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Scientific route to achieving balance

Shawn Cumberbatch

Scientific route to achieving balance

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For years ordinary folk and experts in human resource management have concluded that all work and no play is a bad thing. Conversely, spending the majority of your time doing everything but your work duties is a recipe for career failure.
Work-life balance is one of the issues that will be key in determining winners in Barbados’ Best Employers (BBE) 2014. It is part of the questionnaire section of the organisational survey being used by programme organiser Caribbean Catalyst Inc. to assess the 30 companies participating this year.
“This area will seek to ascertain the existence of factors that purposefully support work-life balance,” the company said.
The issue is also one increasingly occupying the attention of the international corporate world. Google is widely ranked among the world’s most innovative and successful companies. Ensuring its employees achieve a balance between work and the other areas of their lives is something that company’s senior vice-president of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, said the company had been focusing on using innovative research.
Bock thinks the issue is one that should be treated scientifically as it can mean the difference between company success and failure, and whether organisations are able to keep their best people. Google has been doing just that.
Calling it “people science” this official said Google development did a long term study “aimed at understanding work”. This study called gDNA was done via the company’s “People Innovation Lab”.
“After more than a decade in People Operations, I believe that the experience of work can be – should be – so much better. We all have our opinions and case studies, but there is precious little scientific certainty around how to build great work environments, cultivate high performing teams, maximise productivity, or enhance happiness,” he said in a recent commentary on the issue.
Bock’s view on balancing work and life was provocative, as he said the Google study had found that only 31 per cent of people “are able to break free of this burden of blurring”. Google calls these individuals “segmentors”.
“They draw a psychological line between work stress and the rest of their lives, and without a care for looming deadlines and floods of emails can fall gently asleep each night. Segmentors reported preferences like ‘I don’t like to have to think about work while I am at home’, he observed.
onversely, the “integrators”, find it hard to separate work and life, and as Bock noted “work looms constantly in the background”.
 “They not only find themselves checking email all evening, but pressing refresh on gmail again and again to see if new work has come in. (To be precise, people fall on a continuum across these dimensions, so I’m simplifying a bit.) Of these integrators (69 per cent of people), more than half want to get better at segmenting. This group expressed preferences like ‘It is often difficult to tell where my work life ends and my non-work life begins’,” he noted.
Bock found it “troubling” that “such a large percentage of Google’s employees wish they could separate from work but aren’t able to”.
“The existence of this group suggests that it is not enough to wish yourself into being a segmentor. But by identifying where employees fall on this spectrum, we hope that Google can design environments that make it easier for employees to disconnect,” he said.