“New and emerging technologies are transforming the way work gets done. More people do their job virtually or remotely and at various times of the day rather than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.” -Gallup: “State of the American Workplace”
For most people, the central focus of every weekday, and often the entire week, is their job. As such, they find themselves eagerly awaiting the end of the day, the weekend, or the next holiday or vacation to break free from the challenges of their daily work routine and engage in activities that benefit their physical and mental health. The reality of this poor work-life balance creates a lifestyle consisting mostly of:
Nearly one-half (47%) of Canadian professionals are unhappy in their job, according to a 2016 survey of about 2,500 employers and employees by recruitment firm Hays Canada . Similarly, The Conference Board's 2018 survey on job satisfaction found that only 51 percent of U.S. employees felt overall satisfied with their job, while even less were satisfied with their work-life balance (41.5%) and the flexibility of their time plan (40%) . Additionally, the 2016 Gallup “State of the American Workplace” survey found that only 33% of US employees were engaged in their job, while just over half of employees (51%) said they were actively looking for a new job or watching for openings .
Employee loyalty is also declining, with 91% of respondents in the Gallup research saying that the last time they switched jobs, they left their employer to do so . These trends reflect a new reality in which employees are looking for more than a good paycheck and benefits package in order to stay loyal to an employer.
The widespread discontent within the North American workforce is having a serious effect not only on work performance, but also on employee mental health. In 2017, Morneau Shepell partnered with the Globe and Mail to create the “Mental Health Experience in Canada’s Workplaces” survey . In the survey, Canadian employees reported workplace stress as the primary cause of their mental health problems or illness, with depression and anxiety noted as the top two issues . The researchers also found that:
Additionally, according to a 1999 Health Canada report :
Fifty-three percent of employees in the Gallup survey said that a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and improved personal well-being is “very important” to them . One way that employees are seeking to improve their work-life balance and mental health is by seeking job opportunities that allow them to have a more flexible work schedule. In the Gallup survey, 51% said they would switch to a job that allows them flextime and 37% would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time .
Research has found that employees highly value flexibility and autonomy in a job. The Gallup research found that 52% of office-based employees, and 44% of employees overall, currently have some choice over the times they work . A Workplace Trends survey of 1087 employees and 116 HR professionals found that 75% of employees ranked workplace flexibility as their top benefit, while only 50% of employers ranked it as the most important benefit they believe their employees desire . There is mounting evidence that flextime increases employee happiness , productivity , job satisfaction , and work/life balance .
According to a 2018 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) benefits survey, more than two-thirds (70%) of organizations offer some type of telecommuting, either on a full-time, a part-time and/or an ad-hoc basis - up from 62% in 2017 and 59% in 2014 . Meanwhile, in the Gallup survey, the number of remote working employees spending 80% or more of their time working remotely rose from 24% in 2012 to 31% in 2016 . The researchers found that “all employees who spend at least some (but not all) of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who don’t ever work remotely” . They also found that employees who work remotely 60%-80% of the time are more likely to strongly agree that they make more progress in their workday, compared with other employees .
A 2017 review of research on alternative work arrangements found that virtual work can reduce work stress  and increase feelings of autonomy , organizational commitment , job satisfaction , and job performance [15-17]. A meta-analysis also found that telecommuting reduces work-family conflict by helping workers juggle professional and personal work . Additionally, it can reduce commute times and firms can save real estate costs with a smaller office footprint . Studies have also found several important moderators that increase the benefits and reduce the challenges inherent in remote work, such as getting to choose whether and when to work remotely . Furthermore, remote workers were found to be able to do more in less time because they have higher levels of work intensity .
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