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In today fast-paced society, finding a perfect balance between work and daily living is a very challenging task that every worker must face. Particularly, it is most affected to families lives, as some couples may prefer having more children, yet cannot see how they would afford to working lesser or stop working in order to look after their kids; while some other families satisfy with the number of kids they have, but still prefer working more to support their life styles. This typical problem somehow raises difficulty to the government in a sense that if parents could not achieve their desired work-life balance, it could affect their welfare and so directly impacts on the development of the country as a whole. As a matter of fact, it is said there is no such thing called ” perfectionism ” in this world.
Even so, Work life balance is still very important for the healthiness of everyone – employees and employers, so as for the good sake of the organization; presently it has also received attention from researchers, governments, management teams and employee representatives (Pocock, Van Wanrooy, Strazzari & Bridge, 2001; Russel & Bowman, 2000). In fact, most of us have all heard the term and simply complain that we do not have enough of it in our lives; so what is work-life balance, exactly? According to Kathleen Gerson, Sociologist, young people are searching for new ways to define Work-life balance that do not force them to choose between spending time with their children and earning an income. Yet, it is generally believed that parents should make more time to support their kids both economically and emotionally, as well as sharing labor equally, at the same time. Indeed, Work-life balance is not simply about working less or starting a family; it is also about learning how to truly live and enjoy our lives. In this paper, I would like to address the importance of work-life balance in the workplace; also, the challenges and solutions upon work-life balance.
2. a. Benefits
Work-life balance describes an individual’s work and personal life. It tries to prioritize between work (career and ambition) and life styles (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual meditation), so that people can maintain their leisure times with families and friends, and at the same time improving their potential performance at work. On that account, three main benefits are given to both employers and employees when organizations agree to adopt Work-life balance; firstly, embracing Work-Life balance helps attracting and retaining top talent staffs. Otherwise, negatively changing work environment like increasing working hours or lack of support and guidance from new employers are likely to force them to leave the place. Due to the fact that Work-life balance is compulsory toward the growth of company, The Yamaha Group, for example, is known to actively cooperate with labor for many years in its efforts to promote Work-life balance – shortening total work hours and providing support for both work and family. The company then started introducing employee benefit programs and systems ahead of statutory requirements. Besides, The Yamaha also introduced childcare leave followed by a system of nursing care leave, hopefully eliminating the negative outside forces of their staffs while working for the company (” Initiatives for a Better Work-Life Balance ”, 2011).
Secondly, work-life initiatives helps employees to reducing absenteeism, health costs, and stress even though they may have some distractions by family issues at work; it is known that people who are free of worry about what is going on at home can be more productive at work. According to the Australian data from the 2010 National Work/Life Benchmarking Study (Barbara Holmes, Work/life Balance International) found that thirty-seven percent (37%) stated that their work-life balancing strategy contributed to a reduction in absenteeism, while seventy-nine percent (79%) reported a positive impact on work productivity.
Thirdly, work-life balance also allows changes in working flexibility. New research from Families and Work Institute (FWI) has found out that employers and employees benefit, when both partner in finding flexible ways to work. Working flexibly means due to shortages of talent and skills, many knowledge workers have the bargaining power to negotiate their working conditions, including working hours preferences and space available, as long as they can ensure the job will be done. That is to say, working flexibly can not only help employees to manage their work and personal responsibilities, but it can also enhance an employees’ effectiveness on the job, and thus benefiting employers as much as employees themselves.
We live in stressful times, and each of us has to deal with stress everyday. In a society that filled with conflicting commitments and responsibilities, work-life balance is known to be a predominant issue in the workplace; thus, having better understanding the interface between work and family relation, it directly and indirectly affects the daily living and performance in the workplace. Regardless of above benefits, three major challenges of work-life balance are described here. Firstly, global competition describes the outside forces that bring about the work-life balance tensions. These days, due to the various demand of the national and international workplaces, employment experience is changing – to get the jobs within today’s business environment, workers need to obtain higher skills to compete with overseas workers, it is somewhat weaken the relationship between work and family life. Also, in this new global trend, in order to decrease the company’s cost, most employers are searching for lower costs workers, resulting in pushing the wages lower and income insecurity higher for the individual workers. According to A Work-Life balance survey in 2009, it was stated that seventy percent (70%) of more than one thousand and five hundred (1500) respondents said they do not have a healthy work-life balance.
