Work-Life Balance … Fact or Fiction
Did you realize that since 1950, work hours have fallen all over the developed world. Interestingly, they’ve fallen the most in European countries and the least in the US. For Americans as a whole, the length of a typical workweek hasn’t changed much. But for many US workers, job obligations are creeping into free time and family time.
In the past 20 years, the US economy has grown nearly 60% and corporate profits are up 20%. While part of this increase in productivity is due to technological advances, it’s also a result of Americans working harder and longer. For many American workers, without any boost to their bottom line.
According to the latest Randstad’s Global Workmonitor survey, 46% of respondents said they handle private matters during work hours and 51% said they handle work-related matters during private time.
How often have you found yourself …
- Answering a work related email during your child’s football game
- Making a doctor’s appointment while at work
- Checking work email during the weekend
- Participating in a work related conference call while on vacation
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the latest findings on work email surveys show that 25% of employees are expected / required to respond to work email when not at work. Additional findings show:
- 50% check work email on weekends
- 46% check work email on sick days
- 34% check work email while on vacation
According to research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) among more than 50,000 global workers surveyed, work-life balance is now the second most important workplace attribute, second only to compensation. Additional CEB findings include:
- Less than 30% of employees feel they have good work-life balance
- Employees who feel they have better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than those that don’t
- 60% of employees identified flexible schedules as the most important work-life practice an employer could provide
Ok, the last statistic I am going to reference – A recent survey for the Huffington Post finds that 77% of us feel stressed regularly, with the biggest causes of that anxiety being reported as too much work and too little time.
We’ve all seen, heard, read, discussed and even experienced many of the facts referenced above. The obvious bottom line, the most appreciated amenity that companies can provide their employees is the gift of time. However, the reality is that most workers today are doing the jobs of what were traditionally 2-3 workers. While times for some may be getting a little better, uncertainty, potential layoffs, reorganizations, downsizing, rightsizing, etc., are still, very real for many. The results from these uncertain times are temporary productivity gains for the organization and feelings of increased stress, pressure, being overwhelmed for the employee. In a very real sense for many today, talk of individual work-life balance is just a pipe dream.
Work-life balance is a myth! In reality, that perfect balance that we all work, strive and search for almost never occurs. Should it occur, we’re too stressed, tired and overwhelmed to realize or appreciate it anyway. I believe what we should be working toward and striving for is more of a work-life “rhythm.”
Jon Gordon, author of The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work, puts it this way: “Give your all to work during your busy season; take extra time for family in the off-season. Engage yourself no matter where you are. When at work, work hard and love it. When with family, play hard and focus on your loved ones. Turn off the BlackBerry, and don’t answer the phone.”
What else can you specifically do to help find this rhythm?
- Recognize that time is a commodity: You wouldn’t be willing to give away large amounts of your money just because someone asks, yet many are willing to give away large amounts of their time. Time is a commodity you cannot get back.
- Create a stop-doing list: While we may have the best of intentions to learn new things and do more, the reality is it just adds additional stress. Time to dump all those things that aren’t necessary for your well-being or self-improvement.
- Turn off notifications: Notifications create the urge in us to multitask and everyone knows my feelings on multitasking (see The Myth of Multitasking). You’re pinged by an email while attending a meeting or beeped by a text during a nice dinner. Once you start reading that email or text you’re now doing two things poorly and not paying the proper attention.
- Say no strategically: Learn to say “no” or at the very least provide alternatives for the requests being made of you. Remember, you do have a choice and can take control.
Remember that there really isn’t any such thing as work-life balance; instead think of it as work-life rhythm. Don’t accept or adopt the victim mind-set. We think our lives are out of balance because of the actions of someone else, rather than our own fault. Take those actions now to create work-life rhythm!
Do you believe you have work-life balance? What are the actions you’re going to take today to create some work-life rhythm? Please share your thoughts with us.
No matter how busy you are, or how busy you think you are, the work will always be there tomorrow, but your friends might not be.