3 ways to promote a healthy and safe work-life balance – a Mumbai story

Mumbai, one of the most populous and bustling cities in the world, has a problem that almost every second person who lives here deals with, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. I’m talking about a [sane] work–life balance or lack thereof. If you asked any working professional in this city, they would agree, at some point in their career, having experienced either long working hours (extending into unpaid overtime), exhausting commutes, taking work home, or working all through the weekend.

Work–life balance is the balance that we need between time allocated for work and other aspects of our lives (personal interests, family and social or leisure activities). Sadly, it is overlooked by those trying to navigate their way through our overly-competitive work culture. Work–life balance has more recently drawn on some confusion due to recent technological changes and advances that have made work-related tasks possible to be completed on a 24-hour cycle. The use of our smartphones, email, instant messaging, and other technological innovations has made it possible to work without having a typical “9 to 5 work day”. Yes, we are able to work more efficiently across time zones, get real-time approvals and authorizations, or meet that critical deadline, but at what cost?

Our Mumbai Office managers have come up with a few informal policies which ensures we all are healthy and safe at the end of each day. Although quite simple, these three initiatives have had a thoughtful and positive impact on those who work here. Some have even left a few of our friends and colleagues in awe or envy.

“Go home!” 

It is strongly suggested that no one remains working in the office after 7:30pm. This is significant when compared to the office timings of 9-9:30pm or later at other firms and companies. If, for pressing reasons, one has to stay beyond this time, we are required to take prior permission from our Line Managers as well as inform our team’s Human Resources Manager. Keeping with the Arcadis Values of People First and Integrity, we are accountable for our time, energy, and well-being and how it impacts our performance. The open communication and genuine concern allow us to assess our working conditions and make informed decisions on future workload, resource allocation and scheduling. The colleagues who work with several lead regions (in multiple time zones) have significantly benefited from this initiative. They can confidently express their availability and decline unreasonable work requests, knowing they have the right support from management.

“Did you get home safely?” 

Working beyond 7:30pm in the office has its fair share of risks, mostly related to the commute back home. Travelling alone, late at night is ill-advised, especially in Mumbai where personal safety and well-being is not guaranteed. To combat this, those who leave the office after 8:00pm are required to provide contact information by filling a register at the reception. The office security personnel can then check in whether they have reached home safely. In addition to this, we are required to check into our Office’s WhatsApp group and notify our Line Managers. This practice also extends to company-sponsored team outings. It makes me proud to be an Arcadian, knowing that we look out for each other and make sure everyone gets home safe and sound.

“If its unsafe, it is okay to work from home.”

As a majority of people working in the Mumbai office use fixed workstations over laptops, it is not possible to work from home, unlike many other Arcadis offices globally. However, in dire circumstances, such as natural disasters (mostly flooding) or civil unrest, colleagues with long commute times are given an option to work from home. Most often the transport networks are severely affected, and it is not uncommon to see numerous people walking along an empty train track in the pouring rain for hours in order to reach their workplace or home. Being stranded in an unsafe environment can be quite stressful, both physically and mentally. As a result, our teams in Mumbai are now hiring personnel in other offices such as Bangalore, as a business continuity plan for times like these. We keep health and safety above all and that’s what matters.

Does this describe your office-going experience or situation at work? Do you envision initiatives like these being implemented in your region? What changes could you make to your daily routine? Maybe you face a different set of challenges that affect your work–life balance. Overall, start with the little things today. Perhaps you could reply to emails during work hours only or if you’re bold enough, uninstall your work-related applications from your personal devices completely! Who knows what positive changes may come about? After all, we Arcadians are always Improving the Quality of Life.

By Matthew Lawrence

“Matthew is an assistant consultant in the Mumbai, India office who has been with Arcadis for almost a year and a half. He specializes in environmental due diligence and transactional due diligence (vendor, merger & acquisition). During his time in Mumbai, he has been part of Global Shapers Generation 2018 and is currently driving the City Shapers Bangalore Chapter as an ongoing Ripple Effect. In his free time outside of the office, Matthew is a national-level Ultimate Frisbee player and a novice jazz funk dancer.”

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