Updated: Aug 18
There's no assignment jumping in at the end of the workday. No "emergency meeting" on Saturday. Spending time with family and friends. Personal days for personal pursuits. These basic conveniences are sometimes hard to come by. When we devote ourselves to one side, there seems to be less time for the others. However, it's possible to find a good balance that supports both your professional and personal goals.
Since our lives are unique, so is our work-life balance. That may mean skipping Friday night festivities to study for next week's midterm. Parents' work schedules may need to be adjusted so they can spend more evenings with their children. For a busy nurse or teacher, it may mean scheduling days for self-care. In other words, there's no one-size-fits-all strategy for work-life balance, but there are methods that can help most of us.
Work-life balance is defined as a person's ability to balance work, family, and other non-work obligations and activities. Leisure is an activity outside of work hours that's nothing to do with work, while free time is time without obligations. The challenge in defining work-life balance is that all of these aspects have an impact on whether a person believes they've achieved it. Balance isn't about devoting equal time to each aspect. Rather, it's about the ability to invest enough time, effort and thought to satisfy the individual.
The Netherlands has the lowest percentage of workers who work long hours. Also on the list are Denmark, France and Spain. The U.S. ranks 30th out of 38 countries when it comes to work-life balance. Most full-time employees work more than 8 hours per day. More than one-tenth of Americans work more than 50 hours per week and two-thirds feel unbalanced. Although highly paid executives are supposed to regulate balance, research shows this is a common problem among them.
The U.S. ranks 30th out of 38 countries when it comes to work-life balance. Most full-time employees work more than 8 hours per day.
Work-life during the pandemic
The COVID -19 epidemic has led to numerous undesirable and dramatic changes in the demographics of the workforce of modern organizations. The goal of human resource management is to find solutions to reduce the negative impact of work during the epidemic. Employee well-being is affected by factors such as feelings of threat, loneliness, working from home, and instability. Managers who must adapt their management techniques to the new situations face a major challenge. In order to work efficiently, the well-being of employees must also be ensured. Work-life balance is an essential factor that needs to be studied and for which further support systems need to be developed.
Professional activities have accumulated in private spaces due to remote work. The boundaries between the workplace and the place of leisure have also become blurred. Time constraints have also changed due to the increase in work time at home. As a result, the work-life balance became unbalanced, which had a significant impact on employees' mental health.
The future of work-life balance
It should come as no surprise that the work-life balance will look different post-pandemic than it did pre-pandemic. Many companies will need to reorient themselves to better meet the needs of their employees or risk losing top talent. As the epidemic has destroyed many natural support systems such as extended families and daycare centers, work-life balance is becoming more of a fairy tale. According to a LinkedIn survey, indicators of burnout increased 33% from 2020 to 2021.
In an effort to improve the work-life balance of employees, the Ontario government recently passed the Working for Workers Act, which "requires Ontario businesses with 25 or more employees to have a written policy that governs employees' rights when it comes to taking time off from work at the end of the day." Ontario employers have until March 1, 2022 to implement this written policy. The Working for Employees Act is intended to "protect the rights of workers while helping the province attract top talent and investment."
It's tempting to approach life after the pandemic with a "back to normal/good old days" attitude. However, for many people and organizations, there's no going back. The way people work has changed dramatically, and employees' attitudes and perspectives on their work and work-life balance are constantly evolving. Employers must be adaptable or risk losing existing and potential employees.
The truth is that there's never been a universal solution to work-life balance. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the answer to work-life balance varies from company to company and depends on a number of factors, including "what talent is needed, whose positions matter most, how much collaboration is required to achieve great things, and where offices are currently located."
Work-life balance varies from location to location and from person to person within an organization. Post-pandemic, organizations have the following opportunities to improve work-life balance:
More freedom and control over how employees allocate their time.
Emphasizing quality over quantity of work done and hours worked.
Investing in tools and technology that help employees do their jobs better and connect.
Encourage employees to take vacations and time off.
Develop a flexible mindset. Things change, and what works now may not work in the future.
While the Internet and cell phones have many benefits, they've also created a 24/7 work culture. The interruption of sleep is unbearable for many. According to the Harvard Business Review, workers who need flexibility (to take care of their children or other obligations) are often disadvantaged. Many people who leave the industry or work part-time never regain their professional standing or salary. Studies show that people who refuse to accept reduced travel or part-time work are less likely to be promoted. There's a professional stigma to asking for flexibility in the workplace.
Women with children earn less than their male counterparts and less than younger women without children because of the "maternity tax" on their working lives. Mothers are also less likely to be promoted. Work-life balance is critical for women because they still bear the bulk of parental and domestic responsibilities, even when both parents work.
Managers should therefore focus on employees who're reliable, productive and enthusiastic about their work. Those who constantly put themselves under pressure and risk burnout should receive additional support and resources to help them succeed on the job. Companies can improve work-life balance by re-evaluating and changing their working conditions.
Why is work-life balance important?
Work-life balance is influenced by both individual and organizational factors. Inflexible work hours, demanding bosses, incompetent colleagues and long commutes all contribute. Remote workers often need to be available to their employer even when they aren't on duty. Work isn't clearly defined because life outside the workplace is also work. They need to be online or available for much longer than they used to be. Work-life spillovers are undesirable indicators of work-life imbalance. Stress at work leads to exhaustion and poor health and affects personal relationships. Family satisfaction can suffer when loyalty to the company takes precedence over family responsibilities. This leads to low morale, burnout and high turnover.
How can you improve work-life balance?
Identifying stressors and balancing personal sacrifice with the benefits of working longer hours are important steps in this process. Changes can be made to work schedules, task distribution and deadlines. These decisions may be particularly important at certain ages. Another option is to determine when tasks should be completed. Harmony is a process. If you're stressed at work or at home, you may need to repeat actions.
Organizational initiatives can help maintain a reasonable balance, such as accommodating family and social obligations. Workers should be able to sign off from work as soon as they leave the office so they aren't available until the next business day. Remote work became the norm during the pandemic and allowed for high productivity without making personal sacrifices. Work-life balance requires that employees keep such perspectives in mind.