为了工作而生活还是为了生活而工作?

文章来源|ECONOMIA


工作太努力能弥补我们其他方面的不足吗?我们可以在工作和生活两者之间取得平衡吗?是否有另外一种方法使我们能远离职业和生活的抉择吗?

太努力的工作真的好吗?


对于我们大多数人而言,工作既不是达到目的的一种手段,也不是定义我们人格特征的一种方法。它是介于两者之间的;它是一种收入来源,并且伴随着享受和满足感。然而,不可否认的是,我们很难平衡工作和生活:工作经常支配着我们的生活,所以我们没有太多的时间和精力去照顾家庭或者休闲娱乐。英国国家统计局(ONS)劳动力调查显示,2017 - 2018年,英国有1540万个工作日浪费在处理工作压力、抑郁或焦虑等相关问题上,其中57%是由于压力导致身体健康问题。


我们是不是太努力了?我们是否应该为我们的健康 、雇主和社会做出一些改变?工作一直是很艰苦的: 据2007年蒙特利尔大学和伦敦政治经济学院的研究,在150年前的英国平均非农业人员每周工作60小时左右;在法国,瑞典和德国,该数据接近70小时。这些数字一直在以不同的速率下降 ,到1990年,英国每周工作时间为42.4小时;而法国、德国、瑞典和美国每周的工作时长低于40个小时。


英国国家统计局指出,到2018年底, 英国平均每周工作超过37小时。但是这个平均数存在误导性:有很多人为了获得微薄收入而加班加点重复做着粗重无聊的体力活。还有些合同工工作时间从周一到周五朝九晚五,却在通勤上额外花费30到60分钟,同时晚上或者周末也会在家加班一两个小时。平均的工作时间没有告诉我们人们是多么努力工作,但卡迪夫大学试图利用每五年进行一次的英国技能和就业调查(SES)得出结论。


SES 2017显示,几乎有一半的英国雇佣劳动力(46%)强烈认为他们“非常努力地”在工作,而在1992年只有32%的劳动力认同这一观点。近年来,越来越多的受访者表示,他们不得不整天高速工作,不得不在紧迫的期限内完成任务,下班后回家精疲力竭。卡迪夫大学社会科学学院教授艾伦·费尔斯特德表示,与其他国家相比,英国同乌克兰、爱尔兰、斯洛伐克和西班牙位列因工作强度排行榜的高位,而北欧国家的工作强度似乎较低。


有些工作需要比其他工作有更大的工作强度,例如护理和教学,一些专业服务工作,包括会计,都紧随其后。特许注册会计师慈善协会(CABA)的研究显示,超过五分之一(22%)的ICAEW会员每天工作到很晚,超过半数(54%)的人每周至少一次会工作到很晚,47%的人会把工作带回家,22%的人至少每周会有一次想过辞职。


CABA服务总监Kelly Feehan表示:“将工作时间延长到家庭时间甚至占据与家人相处的时间是一个日益严重的问题。”“人们总是期望可以取得平衡。”技术也推动数字化和自动化,挤压了许多领域的利润率,鼓励企业保持较低的员工数量。


根据ONS劳动力调查,这些问题对公司运行和财务问题产生了影响。德勤2017年的劳动力精神报告表明在工作中糟糕的精神健康给英国企业在一年内造成了330亿英镑到420亿英镑的损失,其中包括国民健康保险制度和福利成本以及税收收入减少。


英国经济的年度总成本大约在740亿英镑至990亿英镑之间。一些雇主正在采取积极的措施来降低成本,例如采取措施减少出勤率,并消除其与晋升之间的关联。CABA报告指出,雇主对旨在支持超负荷员工,提高管理意识和处理相关问题的课程的兴趣度有所增加。非剥削性的灵活工作也会有所帮助。政府已经侧重于支持灵活工作小组,该工作组于2019年1月发布了一些指导意见,旨在推广和改进灵活工作的使用方式。


