Guest Feature

Is work-life balance an illusion at C-Suite level?

By Business & Finance
23 May 2019

Estelle Davis, Managing Partner at Brightwater Executive examines the ability to successfully achieve balance in an ‘always on’ world


In an ever connected world, the term ‘always on’ is laden with ambiguity and is open to misinterpretation.

In the era of globalisation especially, when many organisations boast multi-location sites and teams are quite easily spread across many geographies and time zones, ‘always on’ has even eclipsed GMT, leading us to question whether work/life balance really might be an illusion.

Always on

It is not uncommon for employees to feel, at times, not only the pressure to be present in their own 9-5.30 role, but also on occasion to be present at some stage of an international colleague’s 9-5.30, which can mean logging on late in the evening, long after their working day is finished.

More often than not, these additional hours aren’t recognised or offset against an employee’s early start again the next morning, leading to the real risk of burn out from the quite literal burning of the candle at both ends (of the time zone) – and a question as to whether the flexibility afforded to us through technology and telecommunications actually binds us more rather than doing what it says on the tin and allowing us the option to dial in when needed, but also dial out for the benefit of our wellbeing.

Senior executive work-life balance

A culture which expects and champions ‘Presenteeism 2.0’ is the biggest barrier to achieving work-life balance and the impact of it on senior executives is very detrimental – to both their own ability to successfully achieve a work life balance and on their direct reports’ ability, cascading right down through the organisation.

Thus creating a perfect storm whereby no one is achieving a healthy work life balance and in this instance, balance perhaps does become an illusion – something that is talked about often but rarely lived.

Using technological advances to aid our quest for flexible working and balance is key to success but so too is a creating a culture of trust and accountability whereby outputs and results trump presenteeism, which is arguably the antithesis of productivity and effectiveness.

Change from the top

New guard C-suite leaders have the opportunity to begin to affect a step change in their organisations by leading by example and creating an environment where balance is achievable and flexible working practice/policy is just that – flexible; for both the employer and the employee. As we try to navigate the reality of a flexible approach to working, it is unfortunately the latter who more often than not lose out when it comes to cashing in their chips

Flexibility must be the carrot; the grown-up reward for an ‘always on’ world. And not just for working mums either – for all employees, irrespective of gender, seniority level or role.

Brightwater tailors their recruitment solutions to each client’s individual requirements. They will advise on the best methodology for each role or project.

Their service is bespoke and can include a range of resourcing techniques including our unique candidate database which has the ability to target specific skill sets, advanced internet recruiting including social media search strategies, the use of external websites, Brightwater’s own website and advertising and sponsorship.