Ageing population, secondly, impacts the staffs’ benefits directly. According to Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Older workers are those men and women who continue their employment after reaching age 50, or who during their fifties or sixties are seeking to re-enter the labor market. Therefore, to stabilize their job in old age, an individual has to work longer hours, thus forgoing personal leisure time as well as neglecting their health, to meet the excessive demands of work and life. In the United States, for example, healthcare does not provide to all citizens. Statistically, Berg disclosed that 15.7 percent out of a population of 46 million is said to have no access to healthcare, because it is mainly covered by their employers and for the expenditures on this healthcare have just rose by 40 percent. Likewise, since their society takes it as a private matter, there is no federal assistance for this child rearing and sickness, causing it to be very expensive for most workers to afford. Additionally, Berg also added that starting from 1997 until today, dual-earner couples has been increasing in US – causing them to work by 10 hours per week and thus personal time has been dramatically reduced to an hour or less for men and women respectively.
Thirdly, technology is said to have facilitated employees from pressuring and keeping themselves at work more than home; however, the increased technology allows individuals to work anywhere and at anytime. Berg again raises that men nowadays have less time off but working more, which pushing them to face higher levels of intensity at workplace. An increasing in ill health, both mental and physical, and stress then have become troublesome problem in the modern workplace as much for office staff, managers, and even shop floor workers, due to over-work.
Since work life balance is rising to the top of many employers’ and employees’ consciousness, in today high-tech society, human resource personnel seek alternatives to positively impact the bottom line of their companies – improve employee morale, retain employees with valuable company knowledge, and at the same time to keep pace with workplace trends. There is no particular strategy of one size fits all; yet three possible solutions are given to deal with above challenges. To begin with, On-the-Job Training should be provided. Being able to take part in lots of seminars and training might allow employees to challenge themselves in a global market. Besides, it is also enabling them to learn how to better manage their workloads, eliminate unproductive work habits, get enough exercise and bargain for more flexible work conditions, which meet their needs.
On top of that, it is important for line manager to be aware of overwork, because only managers are able to manage the error rates, absenteeism and stress-related burnout of their employees, by simply offering employee-assistance programs. Moreover, a manager should also guide them on how to prioritize their works in case lower level workers do not have related-knowledge; otherwise workload and stress are likely to exist amongst them.
Next, both men and women in ageing society mainly like in US, are found to be very crucial for the development of organization in terms of the knowledge they have, the role they can play in mentoring or coaching younger colleagues, and for the experiences they offer; so organization should consider creating strains on retirement pension budgets and education on retirement healthcare, prompting governments to encourage older employees to remain in the workplace with flexible time contracts. Otherwise, those young talented staffs will urge to retire more and enjoy early retirement stage, while other older and experiential senior workers insisting on retirement due to the need of spending more time with family and friends. Plus, government also plays important role in eliminating age discrimination in the workplace either upon promotion or recruitment. According to Margaret Collins from Bloomberg.com/news, once they lost their jobs, older workers in the age of 55 years old tend to stay out of work longer about 41 weeks on average in 2010, compared to 35 weeks of those age 25 – 54 years old.
Last but not least, with unlimited access to information and technological advances, it seems to serve both of our personal and business matter at the same time, faster than expected. However, when technology could be accessed everywhere people seem to be busier than they used to; it is suggested that if one is really addicted to web surfing, so to better balance this typical work-life, an individual should limit their working time (checking email, and work on it) and start focusing on family life, while getting some other times for leisure, as well. Besides, it is suggested that all workaholic should adopt the single idea of ” work will never be finished ”. It is true that there are some certain people, who try to please everyone (boss, customers, family) by holding multi-tasking at the same time, but they may forget that it could make them less productive and inefficient if they still continue with their workloads. People are not computer, there are times to be productive and times to be not, so entertainment is a must in this sense, to help them relax or re-focus on their job after a short while.
To sum up, in today’s sophisticated life, although money is not everything, people have to work harder to support their infinite demands. Meanwhile, they have to distinguish between working and family time while earning money. So it is the responsibility of all the managerial levels of organizations to ensure that they provide positive working environment for their employees by taking Work-Life Balance into consideration. Employees tend to feel more motivated when they feel appreciated and respected, thus boosting up their morale and productivity levels. In my opinion, efforts should be made to balance personal life and professional life, for the reason that if employees tend to pay more attention on personal life, then professional life will be more disturbed which resulting in losing the job and income. Nonetheless, if employees would give more importance to professional life, it is more likely to affect their nerve causing higher stress levels and thus negatively affecting their work performance.
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