Why a good work/life balance means cutting the commute, not the hours

It’s becoming clear that work-life balance is not just a matter of how many hours you work.

In the recent Regus Work-Life Balance Index, 59% of workers say they spend more time at work than they did in 2010, but 61% say their work-life balance has improved. Almost seven out of ten (69%) say they enjoy work more than two years ago.

More hours at work don’t necessarily diminish people’ s sense of well-being, but what does seem to matter is choice. All-important is the sense of having some flexibility over when, where and how long we work, allowing us to juggle work, family and leisure. We all feel better if we have some control over our schedules and time allocation.

In contrast, one of the most serious impediments to work-life balance is “time crunch”, a problem that the OECD referred to in its own report on work-life balance. It’s the feeling that there are not enough hours in the day, that you’re always running to catch up. Most of us know the feeling too well, but for a good work-life balance, time crunch should be occasional, not daily.

One antidote to time crunch is to reduce time wasted. Time management courses help, but more fruitful is to cut commuting time. Instead of dragging staff into a central office every day, employers can help them explore options for working closer to home.

Encouragingly, the Regus Work-Life Balance Index reveals a rising awareness among employers of the need to help staff cut commuting. Globally, two-fifths of workers think their companies are doing more to reduce commuting, with the biggest rises seen in the BICs, Brazil, India and China.

The average commute in the OECD countries is just under 40 minutes a day, but in some congested cities it can infamously be hours each day. Letting employees use work locations closer to home not only liberates more time for work or family, it also helps to reduce the stress and powerlessness associated with commuting – the minute-by-minute awareness of one’ s time being crunched.

Kirtsen Morgendaal is the Area Director at Regus.

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