The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

Striking the right balance

Carmelo Abela Saturday, 17 October 2020, 07:41 Last update: about 8 days ago

It has become relatively difficult to find the right balance between work committments and personal life. The drive to succeed is leading us to push aside our own wellbeing and to focus on being available to answer work-related requests anywhere, anytime.  Recently, I had the pleasure to visit the Malta Gaming Authority together with Parliamentary Secretary Clayton Bartolo, responsible for financial services and the digital economy.

ADVERTISEMENT

I was truly impressed by the efforts of this organisation to create a better workplace for its employees, by embracing a hybrid work model which both empowers employees and actively supports them to achieve the desired balance.

It is a widely known and accepted fact that a lack of balance brings about tension, stress and an overall decline in general wellbeing and negatively impacts performance at work.Whilst it has always been the case that some jobs require working irregular hours, the phenomenon has increased significantly lately. It is therefore the case that the line between professional and personal lives has been severly, but not irreversibly, blurred. And this even more so during the Covid period, when we were forced to make an office out of our home and to cope with urgent calls, emails, online meetings and family matters in the same space and – quite probably – concurrently. 

I firmly believe that whilst the COVID was an unplanned circumstance, it has given us the time and the opportunity to reflect on current structures. It has given us the opportunity to revisit the status quo. The Covid situation has pressed the fast-forward button and brought to the present all those workforce considerations – particularly teleworking and remote working – which were still listed in our future to-do list as potential solutions to better achieve a work-life balance. 

Government is endorsing telework and remote work, both within government entities as well as the private sector. The Malta Gaming Authorities is an example of good practice in this sense and is reaping the desired results. In the months to come, such systems can retain a good level of productivity, and also providing a level of flexibility at this particular time when more team members might need to take care of their vulnerable loved ones.

Flexibility is not a mere buzzword. Its application and streamlining is the only way forward towards better family friendly conditions of employment, aimed at improved productivity. And it is in this spirit, that I have also initiated a consultation exercise  within the MCESD and later with the Employment Relations Board to actively look for the solutions in favour of sustaining telework and remote working. This with the aim of moving towards a more flexible and adaptable work model which benefits both employers and employees.

We cannot, however, afford to let flexibility get out of hand. We must always set proper parameters for flexibility, and be fully respectful of the right to disconnect. This is relevant and important when it comes to setting telework and remote work conditions, since there is a tendency for employers to expect that – in such a context - employees are available all the time. I believe that is important for employees to recognize the need for rest and be able to disconnect from work. In line with other European countries and the studies which have triggered this conversation, we have to be mindful of this potential danger and mitigate against exhaustion at workplaces.

Admittedly, this is but the beginning. It is imperative that at this delicate stage of transition, we are vigilant and take the right decisions. Covid-19 was a wake-up call for us all to further cherish wellbeing as a top priority. Government is committed to keep safeguarding physical and mental wellbeing and will be exploring the different channels to achieve the desired work-life balance. Now that the awareness is there, it is time to re-think structures, workplaces and models with creativity, innovation and rationality at the core of proposed solutions.

 

Minister Carmelo Abela

Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister

  • don't miss