Ann Francke (CEO of the Chartered Management Institute) has stated that the current pandemic "may change the workplace forever.” Now that so many people and companies have experienced the benefits of remote / agile working and proven that it is not only feasible with modern technology, but often more productive and healthier, it is difficult to think of a mass return to the traditional daily commute and 9 - 5 schedule.
The office will always have value for specific tasks, collaboration and face to face interaction (a distant memory at the moment!) Employers have an ideal opportunity now though to shape a better working model for the future by giving people more control over how and where they work and how they balance their career with life's other commitments. Work-life balance shouldn't be considered as a "nice to have" benefit - in order for businesses to sign up and retain top talent, there must be an open minded approach to agile and flexible working and an understanding that it is a key basis for employee engagement. How employers approach work-life balance impacts how employees feel about getting out of bed in the morning.
Employees usually appreciate the trust and responsibility given by an employer who supports their desire to work in an agile way and as such, will invest more into their working time. Richard Branson is firmly of the view that employers should "give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen." This view is echoed by David Heinemeiser Hansson (author of Office Not Required) "If you let them, humans have an amazing power to live up to high expectations of reasonableness and responsibility.
Work life balance should not be seen as an entitlement or something that can be given - it needs to be carved by individuals. What is needed from employers is the space to be able to adapt to changing pressures and priorities. Careers are extremely important but it's worth considering Hilary Clinton's advice: "Don't confuse having a career with having a life." It is easy to become so busy making a living that we forget to make a life. Balance, as always, is everything.