. Global-Watch Scientific Newsflash, available at www.global-watch.com
Flash written under the direction of France St-Hilaire, associate professor of Human Resources at the Université de Sherbrooke’s School of Management.
TO CITE THE ORIGINAL ARTICLES BY THE AUTHORS OF THE STUDIES
Lapierre, L. M., Van Steenbergen, E. F., Peeters, M. C., & Kluwer, E. S. (2016). Juggling work and family responsibilities when involuntarily working more from home: A multiwave study of financial sales professionals. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 37(6), 804-822.
Nakrošienė, A., Bučiūnienė, I., & Goštautaitė, B. (2019). Working from home: Characteristics and outcomes of telework. International Journal of Manpower, 40(1), 87-101.
 This definition was adapted from Lapierre et al. (2016) and Nakrosiene et al. (2019)
 This definition was adapted from Lapierre et al. (2016)
 Lapierre et al. (2016)
 * Recommendations adapted from Lapierre et al. (2016); ** Nakrosiene et al. (2019)
Also available on global-watch.com
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