Work/Life Balance in the 21st Century: An Interview with Peter Felix, AESC President


Creating a healthy Work/life balance has become an increasingly difficult challenge for executives, and a key issue for HR policy. Now, more than ever, the line between work and personal life has become blurred beyond recognition, to the point that receiving emails from mobile phones and personal computers late at night, at weekends and during vacation time is not only common, but often encouraged.

Even without encouragement from the top, there is a unspoken pressure to remain connected well beyond office hours. The Times of india also shared an interest in this topic, resulting in the below interview with Peter Felix, AESC and BlueSteps President:

  1. What was the main motive behind conducting your Work/Life balance studies in 2006, 2008 and 2010?

We tailor our surveys to the needs and concerns of our BlueSteps senior executive members, and work/life balance is a key component to job satisfaction. In regards to the context of the study, there were increasing concerns of how the role of technology affects work/life balance (constant connectivity), and the impact of the recession resulting in less workers, more workload.

  1. In today’s workplace, how important is creating work-life balance for employees? Does work-life balance impact attraction, retention and productivity of top executives?

Work/life balance is absolutely essential and will directly impact the retention of top executive talent. The old saying, ‘a happy employee is a productive employee’ is simple but true. An unhealthy work/life balance leads to increased stress, strain on personal relationships and lack of personal fulfillment. All of these factors will push executives towards greener pastures, and contrary to the post-recession mindset, recruitment at the c-level is on the rise and opportunities abound in emerging markets such as India. In relation to the 2010 work/life balance survey, eighty per cent of BlueSteps executives say that work-life balance is critical in their decision whether to join or remain with an employer (84.5% in 2008).
Also, without a strong balance between work and ‘downtime’, creativity can suffer greatly. Our minds need time to rest and space to think, and often the greatest influence on our work comes from outside the office. If there is no work/life balance, there is no time for employees to gain external insights and recharge their creative space.

  1. How has work-life balance become the new workplace ‘perk’ for working professionals? How are employees giving more importance to work-life balance policies as compared to other aspects such as compensation?

A strong work/life balance is increasingly important to executives because organizations have become leaner since the recession and connectivity/ technology is eating into personal leisure time. As the 2010 BlueSteps work/life balance study indicated, ‘The large majority of respondents (70 per cent) feel that a modern lifestyle, defined by new technology and globalization, has decreased their leisure time.’ Globalization is also a factor as executives are often working across multiple time zones.
In other surveys conducted by BlueSteps, compensation, career progress and increased responsibility always come above work/life balance in their assessment of new opportunities. However, this may be because executives are not equipped with the tools or understanding to assess work/life balance during the interview stage. Questions regarding workload and time expectation have become a taboo for many executives – you can’t ask those questions, it suggests you are not committed. That is completely false. Executives need to be vigilant when assessing future bosses, expected workload and work/life balance programs. Ensuring the job is a good match is your responsibility.

  1. What kind of work-life balance initiatives are the most popular and sought after by employees these days? Are companies doing that extra bit to make sure their employees have enough in terms of helping executives successfully integrate their personal and professional lives?

The 2010 BlueSteps Work/Life Balance study showed that 55% of senior executives are unsatisfied with their work/life Balance, yet 82 per cent report that their company does not have a program in place to improve work-life balance. I think these results make it very clear that companies are not meeting the demand for a healthy work/life balance, neglecting a key component for attracting and retaining top executive talent.
Examples of interesting approaches to work/life balance are: insistence that full vacation time is taken; flexible working hours; a flexible approach to unpaid time off and home-working provided suitable arrangements are in place; part time hours for working mothers; provision of adequate recovery time when travelling and appropriate class of travel; Mentoring; in house provision of work out facilities and showers etc.; among other options.
Many organizations help achieve the right balance in their attitude and internal communication. By relieving corporate pressure about being out of the office to attend children’s activities etc., a corporation can engender loyalty and extremely favourable feelings towards it.

Peter M. Felix, AESC
Peter FelixPeter M. Felix has been President of the worldwide Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), based in New York, since 1998. Mr. Felix is a former executive search consultant, who has had extensive experience in association management, in management consulting and in industrial management.

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in 74 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. 



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