Work-Life Balance: The Elusive Key to Success and Satisfaction

Is it possible to juggle a career, family, friends and personal goals? Is work-life balance attainable or is it a myth? Jobspin has done the research to give insight into this global workforce issue in an era of fast-paced working environments and growing social pressures. Title image: stock photo, Freepik.

Essentially, work-life balance is about how people manage time and energy between work and their personal lives. Why is it so important? Finding a successful balance can lead to reduced stress, a lower risk of burnout, an improved sense of well-being and greater success.

Common Obstacles to Work-Life Balance:

Long working hours 
Difficult or unpredictable work schedules 
Long commutes
Increased responsibilities at work 
Having children
Lack of support 

Work-Life Balance is Different for Everyone

As each person has unique roles and responsibilities, work-life balance can be viewed subjectively. It is important to reflect on what would balance look like to you? Could it mean having more time to yourself, fulfilling multiple goals or simply keeping up with it all?

Thomas Kalliath and Paula Brough, researchers involved in The Work-Life Balance Project, provided several ways to describe work-life balance. It may be about successfully integrating different roles, committing equal time and energy to both, or striving for optimal performance while keeping work and life separate.

Matthew Kelly, the author of Off Balance, suggests a strategic approach whereby people should assess their interests, define priorities, keep core habits, plan a weekly strategy and evaluate what worked well every three months. Image: Pixabay.

Matthew Kelly, the author of Off Balance, believes that work and life cannot be separated, but what people need is to “live deeply satisfying lives both personally and professionally.” For those seeking both personal and professional fulfilment, Kelly suggests a strategic approach whereby people should assess their interests, define priorities, keep core habits, plan a weekly strategy and evaluate what worked well every three months.

Work-life balance can change depending on what role is prioritized, it can be created by reducing conflict between work and life, or it may depend on how much autonomy a person has in various roles and their ability to meet expectations. It may be necessary to set boundaries, take much-needed breaks and say no to extra responsibilities to maintain well-being in the long run and avoid burning out from prolonged periods of stress.

In response to Covid-19, millions of people switched to home-office and keeping work and life separate quickly became a significant issue. Many people struggled with new challenges such as isolation, working with a partner or children at home, distractions, loss of routine and being available 24/7 online. As a result, thousands have suffered from anxiety, stress, loneliness and depression.

Should Companies Support Employee Well-Being?

The 2021 Global Well Being Survey by Aon described work-life balance as the number one employee well-being issue employers are concerned about, followed by mental health, working environment/culture, physical health, and burnout.

5 employee well-being issues employers are most concerned about by 2021 Global Well Being Survey:

1. Work-life balance

2. Mental health

3. Working environment/culture

4. Physical health

5. Burnout

Work-life balance is not only a concern for working individuals but also employers. According to the recent survey conducted by Ipsos, evidence suggests a positive relationship between employee well-being and productivity. There is growing interest in organisations to introduce work-life balance strategies. Companies in Finland, Czech Republic, Norway and New Zealand are most likely to say that employee well-being is important to their company, while companies in Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Peru are least likely.

‘‘Over one in three adults (35%) said they experienced a lot of stress, while more than 40% of workers face high stress in their jobs, negatively affecting their productivity, health, and family stability. And in some countries, individuals are working more hours and taking fewer vacations than ever,’’

– 2021 Global Well Being Survey.

A study titled Economic Activity and Work-Life Balance as Reflected in the Results of the Labour Force Survey researched major obstacles to work-life balance. The article, released by The Czech Statistical Office in March 2021, focused on economic activity in relation the demographics of the Czech population in 2018.

Statistics revealed that a higher percentage of men (18-64 years) faced several obstacles to work-life balance than women, with one exception – more women experienced a lack of support at work. 6,9% of young women (between 25-34) without a tertiary education felt like they lacked support. While 10,6% of men (aged 18-64) without a tertiary education had unpredictable working hours. Predominant obstacles for men and women (18-64 years) with tertiary education were demanding jobs and long working hours.

Reflection: If a balance between work and life seems unattainable, keep in mind that millions of people dropped out of the labour market last year due to Covid-19 restrictions or social obligations. UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) found that 255 million full-time jobs were lost in 2020 alone. Millions of people work just to keep a roof over their head and feed their families. Anat Lechner, clinical associate professor of management at New York University, believes that work-life balance “is a very privileged conversation. If we’re reflecting, maybe we should also reflect on that.”

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