Work-Life-Blending – Success Story or Day Dream?

Work-Life-Balance was the keyword of recent years when it came to balancing work and private life. When the working time account is full, leisure calls - a clear separation of the two areas of life. But is this philosophy still contemporary?

A new buzz word in this context is Work-Life-Blending. It blurs the boundaries between job and leisure. So is the separation increasingly being lifted? In the following interview, two experts in this field will deal with this topic:  

Aileen Kreibich is Head of Recruitment Consulting at ARTS and contact person for all HR topics. Even before her time at ARTS, she was certified in occupational health management and designed various OHM models.

Odoo image and text block
Odoo image and text block

Daniel Nehring is founder and owner of SPRISE. The company specializes in establishing occupational health promotion in companies using holistic concepts. His key to success is the combination of sport with coaching, consulting and events. ARTS is the perfect partner for him to implement innovative concepts.

In this interview they deal with the concepts of Work-Life-Blending and Work-Life-Balance, talk about the advantages and disadvantages and the reasons for the increasing integration and spread of Work-Life-Blending.

An overview: what is work-life balance and what is work-life blending?

Daniel Nehring: Work-Life-Balance describes a state in which work and private life are in harmony and form a healthy balance. To date, this has been understood to perform while working and switching to the full leisure mode outside of work. Work-Life-Blending, on the other hand, describes the noiseless merging of job and leisure time. There is no longer a clear distinction between professional and private activities.


If Work-Life-Blending is the trend, has the concept of Work-Life-Balance failed?

Aileen Kreibich: In my opinion, Work-Life-Balance as a concept did not fail. It was rather a process step to draw the attention of companies to this topic. Obviously, however, some companies did not succeed in adapting to the needs of their employees or in finding a uniform definition of the term that is needed to be successful in implementation.
Daniel Nehring: That’s right. Employers and employees must agree on how the working day should be structured in order for the cooperation to function successfully. Clear communication is particularly important when implementing Work-Life-Blending. If the manager attaches importance to the fact that the team is available 8.5 hours at a time or the employee prefers the clear separation of job and spare time, this system will not be purposeful. Here the issue of Work-Life-Balance plays an important role and has definitely not failed. The design, on the other hand, is very individual.
Aileen Kreibich: In my opinion, the concept of Work-Life-Balance is not practicable in the old understanding. The concept provides for a balance between work and leisure time as well as recreation. These two aspects face each other. Nevertheless, in my opinion, both areas cannot be so clearly distinguished, since one may also deal with work-related topics in one's private life or continue one's education.
Daniel Nehring: Work-Life-Balance leaves a lot of room for interpretation. That was the case in the past and it still is. I think one or the other has to define it a bit differently nowadays than he did before. The idea behind this concept is to find a balance between everyday working life and the private sphere, and I think that this should continue to be the goal for everyone in the future. There has never been a single requirement as to how Work-Life-Balance should work. It was just to try to find a balance for you in the form that is best for you. The blending really describes more the blurring between the two areas. And yet you have to find a healthy balance in this concept as well. Everybody has to find his own time schedule if he doesn't want to work 9 to 5. Blending makes this form of working possible. Everyone has to find his own optimum.


Does Work-Life-Balance in the classical sense allow more relaxation and is a permanent change between work and private life healthy?

Aileen Kreibich: Self-discipline and organization play an important role in blending and so does balance. You can't hide the balance in blending either. But it may optimize the productivity of the individual, because he or she can work at the times when his or her performance is at its highest. I don't think that Work-Life-Blending has a negative impact on well-being, because in the end it's just a shift in effective working hours and I still manage my balancing phases.


Balance vs. Blending: two opposites?

Aileen Kreibich: In the form in which we have now talked about it, there are no contradictions, but two approaches that are interdependent. Balance is a component of blending. The generally accepted definitions make it clear that blending can only work if the balance between work and leisure is maintained.


Work-Life-Blending enables to work at the individually most productive times.

ARTS experts agree that self-discipline and self-organisation are important aspects of Work-Life-Blending.

Why do private and working life merge more and more?

Aileen Kreibich: If you are burning for the job and identify with your tasks in such a way that you research topics in your private time and inform yourself about current trends and innovations, then this happens automatically. Future generations are looking for meaningful work and don't just want to work, earn money and go home. They want to create added value and enjoy their work. Therefore, private and work will certainly merge even more in the future. Because if you love what you do, it is not a burden to do anything even beyond "normal" working hours.
Daniel Nehring: For the employee, there are opportunities to integrate private things into everyday working life and to organise themselves differently. This creates more flexibility and frees the employee from afternoon and evening stress. Early appointments are much easier and quicker to get than in the afternoon. 
Another aspect is internationalisation. Business partners are now spread all over the world and the time difference is a challenge to which one should be able to react flexibly. This includes organizing yourself so that you can Skype with your international colleagues early in the morning and balance your free time at a different time. 
Aileen Kreibich: The last aspect is a point that is already practiced in this way at ARTS. Our recruiters schedule interviews early in the morning and early in the evening in order to respond as flexibly as possible to the needs of the applicants. The interviews can also take place in the home office via telephone or Skype.


Which factors favour the blurring of the boundaries between job and leisure time?

Aileen Kreibich: Clearly, digital change is a factor. You have apps on your private digital devices that support enterprise ERP software. This makes it very easy to take a quick look at the system or your emails. Also, the private mobile phone is used more and more for service purposes and enables employers and colleagues a fast demand also outside of the "normal" working hours. In addition, the individual attitude of each individual promotes Work-Life-Blending.


What are the opportunities and risks of Work-Life-Blending for employees?

