Work-life balance is a term used for the idea that you need time for both work and other aspects of life, whether those are family-related or personal interests. The saying goes that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.But work, or at least some kind of contributory effort, whether paid or voluntary, is often recognized as being important for personal satisfaction, so it seems likely that ‘all play’ would be dull too.

In the 1800s, during and following the industrial revolution, industrialists and unions alike agreed that workers needed a day off. This later became a two-day ‘weekend’. But in those days, ‘work’ was mostly manual, and once workers left the site, they also left their work behind. They were genuinely able to rest, away from work, without having to think about it or worry about what might be going on in their absence.

Times have changed dramatically

The phrase ‘work-life balance’ is rather more recent in origin. It was probably first used in the UK in the late 1970s, and in the US in the mid-1980s. It has, however, taken on a new meaning with the recent technological changes that have made it possible for workers to stay in touch 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Smartphones, remote working technology and the like have meant that, even on holiday, people find it hard to ‘switch off’ and genuinely rest, and the complaint is often that people are expected to be ‘on-call’ at all times, without being allowed to have a life outside work.

Work-Life Balance
Work-Life Balance

The Importance of Work-Life Balance

Broadly, Maslow says that people have needs, which have to be met in order. Before anything else can be considered, basic physiological needs such as food, water, and shelter must be provided. After that, people need to feel safe, and then to be loved and belong to a group.

In short, work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life. Some of the common reasons that lead to a poor work-life balance include:

  • Increased responsibilities at work
  • Working longer hours
  • Increased responsibilities at home
  • Having children

A good work-life balance, has numerous positive effects, including less stress, a lower risk of burnout and a greater sense of well-being. This not only benefits employees but employers, too. “Employers who are committed to providing environments that support work-life balance for their employees can save on costs, experience fewer cases of absenteeism, and enjoy a more loyal and productive workforce”. Employers that offer options as telecommuting or flexible work schedules can help employees have a better work-life balance.

When creating a schedule that works for you, think about the best way to achieve balance at work and in your personal life. That work-life balance is less about dividing the hours in your day evenly between work and personal life and, instead, is more about having the flexibility to get things done in your professional life while still having time and energy to enjoy your personal life. There may be some days where you work long hours so you have time later in the week to enjoy other activities.

Here are eight ways to create a better work-life balance:

1. Accept that there is no ‘perfect’ work-life balance.
2. Find a job that you love.
3. Prioritize your health.
4. Don’t be afraid to unplug.
5. Take a vacation.
6. Make time for yourself and your loved ones.
7. Set boundaries and work hours.
8. Set goals and priorities (and stick to them).

Those who do maintain a successful balance between their often point to their flexible work schedules. Recent research found that in the past seven years, many employers have allowed workers greater flexibility both with their schedule and where they work. Flexibility can pay off for employers in the long run. “As we look ahead, it is clear that in order to remain competitive, employers must find ways to offer flexible work options if they want to attract and retain top talent.” 

“Work-life balance will mean different things to different people because, after all, we all have different life commitments” “In our always-on world, balance is a very personal thing, and only you can decide the lifestyle that suits you best.”

Work/life balance initiatives have the potential to significantly reduce absenteeism, improve employee morale and retain organizational knowledge and staff, particularly during testing economic times. In today’s global marketplace, as companies aim to reduce costs, it falls to the human resource professional to understand the critical issues of work/life balance and champion work/life programs. Be it employees whose family members and/or friends are called to serve their country, single mothers who are trying to raise their children and make a living, Generation X and Y employees who value their personal time, couples struggling to manage dual-career marriages, or companies losing critical knowledge when employees leave for other opportunities, work/life programs offer a win-win situation for employers and employees.

However, developing work-life balance policies is not enough. These need to be practiced and supported especially by the top-level managers.

Employee expectations are very high in regards to flexible work conditions in today’s society. So it is imperative for businesses to have highly functional work-life balance options to stay competitive and attract the highest skilled staff. Hence many organizations view work/life balance as a human recourse directive with strategic importance.

Organizational culture plays a key role when it comes to work-life balance provisions. So an organization with a co-worker and managerial support will excel with carefully created flexible work options. It is apparent that the HR policies in terms of work-life balance mostly concentrate on individuals who have families with small children. Due to the diversity of the concept of the family now, work/life balance improvement policies should address every aspect of the family such as single parents, shared parents, elderly care, and singles.

Finally, we need to adopt a “give and take” philosophy. This means that both employer and employee need to be willing to bend a little. Small compromises will go a long way in achieving the perfect harmony between personal and work lives.