公共政策研究所的首席经济学家Carys Roberts认为,这将使雇主更能吸引潜在候选人,也可以帮助减少男女薪酬差距。Felstead和他同事们的研究也表明,远程工作的员工实际上比在公司工作的员工更加努力。这对雇主是有利的,但很难解决过度工作的问题。但是在家里工作的人似乎会更快乐,他们告诉研究者他们不会为了更高的薪水而跳槽到别的公司。Roberts也表明雇主应该减少无偿加班,包括作出积极的干预措施来减少员工在工作时间以外使用工作邮箱。2016年,法国政府推出了个人合法权利以避免在工作以外的时间使用工作邮箱。


曼彻斯特商学院组织心理学和健康教授,Cary Cooper爵士反对这些禁令,因为它们可能使弹性工作变得更加困难。


人们在面向客户时可能会觉得自己不能在非工作时间与客户断开联系,因为客户永远排在第一。Cooper反驳到:“但很多客户也会存在同样的想法。”“是的,有些时候你必须长时间工作,但在我看来你必须让客户明白,如果并非紧急事件,可以等到星期一再去处理。”另一个可以提高生产力和减少高度紧张工作的方法是设置为期四天的工作周。2019年2月,新西兰金融服务公司Perpetual Guardian宣布,其切换到了一周四天的工作周,这个行为增加了生产力,减少员工压力并且公司的员工认可度也增加了。


显然,这样的变化对于一些雇主而言会比较容易。但值得注意的是,2017年的调查显示,近四分之三的会计专业人士(72%)表示他们认为为期四天的工作周是有益的。这在很大程度上也取决于管理的水平。Cooper表示,在糟糕的管理之下,情况可能会恶化。他说:“当你让低情商的人担任指挥和管理角色时,这种管理风格是有害的”。 “人际交往能力是有效管理的基础。如果管理者没有这些技能,就应该对他们进行培训。也许会计或法律事务所合伙人应该完成这类培训。”


千禧一代对雇主的期望


最后,近年来,人们一直在讨论年轻雇员——千禧一代对雇主有不一样的期待和要求,这是老一辈的员工,他们第一次进入工作场所永远不会想到的。


在Working Familie慈善机构的政策研究员表示,这不仅是影响蓝筹公司吸引最优秀的毕业生,它还会影响各种各样的雇主。他说:“雇主都在讨论,我需要做什么才能让工作变得更有吸引力?我的答案是用平等的对话来讨论如何完成工作,并且创造出更适合你们彼此的工作方式。”


并不是所有的雇主都会进行这样的讨论。Feehan表示:“一些老客户会说,在我年轻的时候工作就是很辛苦的,这就是职业的本质,我们要适应它。”显然,在一些公司,年轻的员工将帮助雇主创造文化,为员工提供支持和帮助,以确保他们不过度工作,这将有助于提高个人和组织绩效。在其他地,将需要更长的时间来改变,更多的员工需要权衡他们被要求做出牺牲与在组织或者行业内发展的潜在回报。


Cooper认为这些改变是至关重要的。他表示:“认为长时间工作是一个勇气的象征,这种观念应该被摒弃”。“如果你一直这么做,会对你的健康,你的表现和你的家人产生不利影响。”Felstead指出,最重要的是,雇主不得将员工视为“可以被压榨的资源”。我们应该把他们当做一个可以培育的资源并珍惜和信任他们。


普华永道选择灵活的工作制度


2018年8月,普华永道推出“灵活人才网络”,旨在为新老员工提供一些工作,而无需遵守全职合同和标准工作时间。普华永道英国公司的内务、团体和福利负责人Sarah Churchman表示,该网络目前被广泛使用。Churchman指出,该网络只是普华永道正在进行的文化转型的一个方面,旨在让员工感到有自主权并且被信任。


另一个方面是利用“日常灵活性”:旨在安排好工作时间、地点和方式。普华永道采用“技术责任”政策。Churchman说:“我们鼓励人们在休假时关掉电子邮件,并在没有办公设备的地方办公。” 她还着重强调了年轻员工对公司工作方式不断改进的促进作用。她表示:“他们的人数太多,影响很大。” “我们不会改变他们——他们将会改变我们。”



Live to work or work to live?


