So, how do you balance the work life balance and employee wellbeing? According to a recent newspaper feature Martin Bjergegaard, a highly successful businessman, says that in order to succeed and be happy it’s no longer necessary to work extra long hours that don’t allow family time.
Which then begs the question can we really ‘have it all’?
That may well depend on your definition of what ‘it all’ means. Because what’s important to one individual will not hold true for others. We each need to make choices about what we want in our world so we can better manage all its parts according to our individual priorities, aspirations and values.
That term, ‘work-life balance’ has been around since 1986. Like many buzzwords it was first used in the United States in relation to the perceived proliferation of Americans who were working longer and longer hours, usually to the detriment of their family life.
Since then it has been increasingly appropriated for use in the workplace to try to slow the creeping tide of ‘having to be in’ the office all the time and to halt the ever increasing number of working days.
Unfortunately the term work life balance seems to have become something of a stigma rather than holding its original expression of a means to define and address modern workplace challenges. Now when you mention ‘work-life balance’ peoples’ reaction tends to be of the raised eyebrow or the rolled eyes type, indicating that it gets in the way of ‘real work’. At worst it is met with a rather disparaging contempt and reserved for women juggling childcare with a career or work.
So is the term work-life balance still one that we should use? What does it mean 40 odd years on? One major drawback of its current usage is that it assumes that the work place and home are separable. It implies that by using a pair of proverbial scales we can move between each, neatly establishing an ‘equilibrium’ in our lives.
But life is not like that. (Was it ever?) We humans don’t separate the parts of us that carry out our career roles and send them to work. Neither do we do this for everything outside of work. Hopes, worries and priorities travel with us all the time. When something is happening in one area of our life it impacts all the other areas of our lives very directly. When something causes anxiety, however mild it may be, our cognitive capacity is diminished in some way because our brains will place a focus on the problem. Work-life conflict is a direct source of distress that drains our energy and damages our performance. Worse still, in those situations where it persists, this conflict poses an attributable risk to both our health and our organisations’ reputations – along with a negative effect on economic outputs.
So there’s a very strong correlative relationship between work-life integration, flexible working and their influence on well-being, both corporate and personal.
We should no longer assume that the call to pay attention to flexible working and ‘work-life balance’ is coming from just one small group within the workforce. The need to integrate our world is universal, and numerous research projects and studies have highlighted the fact that that those not working flexibly (or not allowed to) experience diminished well-being.
Creating workplaces where every individual can flourish and engage means supporting every person to integrate their worlds so they can deliver their best.
It’s not about a set of flexible working policies.
It’s about creating a culture of trust.
mojow runs workshops on rebalancing the work life balance, for individuals and companies. They’re full of helpful and actionable advice and strategies for managing in the modern world. To feel better, happier and healthier in your work and your home time, contact us for details.
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