Work-life balance can be simply described as the delicate balance between an individual’s work and personal life.
It is crucial for every individual to find his or her own balance, as for everyone it is unique. If not paid attention to, an unbalance can bring grave physical, emotional, and mental problems, resulting from stress, lack of sleep or relationship problems.
As work increasingly demands more time from all workers and creates higher stress levels, companies are pressured to implement work practices to facilitate employees’ efforts to fulfill both their personal and professional responsibilities.
Such initiatives by organizations include flexible work hours, family or personal leave, telecommuting, on-site childcare, etc.
A 2009 research by Alexandra Beauregard and Lesley Henry, “Making the link between work-life balance practices and organizational performance”, digs deep into the literature on the subject as it suggests that there are several routes by which work-life balance practices can influence organizational performance, beyond just reducing work-life conflict.
There have been numerous studies as to the real impact that these initiatives have in the bottom line. The biggest case is made in asserting that, as Beaugard and Henry describe, “by offering these practices, organizations attract new members and reduce levels of work-life conflict among existing ones.” By doing so, turnover is reduced and productivity is boosted.
But some research has also demonstrated that these practices geared towards work-life balance actually don’t reduce work-life conflict, but rather just improve organizational performance through other means by facilitating benefits that sooth the rising conflicts.
The benefits of work-life balance that actually impact organizational performance include: reduced turnover, improved productivity, increased cost savings, enhanced social exchange processes, among others.
Relationships and productivity
Colin Dovey, career management expert, outlines the role managers play in promoting a balanced personal and professional life when it comes specifically to relationships. According to Dovey, some ways for managers to help employees feel supported when relationship problems arise, are:
- Telling employees up-front that the idea of healthy relationships is valued, both on and off the job.
- Becoming acquainted with the full spectrum of issues involved in broken relationships, the stress they cause, and the knock-on effect on health and attitudes.
- Facilitating opportunities for staff to be able to communicate freely when they need to talk to somebody.
- Being alert and observant as to the possibility of the high prevailing risk of the specter of domestic violence.
- Including family and marital “health” as an item of office meeting agendas.
- Encouraging coaching classes connected with functioning relationships.
- Taking the time to examine the company’s Employee Assistance Program, to make sure it addresses the proper issues. And if there is no program in place, taking the right steps to develop one.
Finding the balance
Randy Goruk, from LeadersEdge360.com, “How to Improve Personal Productivity by Finding the Right Work-Life Balance” proposes very simple guide for assessing work-life balance:
- Write down the three most important things in your life
- Beside each of these three items, write down the average amount of time you spend on each item during the work week
- Decide if you are satisfied with the answers on step 2.
- If not, you need to do something about it and not just put it off.
A good first step to start balancing work and personal life is to make an assessment on the present balance state, and discuss it with family and friends if you consider you need to change some elements.
Goruk recommends including your personal life in your daily work calendar, as this helps remember the need to keep balance in perspective.
When going home you should turn off cell phones and devices that might keep you attached to life at the office. Keep in mind that checking your email at the dinner table is not really necessary. Avoiding these behaviors will help you keep work away from home all week long.