Aileen Kreibich: Employees can integrate private issues into their daily work and thus save half or even whole holidays. They also have the option to work at times when they are most productive.
Daniel Nehring: It's also a way to get everything under your hat without having to put anything back. A family-friendly variant. Of course, it has a certain organisational effort. Even if you may not be available throughout, you always have the possibility to react from a certain point in time, from which colleagues and employers also profit in the end. I see a risk in the fact that some people are not able to concentrate on one area and can therefore not work in a relaxed manner. In the end, their private and working lives suffer. That would then result in self-exploitation or that one would never really come to an end.
Aileen Kreibich: Self-discipline, self-organization. Everyone has to check whether they see blending as an opportunity for themselves, or whether they see it as risky. Everyone must define a Work-Life-Balance for themselves and determine which working model is best for them. In the best case, the employer also supports this. Nevertheless, many prefer the model "work - after work" and everyone should be free to choose their preferred variant.


What does Work-Life-Blending mean for employers?

Aileen Kreibich: Many employers see it as positive to reach their employees in urgent cases. The same applies to colleagues working together. Some issues arise outside the traditional office opening hours and require quick clarification in order not to lose valuable time. Not to be underestimated is also the feeling which employees have when they are given more personal responsibility and a framework in which they can develop freely. An increasing motivation to achieve one's own and company goals as well as a significant increase in performance should be noticeable relatively quickly. Because if one leaves the choice of the working time to his employee, he will choose to 99% the period in which he assesses himself most productively.
It is important that managers do not force their employees into existing systems but find out in which system they can best develop their potential and where motivation is highest. Then you have not only 100% performance, but also a happy and loyal employee. 
Daniel Nehring: In addition, projects are gaining speed. When employees can flexibly clock in their working hours. Late evening meetings are then no problem, because things that arise privately are then arranged in the mornings. Of course, this always depends on the individual situation of the people involved. Of course, this only works if the employee is able to organize himself and does not completely disappear within the scope of freedom and possibilities. 
It is also a way of valuing the employee by granting him certain freedoms during working hours. Always under the condition that the employee also appreciates this trust and performs his work completely. Work-Life-Blending requires that the employer trusts his employees in this respect. Time will tell whether time recording systems will still be installed. Especially with regard to the ruling of the European Court of Justice. It is important in this context that employers do not expect their employees to be available 24/7, but also respect their private lives and recreation areas. Ultimately, it is only those who are not burnt out and are not subject to expectation pressure who perform. 

Personal responsibility often gives employees more scope to develop themselves.

Work-Life-Blending also presupposes that employers trust their employees to organise their work independently.

How can Work-Life-Blending be controlled so that health and safety is guaranteed?

Aileen Kreibich: Time recording systems are probably the best way to check that employees do not overload themselves. Unfortunately, the legal regulations on occupational safety and health are currently very rigid and were laid down many decades ago. Rest periods of 10-11 hours, as prescribed therein, are also no longer up to date in accordance with modern working models.
Daniel Nehring: Definitely. Because this regulation presupposes that 8-9 hours were worked before at the piece. And if you were only active for 4-5 hours, you have to put this into proportion. Some of the old working time regulations date back to the early 20th century, when people worked quite differently from today. Legal adjustments are long overdue. Instead of long breaks, it would be better to take ten-minute power breaks in between, and some prefer to work through their e-mails on the couch in the evening rather than at 7am in the office. Leisure time behaviour has also changed. You don't build your free time around 8 hours of work anymore. The work is built around the leisure time and with great success. Balanced and satisfied professionals, fully motivated and ready to give their best.
Aileen Kreibich: I think it requires a lot of information and as a manager I also see it as my task to pay attention to this and to find out the work load with my colleagues in order to be able to react accordingly. Nowadays, dealing with stress is no longer really work related, but rather personal. After all, leisure time stress should not be underestimated when you have to clock in your hobbies and friendships on your calendar. One could also get away from rigid laws and say that for 40 hours of work the employee needs so many hours of compensation.
Daniel Nehring: The issue of workplace ergonomics becomes more difficult in this concept, as employers cannot determine what the table and chair should look like in the home office, for example. It is therefore absolutely necessary to train your employees sufficiently to create a sensitivity for healthy working.


What is your personal opinion about Work-Life-Blending? Deceptive package or success story?

Aileen Kreibich: I personally don't think it's a deceptive package. I see more opportunities than risks and it is an excellent opportunity to manage your day-to-day work more purposefully and thereby gain the feeling of shaping it yourself and not being managed. Of course, it doesn't work in every industry. Such flexible models are unlikely to be implemented in manufacturing companies or in the social sector.
Daniel Nehring: Everyone has to define their own Work-Life-Balance and find out what I need to be able to perform at full capacity. For me Work-Life-Blending is modern working and it will be integrated in many areas where an implementation is possible. It enables an independent existence in an employee relationship with a clear mission and opportunities for development with all the necessary technical resources. Clearly a success story.


Summary

Work-Life-Balance is still an important, but very personal topic. Employers and employees decide individually which work model is preferred depending on the product or service, strategy and culture in the company. Not every field of activity allows the organisation of working hours in the sense of Work-Life-Blending. The conversion of work models requires distinctive and open communication in order to pick up and take away all participants. Everyone should be able to identify with the working model and not be forced into rigid systems. Irrespective of whether Work-Life-Blending or Work-Life-Balance is concerned, the focus is on individual interests and opportunities which, if correctly identified and promoted, not only advance the employee but also the company successfully. When practiced correctly, Work-Life-Blending can become a success story.

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