What is work life balance?
The term work life balance relates to a harmonious state where the demands of work and home life are in equilibrium. In other words, people with a good work life balance do not have too many demands in their personal life that impact negatively on their ability to perform well in their job. Equally, their work is not so demanding or stressful that they are not truly present for their loved ones or so busy that they never have time for them. Most people strive for a good balance between work and life even though it may see-saw from time-to-time. When a work life balance is out of kilter, people can feel very pressurised and, in the worst cases, it can even lead to developing certain mental health disorders for a time.
Why is the work life balance important to employers?
Some employers are so demanding of their staff that they have little regard for a healthy work life balance. That said, many employers now understand that their reputation is in danger if they do not afford employees sufficient time off or holiday allowances so that they can recharge their batteries. Increasing numbers of organisations also know that flexible working arrangements and accommodating the occasional family needs of staff members mean people are happier in their work and consequently more productive. When this is not the case, higher employee turnover rates occur as people leave, which has a cost implication for any enterprise.
How does the work life balance compare around the world?
There are few worldwide studies into the work life balances of people and what it means to them, although it plays a big part in so-called global happiness surveys. What most scholars agree on is that the United States has the least healthy work life balances of any developed economy. In the US, time off for holidays lags behind that of the European Union on average, for example. Maternity rights vary according to employer but these, too, are not as good as in Europe. France operates with as standardised 35-hour working week, two hours lower than the level set by the EU.
How can you improve your work life balance?
Identifying that you are either too focused on work or home life is the key to getting the balance back. If your absenteeism rate is high, for example, then you will need to address this by taking countermeasures, such as adopting a healthier lifestyle, for example. Equally, if you notice you have a tendency to work long hours, then you should consider whether or not you are a workaholic who may need professional help to overcome addictive behaviour. In some cases, taking a wage cut to change jobs or drop your hours can be beneficial.
How does gender affect the work life balance?
Both men and women can suffer from poor work life balance. It tends to be hardest on new parents who have infants at home, which often impacts on mothers more than fathers. Single parents often report the least healthy work life balances of all groups, which, once more, disproportionately affects females.