Can working too hard cause us to get less done? Is a work-life balance possible? And is there an alternative to running the rat race every day that will leave us both professionally and personally fulfilled?

For most of us, work is neither a means to an end nor the defining feature of our personality. It’s something in between; a source of income, but also, hopefully, of enjoyment and satisfaction. Yet, there’s no denying that balance with the rest of our lives is hard to achieve: work often dominates our days, leaving little time or energy for family or leisure. We know what happens when that trend goes too far: 15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK during 2017/2018 – 57% of all working days lost due to ill health, according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Labour Force Survey. 


So are we all working too hard? Should we try to change that, for the good of our health, our relationships, our employers and society? Work has always been tough: 150 years ago, the average non-agricultural working week in the UK was around 60 hours; and closer to 70 in France, Sweden and Germany. Those figures have been falling, at varying rates, ever since. By 1990 the UK working week was 42.4 hours; and below 40 in France, Germany, Sweden and the US, according to a 2007 University of Montreal/LSE study. 


By the end of 2018, the average UK working week was just over 37 hours, notes the ONS. But averages are misleading: there are many people in menial or casual work doing long, hard, boring hours for low pay; there will also be those contracted to work nine to five, or thereabouts, Monday to Friday, who also work for 30 to 60 minutes during their commute, and spend an hour or two working at home in the evenings or at the weekend, including time spent using work email during leisure time. Working hours averages don’t tell us how hard people are working, but the UK Skills and Employment Survey (SES), conducted every five years by Cardiff University, attempts to do so. 


The most recent survey, SES 2017, shows that almost half the employed UK workforce (46%) strongly agreed that they worked “very hard”, whereas in 1992 only 32% said this was the case. The number of respondents saying they had to work at “very high speed” most or all of the time, had to meet very tight deadlines, or often or always returned home from work exhausted have all also increased over the years. Professor Alan Felstead, of the school of social sciences at Cardiff University, says comparisons with research produced in other countries suggest the UK is close to the top of a league table of countries where employees work particularly intensively, alongside Ukraine, Ireland, Slovakia and Spain, while nations where work appears to be less intensive include the Nordic countries. 


Some jobs require greater work intensity than others: the SES figures suggest nursing and teaching are among them – but professional services jobs, including accountancy, are not far behind. Research commissioned by the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA) reveals that more than one in five ICAEW members (22%) work late every day, more than half (54%) work late at least once a week, 47% take work home, and 22% think about quitting at least once every week. 


“That stretch of the working day into time at home and family time is a growing issue,” says CABA services director Kelly Feehan. “There’s that expectation that people are always on.” Technology has also driven digital disruption and automation, squeezing profit margins in many sectors, encouraging businesses to keep headcount low. The cumulative effects of these trends means many workers feel their lives are out of control; that they are “bounced along like a pinball from the moment their feet hit the ground in the morning until they get back to bed”, as described by entrepreneur and business coach Penny Power. 


These issues create operational and financial problems for employers and society in general, as recorded in the ONS Labour Force Survey statistics previously mentioned; and in research commissioned from Deloitte for the 2017 Stevenson/ Farmer review of mental health and employers. It suggests poor mental health in the workplace costs UK businesses between £33bn and £42bn a year; and costs the UK government between £24bn and £27bn, including NHS and benefit costs and reduced tax revenue. 


The total annual cost to the UK economy was calculated at between £74bn and £99bn. Some employers are taking positive steps to address these problems, such as putting measures in place to reduce presenteeism and remove any implied link between it and promotion. CABA reports increased interest from employers in courses designed to support overworked staff and improve management awareness and handling of related issues. Non-exploitative use of flexible working can also help. The government has put some weight behind the Flexible Working Taskforce, which published guidance for organisations seeking to extend and improve the way they use flexible working in January 2019. Its recommendations include advertising all jobs as flexible, regardless of seniority level. 


