Work-life balance means exactly what it suggests: giving (roughly) equal importance and time to work, and to a life outside of work.
Ignoring one and focusing entirely on the former typically leads to one of several outcomes: strained family life, health concerns, burnout, severe stress, depression and so forth. This may also be referred to as lifestyle balance.
The term work-life balance has gained currency over the last few decades as a result of an increasingly competitive work environment, in an increasingly globalised world where non-stop global travel and communications means you either out-perform or perish.
Medical professionals substantiate this fact, many claiming the workplace has become the single greatest source of stress and a rise in work-related neuroskeletal disorders from a combination of stress and ergonomic stressors.
The key stakeholders in this drive to increase work-life balance are governments, employers, employees and the wider community they are a part of.
Each of these parties has a material stake in maintaining lifestyle balance for sake of issues such as health, productivity, inclusivity and so forth.
Inclusivity is an interesting corollary of the idea of work –life balance: It would appear that several groups are excluded from the work-force in spite of being qualified simply because their need or desire to have a life outside of work excludes them from a 24 hour dog-eat-dog workplace.
Mature workers and women typically tend to fall into this category. When a female employee takes time off to care for her children or elderly parents, employers have been known to doubt their commitment to the role. Of course, men who take time off to take care of their families also face similar discrimination.
What can employers do?
It is widely acknowledged that employees that work in organisations with a genuine desire to encourage work-life balance will be less likely to leave the company, will demonstrate greater pride in their organisation, a willingness to recommend it as a place to work and higher overall job satisfaction.
Employers therefore have an incentive to implement flexible working arrangements in the form of part time, casual and telecommuting work. Employers with a serious commitment towards lifestyle balance can provide compulsory leave, impose strict maximum hours and foster an environment that encourages employees not to continue working after hours.
What can governments do?
Since a vast majority of employers cannot be relied upon to implement measures to foster work-life balance, governments often have to step up by implementing policy.
These measures typically include the right to time off when immediate family members are seriously ill, maternity leave, minimum wage and maximum work hour laws, disability benefits to workers no longer capable of working due to a physical or mental handicap and so on and so forth.
What can employees do?
It is imperative that employees are clear about their own priorities, their employer’s views on maintaining work-life balance and what the prevailing laws are that protect their rights to a healthy lifestyle.
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