Work is a part of our lives. As such, questions surrounding the issues of work-life balance are not foreign to any of us.
According to a recent study for the Center for Work-Life Policy, 1.7 million people consider their jobs and their work hours excessive. According to the study, fifty percent of top corporate executives are leaving their current positions. The study further shows that seventy percent of US respondents and eighty-one percent of global respondents say their jobs are affecting their health. Between forty-six and fifty-nine percent of workers feel that stress is affecting their interpersonal relationships.
The issue of work-life balance is compounded by a shift in the workplace as a result of advances in technology. Increasingly sophisticated and affordable technologies have made it more feasible for employees to keep contact with work beyond the physical boundaries of their office. Companies utilize email and distribute smart phones to enable and encourage their employees to stay connected to the business even when they are not in the real office. Employees may respond to an email or a voice mail after-hours or during the weekend, typically while not officially “on the job.” As a result, communication technologies have created a “new workplace” in which employees are more connected to their jobs beyond the boundaries of the traditional workday and workplace. The more this boundary is blurred, the higher work-to-life conflict is self-reported by employees
The relationship between growing economic prosperity and both individual happiness and social well-being appears to have broken down for many of us. While economic output has almost doubled in the last 30 years, life satisfaction has remained resolutely flat and symptoms of depression have risen significantly. If we have an overwhelming sense that our life is out of balance we experience burn out, depression, lack of joy and energy. Because of it many of us are languishing rather than flourishing, living unhappy and unfulfilled lives.
More and more employees are responding to this reality by seeking out employers that offer a better work-life balance. Research shows they work harder for those that do. Work-life balance now ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes - second only to compensation - according to research conducted among more than 50,000 workers worldwide. Employees who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work harder than those that don't.
Organizations play a large part in how their employees deal with work-life balance. Some companies have taken proactive measures in providing programs and initiatives to help their employees cope with work-life balance. Companies have begun to realize how important the work-life balance is to the productivity and creativity of their employees. Employees indicate a much lower intent to leave the organization, show greater pride in their organization, are more willing to recommend it as a place to work and demonstrate higher overall job satisfaction and well-being.
Employers can offer a range of different programs and initiatives, such as flexible working arrangements in the form of part time, casual and telecommuting work. What is important for organizations to realize is that in order for any work-life balance program to truly benefit their workforce, the "one size fits all” mentality that so many HR departments embrace for the sake of equality - needs to be abandoned. Everyone's life is different and everyone needs different things at different times and in different seasons. Customization is key!
Finally, we also have to understand that a sense of work-life balance is not a factor of how much time we spend at work and at home, but of the level of fulfillment and control we perceive to have over our own lives. As such, the key to a truly balanced lifestyle is not what we do on the outside but how we feel about it on the inside.
Doris Gomez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Organizational Leadership
Program Director, M.A. in Organizational Leadership
Regent University, School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship
firstname.lastname@example.org | (757) 352.4686 | www.regent.edu/global