Achieving work-life balance Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007

Work-life balance is defined as “a person’s control over the conditions and interactions in and between their workplace, family, friends, community and self.” This seemingly impossible feat is accomplished when one feels equally satisfied about key areas of his or her personal life and paid occupation.

Studies show that finding a proper work-life balance is mutually beneficial to individuals, their employer and society. The question of how to achieve work-life balance in today’s fast paced world is not an easy one to answer. Many mistakenly think of work-life balance as something an employer must do for employees when, in fact, work-life balance is a two-prong approach. One prong does involve work-place initiatives but the other prong, which people often overlook, relates to what individuals do for themselves.

Smart Business sought advice on finding balance from Diana R. Owens, account executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice.

Why has the work-life balance become an issue?

Today’s world does not always allow for a distinct separation between ‘work’ and ‘life’ and the boundaries are not as clear as they were years ago. There was a time when employees showed up for work Monday through Friday and worked eight to nine hours, but in today’s world the boundaries have blurred. The global economy, international business and advances in communication and technology are all contributing factors that have enabled work to invade people’s lives.

While the role of ‘work’ has evolved throughout the years, it is still a necessity and, in today’s world, should also be a source of personal satisfaction. Many Americans struggle to obtain a healthy balance and often neglect some important areas of their lives as a result.

Whether your life includes a spouse and/or children, running a household or caring for a sick parent, work-life balance is an issue for everyone at some point in their lives.

What can employers do to help?

By offering work-life balance initiatives, employers can help create a better balance between the demands of the job and enjoyment of life outside work. Examples of work-life initiatives include family leave policies, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), flex-time/condensed workweeks, job-sharing, on-site childcare and fitness facilities or fitness membership assistance.

Telecommuting is another relatively new work-life concept brought about by the widespread availability of computers and the Internet. This allows employees to link to a company’s computer network and work from home. The purpose of telecommuting is to allow employees to spend less time commuting and provide greater flexibility in their schedules.

Studies show that successful work-life balance strategies will reduce stress levels and increase employee job satisfaction, while increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism and turnover for the employer — a win for both the employee and the employer.

What can employees do to achieve a better balance?

It is not easy to juggle the demands of career and personal life. For most people, it’s an ongoing challenge to reduce stress and maintain harmony in key areas of their life. Achieving work-life balance is not the sole responsibility of employers. Individuals need to take an active role in evaluating their lifestyle in order to find the balance that is best for them.

There are a variety of ideas to help employees find the balance they need. Time management plays a very important role. For example, organizing household tasks efficiently — doing one or two loads of laundry every day rather than saving it all for their day off; not feeling guilty about an unmade bed or sink of dirty dishes — these things won’t impact the quality of their life. Getting enough sleep — there is nothing more stressful than trying to accomplish a multitude of tasks when you’re sleep deprived. Employees also need to protect their private time; setting aside time for themselves each week so they can do whatever it is that helps them ‘de-stress.’

Remember that work-life balance does not mean doing everything. Examine your company’s priorities and set boundaries. Be firm in what you can and cannot do. In the end, employers can help employees who help themselves and begin to restore a harmonious work-life balance.

DIANA R. OWENS is an account executive with JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7251 or diana.owens@jrgadvisors.net.