There’s a lot of conversation right now around the development of Androids and other non-human vehicles that can take the place of people in the workplace. One example: Amazon using drones to deliver customer orders rather than relying solely on more traditional shipping methods.
As amazing and sometimes efficient as robot power may sound, there will always be some roles that can only be accomplished by human beings. These roles are often caregiving roles such as early years practitioners, nurses, physical therapists, doctors, teachers and paramedics, etc. Workers in these categories not only can’t have their tasks completed by a robot, they can’t push the responsibilities off to another day, and they can’t leave work early with the thought that, “I’ll just do it in the morning.” They have to be at work doing their jobs – every day. In other words, they must be on the job.
Being in such a role can be very rewarding; but it also has very unique challenges, particularly when you think about each person’s need to feel successful in and out of work. Some call that need work/life balance or work/life integration. Whatever its label, research is telling us that employees want it and are making employment choices based on their assessment of whether it’s possible in a given role with a particular employer.
Workplace Flexibility: Making work/life balance possible
So, how does an employer who has a workforce full of doctors and nurses or teachers (or any role that’s human-labour intensive for that matter) authentically support work/life balance? The key words are flexibility and control. Employees who feel that there is some degree of flexibility in their scheduling — and who feel they have input into how that schedule is created — are much more likely to indicate they have work/life balance.
So what does workplace flexibility and control look like in a hospital setting? You certainly can’t have all nurses scheduling Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays so they can all have four-day weekends. But you can give them the control to collaboratively create a schedule and swap shifts with others in their unit. This flexibility not only allows for appropriate coverage, it enables individual nurses to do what they need to do — attend their child’s dance show, for example – while still being effective on the job.
Although it may be a challenge to even think about giving employees a level of control over their schedules, this kind of workplace flexibility is important. People who have to be on the job have the same desire for work/life balance as colleagues in more traditional roles.
Given that Androids will never be able to calm a scared child while also assessing whether she’ll need stitches or a plane and car bandage, it’s important to support these critical people — paramedics, doctors, nurses and others who have to be on the job — to achieve success both in work… and outside of it.