Work-Life Balance

Give the current economic conditions, which have been slow to improve, there can be little doubt that a tremendous impact has exerted itself both on organisations and their employees respectively. By analogy one may refer to this as the ‘condenser-expander’ scenario, where organisations require employees to do more with less, often in the absence of enhanced rewards.

In a world that is all too often driven by material possession, we look for a return on the investments that are made with our time at work and elsewhere. Such a cost-benefit-analysis indicates that we cannot buy happiness. Indeed, once a certain level of financial stability has been achieved, happiness becomes inversely related to wealth. This latter point is expounded upon comprehensively in a TED Talk by presented by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the topic of flow.

So if we are busy exerting effort at work and we know that wealth is inversely related to happiness, what are we chasing or sustaining through our workplace activities, given that we also know the absence of work has deleterious health outcomes. Unquestionably we have one life, there are twenty-four hours in a day, and it is not uncommon for work to take up a significant portion of our days and lives. Irrespective of how much we earn or enjoy our work, there is no means through which we can buy back the time for family, friends and engagement with our favoured pursuits. In this important respect, work is not a chase for all things material, on the contrary, it represents a a duty of contribution.

Where time is concerned, we have limited resources at our disposal. Often, for example in dual-career families, a tension exists between the pursuit of work activities and engagement in the home. Work-life balance is an important consideration as we navigate the most effective way forward for ourselves, our families and our employers. However, this should not be taken to encapsulate a desire for home-working in its entirety, work-life balance is infinitely more complex than this, something which you may have experienced personally and professionally at some point. Imbalance can be found in many areas of ones existence with a prime example being what is commonly referred to as pushing the envelope, situations in which we bring our work home because of either workload commitments or tight deadlines. The frequency at which the time envelope is pushed from one environment into another can produce relationship problems and a host of other difficulties including negative health outcomes. In the example above, when time is taken from one area of our lives it can lead to a resultant push on other resources, such as those of our spouse.

So, work-life balance is an important consideration. When work crosses over into the home domain, a host of negative outcomes can be forthcoming, exerting an impact on that which is precious. Work-life balance is an arena of discussion that responsible employers should engage in with their employees, to maintain or enhance performance, and to demonstrate the value that employees bring to the organisation. While work-life balance may appear to be in vogue, the underlying principles are important. There are also established linkages with the research evidence surrounding the psychological contract.

It is important to recognise that work-life balance is also about much more than work and life in the traditional sense. Time is a precious resource, something that deserves your consideration. Similarly life is valuable and we need to contemplate how we balance what we do and think about the resultant implications elsewhere. Fitness, well-being and health are relatively absent from the work-life balance literature, however, this does not mean that they should be. Indeed, the research on stress, anxiety, burnout and quality of life indices demonstrate that positive fitness, health and well-being states mediate negative outcomes.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance?

To learn more about work-life balance I would recommend the following resources:

Bakker, A.B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The Job Demands-Resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22, 309-328

Hakanen, J.J., Bakker, A.B. and Schaufeli, W.B. (2006), “Burnout and work engagement among teachers”, Journal of School Psychology, Vol. 43, pp. 495-513

The Job Demands–Resources model: Challenges for
future research

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  1. Pingback: Work-Life Balance | Occupational Psychology | S...

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