Carys Roberts, chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy and Research, suggests this would make an employer more attractive to a wider range of potential candidates and could also help to close the gender pay gap. Research by Felstead and his colleagues also suggests that employees doing some or all of their work remotely actually work harder than those in the workplace. That’s good for employers but hardly solves the problem of overwork. But home workers seem to be happier: they are also more likely to tell researchers they would not move to another organisation in return for higher pay. Roberts also suggests employers reduce use of unpaid overtime, including active interventions to cut the amount of time staff spend using work email outside working hours. In 2016, the French government introduced a legal right for individuals to avoid using work email outside working hours. 


Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, is against such blanket bans, as they may make flexible working more difficult. But he approves of the fact that an email sent to a member of staff at car manufacturer Daimler who is on holiday will usually receive an automated response explaining that the email will be deleted and the sender should either email another colleague or resend the email once the intended recipient returns from holiday. 


Individuals in client-facing roles may feel they have less leeway to remove themselves from being contacted outside normal working hours – the client must always come first. “But many of your clients will have these policies in place themselves,” Cooper counters. “Yes, there are times when you will have to work long hours, but in my view you have to train the client to understand that if it’s not absolutely necessary to deal with something on Saturday, it can wait until Monday.” Another idea that could boost productivity and reduce strain on workers is a four-day working week. In February 2019, New Zealand financial services company Perpetual Guardian announced that its switch to a fourday week had increased productivity, reduced stress and increased commitment to the company among its 240 staff. 


Clearly, such a change would be easier for some employers than for others, but it is worth noting that almost three-quarters of accounting professionals (72%) said they thought a four-day working week would be beneficial when they were surveyed by CV Library in 2017. Much also depends on management. At present, suggests Cooper, problems may be exacerbated by bad management. “When you have people in command and control roles with low emotional intelligence, that management style is damaging,” he says. 


“Interpersonal skills are fundamental to effective management. “If managers don’t have those skills, they should be trained. Maybe making someone a partner in an accountancy or legal firm should be conditional on them completing this sort of training.” Finally, there has been much discussion in recent years about younger employees – millennials – having different expectations of employers and making demands of them that older generations of workers would never have dreamed of when they first entered the workplace. 


Jonathan Swan, policy and research officer at the charity Working Families, says this is not just an issue for blue chip companies trying to attract the best graduates; it can affect all kinds of employers. He says: “Employers are asking, ‘what do I need to do to make work more attractive?’ The answer is to have adult-to-adult conversations about how jobs are done, to create different ways of working that might suit you both better.” 


Not all employers will be open to such a discussion. “Some older clients would say, well, it was hard work when I was younger, it’s always been hard work, that’s the nature of the profession – get on with it,” says Feehan. Clearly, in some companies, the influence of younger workers will help employers create cultures that provide validation and support for staff, to ensure they are not overwhelmed by work, hopefully helping to boost individual and organisational performance. Elsewhere, change will take longer and more workers will need to weigh up the sacrifices they are asked to make against the potential rewards of advancement within that organisation or profession. “I do think there is a shift towards more employers thinking, we need to care – we need to notice there’s a person here,” says Power. 


Cooper believes such a change is essential. “The notion that working long hours is a badge of courage should be banished,” he says. “If you consistently do that it’s bad for your health, your performance and your family.” Above all, says Felstead, employers must not see employees as “a resource to be squeezed”. “We should be treating them as a resource to be nurtured and treasured; and trusted,” he says.


PwC embraces flexibility


In August 2018, PwC launched the Flexible Talent Network, designed to offer new recruits and existing staff the opportunity to work for the firm without having to commit to a full-time contract and standard working hours. The network is well-used, according to Sarah Churchman, head of inclusion, community and wellbeing at PwC UK, although staff working in consulting are more likely to use it than those in audit. The network is just one aspect of an ongoing cultural transformation within PwC, designed to make staff feel “empowered and trusted”, says Churchman. 

Another is the opportunity to use “everyday flexibility”: to organise when, where and how they are going to work. PwC also uses a “technology responsibility” policy. “We encourage people to switch off email if they are taking holiday and to have zones that are free of work devices,” says Churchman. She also highlights the influence of younger employees on the changing shape of working practices within the firm. “They’re having a big influence through their sheer numbers,” she says. “We’re not going to change them – they’re going to change us.”


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