Work-Life Balance
Work & Family

Importance of a Work-Life Balance

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Work-life balance has always been an issue once individuals began to work out of the home, without the usual level of control over their working hours or the responsibilities allotted to them at work. With the ongoing coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has caused high unemployment rates in many countries worldwide, it might seem ironic to talk of work-life balance. However, no matter how pressing the need for employment, it is essential to understand how best individuals can experience satisfaction inside and outside working hours.

This state, called work-life balance, can be defined as an individual’s ability to meet their work and family commitments, as well as other non-work responsibilities and activities. Outside work hours, leisure relates to non-work activities, whereas free time by definition is not committed to any activity. The difficulty in defining work-life balance lies in the fact that all these factors play a role in determining whether the individual feels this balance has been achieved. Achieving a balance is not about giving equal time to each of these areas. Instead, it is having the ability to allocate enough time, labor, and thought so that individuals are satisfied.

Different countries seem to have alternative work ethics, with the Netherlands having the lowest percentage of employees who work long hours. Denmark, France, and Spain are also high on the list. The USA is 30th on a list of 38 countries where work-life balance is considered, with most full-time workers putting in over 8 hours of work a day. Over a tenth of Americans said they worked over 50 hours a week, and two-thirds perceiving a lack of balance.

Determinants of work-life balance

For most people, work commitments are a fundamental element of life satisfaction and are not performed for the wage alone. Researchers link this to the daily structure and social identity offered by professional positions and expectations to be met. The determinants of work-life balance include both factors that can be altered by the individual and those that need organizational initiative.

Some are satisfied to spend long hours at work for potential career progression, while others feel satisfied if their family is prioritized. Still, aligning both remains a focus for many. It may be that balance is best defined when it is absent. In any case, when the preferred type of balance is not achieved, it leads to interference or conflict.

Individual factors

Individuals may be affected by their attitude towards work – they may be overachievers, perfectionists, or compulsive workers, all of whom are generally seen as workaholics who spend more time than required, sacrificing other activities.Those overworked also commit to long hours even when not needed to, but are not satisfied by the returns. The worker’s health status, personality type and degree of resilience, as well as the stage of career and period of life, and gender are other key parameters in determining a work-life balance.

Organizational factors

Organizational measures influencing work-life balance involve the work demanded in terms of the time spent at work and any intensity or pressure. In addition, the organization determines the work culture. Inflexible hours, demanding managers, incompetent colleagues, and long commutes all contribute to this problem. Connectivity has worsened this problem. Remote workers are often required to be accessible to their employers, even if these interruptions occur outside of commitment hours or during time spent with family.

Home as a source of imbalance

Work itself is poorly defined, as life outside the workplace also consists of other types of work. This is true of all who operate at home- or family-based businesses but has become a unique pandemic problem. Many at home are expected to be online or available for far longer than before. When it comes to tasks done as non-paid but necessary labor, the demands of home and its culture are seen to be determinants of work-life balance. For instance, role-related expectations are important, along with the presence of dependent children or older adults. Women may be implicitly expected to take care of domestic matters after working hours. Similarly, the care of children and elderly family members may be an unspoken or accepted obligation of one working family member.

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