Is there anyone who doesn't have to deal with issues associated with work/life balance? It could be as simple as having a doctor's appointment during the workday, taking your car to be serviced, leaving early to get your child at school or having to stay at home to wait for someone to fix your leaking roof. There are numerous examples of employees trying to juggle work with all the other parts of their lives.
Individuals can experience a lot of conflict between various parts of their lives. Some of the factors that increase the stress include working longer hours, having limited support from bosses or coworkers, facing increased ambiguity or uncertainty at work, or overall job dissatisfaction. In fact, some research has shown that the workplace has become the greatest single source of stress.
In the United States, the standard workweek is often cited as 70 hours, not 40. This means that with more time spent on work, less time will be spent with family, friends and engaging in enjoyable personal pursuits. Unlike Europe, the United States does not have a maximum workweek length. Americans also have significantly fewer paid holidays.
Some researchers state that at least 25 per cent of employees experience high levels of work/family conflict. With technological advancements leading to our 24/7 work day, it seems that work bleeds into the rest of our lives quite often. It also seems that personal time also bleeds into our work lives.
The usual workdays of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays are not conducive to getting your eyes checked or dental work done or going to your child's soccer game. Researchers report that both men and women experience guilt when their family lives intrude onto their work lives (rather than the other way around). This guilt can lead to negative moods, anxiety, depression and other behaviors that can impact job performance.
In response, an increasing number of workers are demanding that employers do more to reduce the stress of work/non-work conflicts. Some companies offer wellness programs with fitness trainers, yoga instructors and stretching classes. Other companies offer healthier food options, on-site counseling, longer vacations and flexible schedules.
These programs can be beneficial in reducing stress and increasing employees' effectiveness. For example, flexible work arrangements have been shown to be a very powerful tool for reducing stress and increasing employees' job and life satisfaction, job engagement, job retention and health.
Perhaps companies can also start to really evaluate how work is done, how much work is assigned to each person or how much work is done "after hours." Similar to Chick-fil-A, if some organisations had a policy that work could not be done on Sundays or some other day or after a certain hour at night (even by technology), then this could liberate employees who are stressed about having to answer emails at all hours of the night and every day.
Employees need to feel a greater sense of control over their own schedules to help them manage their work-life conflicts. New habits will have to be created to change the way things are done, and change takes time.
Most people feel that management has a responsibility to help employees achieve work/life balance. This means that employers will have to continue to find creative options to limit the amount of work/non-work spillover that occurs to reduce employees' stress and to ensure that work settings are set up so that employees can fully contribute while at the same time enjoying good physical and mental health.
As Tony Schwartz notes in his book, The Way We're Working Isn't Working, individuals need four sources of energy to operate at their best. These include physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy. As it stands today, our workplaces and jobs are really not designed to allow us to enhance these sources of energy, and in fact often deplete them. So something must change.
Employers who make an effort to help employees improve their work/life balance will have an edge in recruiting and retaining talent. In fact, research has shown that employees who are more favourable toward their company's practices and initiatives to improve work/life balance are also much less likely to leave their company and report higher job satisfaction and pride in their company. So, what can your company do today to help its employees achieve greater work/life balance? Every little bit counts.
- Washington Post