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Nearly four in ten European white-collar workers can choose where and when to work

Time registration improves work-life balance

Just over half of European white-collar workers say they have a flexible work arrangement. Within certain limits, employees are given more freedom, such as staggered working hours. Half the white-collar workers surveyed indicated that tracking their hours worked helps them maintain a good work-life balance. These were the results of a recent study by European HR and payroll service provider SD Worx. 
SD Worx worked with Protime, a supplier of workforce management technologies, to survey some 5,500 white-collar workers from ten European countries to gain insight into how they manage their working time. 

53% of European white-collar workers have a flexible work arrangement on average. The countries with the most flexibility regarding working hours are Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. In these countries, nearly six in ten white-collar workers have a flexible work arrangement. Spain is the least accommodating when it comes to flexible work arrangements (41%).

Flexibility regarding white-collar workers' choice of when and where to work is somewhat less common. The Netherlands leads the way: half of Dutch white-collar workers may choose where (50%) and when (47%) they do their work, which is considerably higher than the European average (39% for both when and where). Again, Spain is the most conservative: four in ten Spanish white-collar workers indicate that they cannot choose when to do their work, and nearly half that they have no input on where they do this.

    Conscious tracking of working hours

    More than ever, employees want the freedom to arrange their own lives and work, which have become increasingly intertwined. That makes flexibility an essential factor in attracting and retaining employees. It contributes to their work-life balance, after all. When employees are granted such freedom, it is also a good idea for their employer to support them in managing their working time effectively. Over half of European white-collar workers say they find tracking of working hours helpful: time registration of hours worked contributes to a good balance between work and private life. This applies to Dutch white-collar workers in particular (63%), followed by Norwegians and Germans (57%). 

    The latter also lead the way in consciously tracking working hours at 82%. Swedes (78%) and Italians (77%) are not far behind. Just over half the Belgians (54%) keep good track of their hours. Time tracking is poorest in France (43%). 

    "To keep employees motivated, a good work-life balance is essential. We have also learned that a better work-life balance contributes directly to higher engagement and fewer cases of burnout. Fortunately, the right technology makes it possible to keep a finger on the pulse", says Cathy Geerts, Chief HR Officer at SD Worx. 

    Peter s'Jongers, CEO of Protime, explains: "A heart rate monitor warns us when we're exercising too hard. In the same way, online registration tools can help sound the alarm. You aren't being paid to spend 60 hours working on your tasks, after all. Modern time registration, which doesn't just use mobile applications to record hours worked, but can also create links to productivity, is even more important in these times of increased home working. Managers have an important role here as coaches. If someone's workload is too high, they can adjust the personnel planning in time to help prevent burnout."

      Four in ten check email outside working hours

      Still, maintaining a good balance isn't always easy for everyone. 41% of those surveyed say they occasionally check work emails or answer work-related phone calls outside working hours. In Norway, this is as high as 56%, a major contrast to Germany, where three in ten white-collar workers mention occasional work-related phone calls or emails after hours. 

      When it comes to overtime, France is the worst (56%), followed by Belgium (53%) and the Netherlands (53%). Scandinavia is the most punctual when it comes to hours worked. Age makes a marked difference as well. 52% of white-collar workers aged between 25 and 29 indicate that overtime is a frequent occurrence. The older the employee, the rarer this becomes. Of those between 50 and 54 years old, 42% claim to keep working after hours, dropping to 40% for employees over 55.

          Thanks to mandatory home working due to coronavirus, where technically possible, many employees have become acquainted with a more flexible approach to working hours in the past few years. Employees consider it a great advantage to be able to choose when and where to work, whether to come to the office or work from home. However, this can also blur the boundaries between assigned duties and the actual work carried out. The study shows that tracking hours worked can help to maintain a good work-life balance
          Cathy Geerts, Chief HR Officer, SD Worx
          About the survey

          iVox conducted a survey on behalf of SD Worx and Protime on how European employees arrange their time in the context of the War for Talent. The survey focuses on attractive employership in the War for Talent, investigating what employees look for in an employer, and what employers do to be or become attractive as an employer. The survey covers seven areas employers can work to improve: well-being and people-driven HR, flexible work organisation, a motivating reward policy, an inspiring and stimulating culture, the digital workplace, talent management for sustainable careers and recruitment.

          The study took place in February and March of 2022 in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. 10,119 employees were surveyed altogether (about 1,000 per country), of whom 5,495 were white-collar workers. The sample is representative of the specific local labour markets, with the same composition as to gender, age and educational degree as the economically active population in the countries concerned.