Yes! Work Life balance is possible and it has become a 21st century necessity.
A Work Life balance survey done by Accenture in November 2012, across 4,100 business executives, in 33 countries found out that the ‘work life fit’ topped respondents’ definition of career success, ahead of money, recognition, autonomy or even making a difference.
The survey threw up another interesting result – More than half the respondents said that they had turned down a job due to the concerns about the impact on their work life balance.
Another research by Kenexa Research Institute in 2007 shows that those employees who were more favourable toward their organization’s efforts to support work life balance also showed a much lower desire to leave the organization, greater pride in their organisation, a willingness to recommend it as a place to work and higher overall job satisfaction.
The above two surveys reinforce the fact that proper work/life balance, or popularly known as the work-life fit, is crucial not just to employees; but also to employers. In order to hire and retain a performing employee, it is essential that corporates place due emphasis on the work-life fit.
Work Life balance in history
Till the age of rapid industrialization and liberalization of economies, the cause of concern in work place was of the balance between leisure and work. The term ‘work–life balance’ was first used in the U.K in the late 1970s and in the USA in 1986. With the advent of smart phones, modern computers and e-mails, the boundary between work and personal time got blurred. People started working on the go and at homes, thereby triggering a work-life conflict.
A research published by the Office For National Statistics measuring the National Well-Being Programme in the UK revealed:
1. 48% of working adults are not satisfied with their work-life balance.
2. Two in three of the working adults said they are somewhat satisfied with the amount of leisure time they had.
Gender differences in work life balance
Does a woman have a better work-life balance? Does a man feel that he needs to concentrate more on career and less on personal life?
The study by Karen S. Lyness and Michael K. Judiesch investigated gender differences based on self-reports and supervisors’ appraisals of 40,921 managers in 36 countries. The study tested the difference between how the two genders balanced their work and personal life in different parts of the world. Supervisors rated women lower in work-life balance than men in lesser developed countries, but similar to men in developed nations.
The statistics from the Galinsky, Aumann and Bond study of 2008 shows that fathers in dual earner couples feel significantly greater work-life conflict than mothers, and this level of conflict has risen steadily and relatively rapidly.
Consequences of impaired work life balance
With todays technological advancement like email, social media and the related tools, it has become difficult to separate life inside and outside the office. Sometimes it even feels like achieving work-life balance is like chasing a mirage, especially if you are working upwards of 50 hours a week.
In fact, 57% of the executives believe this 24×7 technological connectivity has made it near impossible to find the right balance in their lives, triggering issues like…
1. Domestic problems
2. Early burnout in career
3. Emotional problems including stress and depression
4. Loss of interest in work and resultant low productivity
5. Increased risk of spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and prematurity
6. Serious physical health problems including cardiovascular diseases and gastrointestinal disorders
Work Life imbalance can trigger executive burnout
Executive Burnout is a term used to describe adrenal gland fatigue brought on when someone can no longer respond adequately to the demands of their work-life. More on the topic…
Benefits of work-life balance
Implementing work-life balance programmes is a win-win situation for both the employers and the employees. The benefits of work-life balance programmes for the employees are:
1. Reduced stress and anxiety
2. Increased energy and enthusiasm
3. Better time management at work and home
4. Enhanced focus, motivation and job satisfaction
5. Higher levels of physical, mental and emotional well-being
6. Improved relationships outside work with partners, kids, family or friends.
7. Better decision-making ability to deal with imbalances in professional or personal life
In addition to personal benefits, work-life balance make good business sense too. They help increase the productivity and profitability of company in the following ways:
1. Reduced staff turnover
2. Increased productivity
3. Decreased levels of absenteeism
4. Enhanced employee engagement
5. Higher staff loyalty and commitment
6. Enhanced ability to attract and retain workers
7. Increased reputation as the employer of choice
8. Higher job satisfaction and morale among workers
9. Lower recruitment and training costs due to less attrition
10. Increased organisation’s commitment towards the wellness of its workers
How to attain a proper balance?
Is it elusive to attain a perfect work-life fit in this rapidly growing competitive professional world? Or is it really possible? Though human resource experts and entrepreneurs differ in their views, you can try the following strategies to optimize your work-life balance. Mentioned below are a few work life balance tips…
1. Manage time and prioritise
Time management is one of the crucial factors. We often find ourselves running out of time during a day’s work, whether at home or at office. The key is to prioritise as to what is important and finding time to do that job. Taking time out and making a ‘to do’ list at the beginning of the week or month and revising it frequently will help you to be in charge of your time.
Try and take regular breaks and vacations. Frequent a movie hall, if you have a taste for them. Try re-reading your favourite book. Have a long walk in the park. Munch your favourite snack from the nearest stall. All these simple tips could prevent you from work related burnout and prolong your career days.
According to the study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, USA in 2007, 78% of working professionals feel that their managers continue to perform tasks that they could well have done. Delegation is probably one of the most under-estimated factors while considering a proper work-life fit. Most of us take upon ourselves even the smallest of things that could be delegated to others. We are, at times, afraid that if we delegate what we do, there could be errors or even compromise in the quality of completed work.
A London Business School study found out that only 30% of the managers’ feel they can delegate their duties well. Out of these, their subordinates treat 33% as good delegators. This means that only 1 manager in 10 really wants to delegate his/her duties and empower others to perform the same tasks.
As a result, at the end of the day, we find ourselves staring at the pending important tasks on our desks. Obviously, we either postpone it or stay back late in office to finish the pending work.
Prepare a list of all the activities you do in a day. Think and reflect over it and find out what can be delegated. And do delegate it.
One might probably think as to how a session of meditation fits in the scheme of increased work-life balance. But, as optimal work-life balance requires the healthy blend of concentration and mindfulness, a small session of Buteyko method of breathing or a 20-minute long pranayama on a day can do wonders for a healthy mind.
5. Work from home
You can try working from home, if your organization allows so, on specified days. This will allow you to be close to your loved ones and manage tasks at home.
6. Avoid distractions
With the rising number of smart phones, the quantum of distractions in the workplace has seen a surge too. If statistics are to be believed, an average mobile phone user checks his phone around 110 times a day. It could be very well true that our constant peeping into our phones remove the focus from the work in hand.
An SHRM member poll revealed…
1. 21% of the corporate houses have a formal policy that regulates the use of wireless communication devices during nonworking hours.
2. Of these companies, 27% make a mention of the work-life balance issues in their formal policy.
3. 26% of the organisations have informal policy to regulate the use of wireless communication devices during nonworking hours.
Keep a fixed time to check your personal e-mails. Don’t feel compelled to reply to all status messages of your friends in social media.
A perfect work life balance may seem like a distant dream, but a little attention to the points listed above can help you solve a considerable amount of daily problems.
A writers note: The work life imbalance is the biggest reason for stress induced ailments, this imbalance is leading to life compromises; increased numbers of divorces, ailments, depression etc. Unfortunately, statistics back this up…
Life balance workshops, retreats and lectures have become a norm nowadays. In case you need any support yourself, please consult a life coach/ wellness facilitator or attend related classes, lectures, workshops, courses and/or retreats, whenever possible.