Work-life balance is a desirable goal that we tend to fall short of attaining. Meeting the demands of a heavy workload and maintaining healthy relationships outside the office, including your relationship with yourself, are equally important. Favoring one over the other can cause stress and negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health. Thanks to technology’s ability to blur the lines between work and life through smartphones and social media, achieving work-life balance can feel tougher to do than ever before.
If you struggle with maintaining a work-life balance, you’re not alone. Americans as a whole have a tough time separating work life from down time compared with other countries, as the following examples highlight:
- The United States ranks 30th out of 38 countries in attaining proper work-life balance.
- American full-time workers spend an average of 8.15 hours per day working.
- 11 percent of Americans work 50 or more hours per week.
- 33 percent of employed Americans work on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays.
- 66 percent of American full-time employees do not strongly believe they have a work-life balance.
Even though Americans often struggle to maintain a proper work-life balance, it’s a crucial goal to strive for. Devoting equal time to life inside and outside the office lowers stress, promotes good health, and simply makes life better.
This guide provides a thorough look at work-life balance, from the ways it can become skewed to strategies for maintaining equilibrium. This may make it easier for people to not only maintain harmony between work and life, but also to take preventive measures to keep from sliding into discord.
The Causes of Work-Life Imbalance
While achieving work-life balance has increasingly become a corporate goal in the business world, studies indicate that most companies struggle to meet this ideal:
- 60 percent of employees dealing with work-life imbalance blame bad or overbearing bosses.
- 39 percent point to consistently working beyond standard business hours.
- 39 percent claim inflexible work hours or rigid time-off scheduling.
- 31 percent state that incompetent co-workers cause imbalance.
- 30 percent blame long commutes.
Studies also indicate that technological innovations and employers’ ability to be connected to employees around the clock have substantially disrupted employees’ work-life balance.
- 57 percent of employees state that technology has ruined the modern family dinner because of demanding employers.
- 40 percent say it’s fine to answer an urgent work email at the dinner table.
- Nearly 60 percent think employer email or text correspondence interruptions are destroying the family dinner.
For further information on the causes of work-life imbalance, visit Workfront’s report on the matter. You can also read this article from Business News Daily for more information on why the causes of work-life imbalance are sometimes tough to overcome.
The Effects of Work-Life Imbalance
When individuals sacrifice crucial time from life activities to spend more time at work, it can often have a larger impact than simply missing a sporting event on TV or some restful downtime. Statistics indicate that a disrupted work-life balance can translate to employees’ either losing time with loved ones or seeing that time eroded to a poor quality:
- 51 percent of people have missed important life events because of work.
- 50 percent claim they’ve spent less time with family and friends.
- 40 percent say the time spent with their family has been ruined.
- 38 percent claim a lack of engagement with family.
A disrupted work-life balance can also produce high levels of stress, which can cause and exacerbate severe physical and mental health issues. An elevated stress level tends to have profound negative effects on your body. Research indicates that chronic stress can cause the following:
- Weakened immune systems, making people more susceptible to colds, headaches, and muscle pains
- Heightened fatigue
- Increased risk of stroke
- Doubled risk of a heart attack
A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation produced the following results:
- 58 percent of employees with unhealthy work-life balance feel irritable.
- 34 percent feel anxious.
- 27 percent feel depressed.
Further studies demonstrate a correlation between increased disruption of work-life balance and increased levels of mental stress. For instance, when compared with employees working 35 to 40 hours a week, employees working more than 55 hours are:
- 1.66 times more likely to have depression
- 1.74 times more likely to have anxiety
Ironically, allowing work to disrupt your work-life balance can also lead to devastating ramifications on the job. These consequences can affect not only the employee but also the employer:
- 68 percent of employees suffer from poor morale.
- 41 percent of employees experience employee burnout.
- 41 percent of businesses experience high turnover.
- 36 percent of businesses have poor productivity.
For a deeper look at these statistics, check out this infographic, designed by Entrepreneur.
Benefits of Work-Life Balance
There are numerous advantages to achieving a proper balance between work and life. Some of these benefits can make a person a more productive, loyal employee.
- 21 percent of employees with good work-life balance work harder.
- 89 percent of human resource professionals report a positive link between flexible work arrangements and employee retention.
- Healthcare expenditures are approximately 50 percent lower for low-stress workers than for high-stress workers.
Achieving a good work-life balance can have the following benefits for an employee:
- Boosted productivity
- Lower rate of absenteeism
- Improved physical and mental health
- Better commitment and motivation
Keeping employees healthy and productive may also curtail unscheduled absenteeism, something that could have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.
- Unscheduled absenteeism costs businesses about $3,600 per year for each hourly employee.
- It also costs businesses roughly $2,600 per year for each salaried employee.
Ultimately, a work-life balance can produce the following positive results for a business:
- Better morale
- Lowered stress
- Reduced turnover
- More productive staff
- Increased positive presence in the business community
For more information concerning the benefits of a proper work-life balance, read this article on the subject from Inc.
Tips to Achieve Work-Life Balance
It may not always seem easy, but achieving work-life balance is possible. The best way to achieve this goal is to adhere to a few basic life strategies. Collectively, these tips can help restore equilibrium in your life, which is essential for good health and well-being.
- Learn the power of “no.” If you’re constantly putting yourself out as available around the clock, your boss may take advantage of your willingness by increasing your workload until you’re overwhelmed. When you discover where your work-life threshold stands, don’t be afraid to start saying no to a few things before you cross that line. The best way to do this is to avoid snap “yes” or “no” decisions when you’re asked to take on additional work. Request to take a few minutes to evaluate your schedule to make sure it fits.
- Avoid the trap of perfectionism. Avoiding perfectionism doesn’t mean that you don’t strive to do well at home or at work. It does mean that you aim not to let your balance get thrown off by minor flaws that have no substantial bearing on an outcome. While perfectionism often manifests itself in the midst of a work project, it can also strike at home during household chores or while preparing the family meal. Letting go of the need to fix slight imperfections not only maintains balance but also can relieve stress.
- Unplug. It’s easy to be “on” in this digital age of connected devices. However, it’s wise to spend some time away from your phone or laptop. This could mean something as simple as putting your device in the other room or turning off your phone notifications for a few hours. Doing so will allow you to be present in the moment, which can enhance your enjoyment of the surroundings. Ultimately, this leads to reduced stress and a healthier disposition.
- Exercise. When you work out, your body rewards you by releasing endorphins. Studies indicate that this chemical process can help to put you in a positive mood and help you relax. This form of self-care doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to the gym. Engaging in yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can work well.