Avaya research reveals the hidden dangers of overworking

New Avaya research has shed light on the extent to which an over commitment to work can negatively impact employees’ personal lives. According to a survey of 700 senior managers in small and medium businesses (SMEs) conducted Summer 2011 in the UK and Germany, a staggering 81 per cent of people have experienced negative consequences as a result of devoting too much time to the business, rather than to other areas of their life. Conversely, 83 per cent of sufferers say flexible working has helped ease these sorts of problems for them personally, signalling that businesses can aid employees in improving their work-life balance and productivity significantly through flexibility-boosting communications tools.

The findings come from independent research commissioned by Avaya into the impact of flexible working on SMEs in Germany and the UK. They reveal that the consequences suffered go beyond the typical daily stresses of office life. While well over half (56%) endure stress, in fact a third (33%) have suffered from poor health; over a quarter (27%) of people admit to marriage or relationship problems and a tenth say their dedication to work has actually resulted in divorce or separation. Furthermore, almost a fifth (18%) of parents admit to missing out on their kids’ school activities such as sports days and awards ceremonies, as a result of an inflexible work regime.

These figures suggest that although businesses have made great strides in helping employees to achieve a better work-life balance through flexible working policies, the practice is not as prevalent as it should be. Over three quarters (76%) of SMEs offer employees some degree of flexible working, yet overall people spend an average 74% of their working week chained to their desks.

“It is a very positive sign that over three quarters of small businesses offer flexible working, but the fact that the average employee spends the vast majority of their working week office-bound suggests there is still a major disconnect between flexible working being an option for employees, and it actually becoming a habitual way of working,” said Michael Bayer, President, Avaya EMEA. “Where businesses clearly recognise and understand the benefits, they now need to put the tools and solutions in place to make it have a real impact on peoples’ lives. Unified communications solutions can help businesses to arm their staff with the tools they need to reach a more favourable work-life balance and achieve real flexibility at work – it’s a simple case of giving employees the communications technologies they need to be more connected, more mobile, more contactable and as a result, more productive.”

With access to unified communications technologies, employees can work as efficiently remotely, for example from home, on the road or off-site, as they do from their office desks, allowing them to remain productive and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The provision of flexible working communications tools supports a healthier work-life balance for employees overall, freeing up time for them to spend with family and generally allowing more time for wellbeing and combating health issues. Yet, companies that invest in the tools that create more flexible working environments can reap much wider business benefits. Previous research from Avaya has shown that increased flexibility in the workplace greatly helps to boost productivity through increased employee efficiency, generating financial benefits for businesses of all sizes. In addition, businesses that offer flexible working can benefit from better talent retention rates and higher levels of employee loyalty.

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