Society in recent days has come a long way from what it used to be. About 70 years ago, there were clearly defined roles for every member of the family. Men were expected to fend for their families while wives stayed at home taking care of their children. There were very few professions to choose from, and the cost of living was quite low. People survived on basics, and very little money was needed to get by. Luxuries were not too many as technology had not penetrated into people’s lives (Forbes, 2007).
Things have taken a totally different turn today. Opportunities have increased from what they used to be. Entrepreneurs are recruiting eager employees to work for them. Talent is getting recognition, and people are being rewarded for their efforts, e.g. actors and footballers are earning millions from industries that were not highly acclaimed in other decades. Things are getting more and more complex; this is because it is possible to work on two or three jobs at a time. This is actually quite a common feature today because individuals are struggling to pay their daily expenses. The cost of living has gone up the roof hence necessitating an increase in the amount of time dedicated to working.
This constant pressure to meet deadlines, pay the bills or make an impression has resulted in stress among workers. Most of them feel as if they have been pushed to the limit. Such people are unable to make time for other aspects of their lives like children or their husbands. This is what can be described as a work-life imbalance. Drastic changes need to be made in such people’s lives in order to restore balance. (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2006).
Concept of work-life balance in the last decade
From the year 2000 and beyond, companies are focusing their attention on profits alone. Labourers have now become a tool used by companies to achieve this. They are not the asset they used to be some decades ago. Although work may be increasing in a particular company, managers may not be acting accordingly to increase the number of workers in that organization. This is quite stannous on workers who have been fortunate enough to retain their jobs (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2006).
This is because they are now insecure about their stay in the company and therefore feel like they have to prove themselves before their employees in order to retain their jobs. Most of them do this by working extremely long hours or by doing more work than the agreed-on time. Consequently, most of them will begin feeling like the stress is too much for them, and they cannot make time for other important people or activities in their lives. This brings about work imbalance (Deutsche Bank, 2007).
Many organizations these days are getting international. They have clients all around the world. Because time zones are quite different in different parts of the world, then these companies have to be in operation all through the day and night. This means that employees now work on shifts with others coming in during the day while others work at night. This can bring about exhaustion and fatigue because some shifts favour daytime workers while nighttime workers stay for too long (Forbes, 2007).
In addition to this, if workers come from work in the morning, yet others are leaving for work at that time, then it gets tricky for them since they may not be able to interact with their friends or relatives. This will therefore cause an imbalance between their workplaces and their homes.
The nature of the job one does is another cause of work imbalance in the present day. Workers these days are expected to be available all the time if they are on call. Some of these people may be consultants, and a client may be in need of a particular service at whatever time. This means that they ought to be available anytime and may end up doing more work than they can handle, thus causing undue stress in their lives.
Examples of these professions include medical practitioners, especially doctors and nurses, who have to handle medical emergencies at any time, day or night. Others include computer engineers working for network service providers that may be serving the entire nation or further still- there must always be one or two people monitoring such a system to ensure that everything is going to plan. Also, industries that produce goods for 24 hours need a representative to monitor the system and to ensure that everything is going according to plan (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2007).
Technology has come a long way from what it used to be in the olden days. Back in those days, one had to move from their homes to their places of work. Individuals had to be present physically in order to show that they were actually working. However, this is not what is happening today. There are new systems in place that can allow people to work comfortably from their own homes, mostly through computers and other telecommunication services.
Before this system was put in place, individuals thought that it would improve their working hours and they would not have to spend most of their time commuting from home to work. On the contrary, people are now spending more of their time working, especially where pay is directly related to the input. Employees who have their work with them at home can hardly avoid the temptation to work for long hours. In contrast to this, people who have to work at a different location from their homes do not have the option of continuing with their work even if they wanted to because there are no facilities to work with at home (Forbes, 2007).
Modern society has left no room for rest because even holidays no longer have meaning. Communication technology has stripped people of the chance of truly enjoying their holidays because they can be called at anytime. Some employers may send work to people on vacation, and they expect it to get done. This is possible because most people walk around with their laptops and can visit cyber cafes. They can do their work at such faraway places and then send it across the internet (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2007).
Modern society has redefined roles in the family. It is not what it used to be some twenty years ago. Marriage is now a dual partnership. Both spouses are expected to pitch in when trying to earn a source of income for the family. This means that couples do not make quality time for each other and for their children or even other relatives and friends.
It is quite common to find women putting a lot of strain on themselves. In the early 20th century, women were not allowed by the law to work beyond a certain number of hours. This was because it was thought to bring harm to them. Sadly this kind of system is no longer valid. Women are currently entering male-dominated fields and have to work just as hard as the men do in order to stay afloat.
Some employees have an urgent need for money. They may be incurring too many expenses, especially when they have large families to take care of and they have to do so much work to keep up with their monthly expenses. The cost of living is increasing by the day; most workers these days have to work for seventy hours a week just to stay out of debt. This normally applies to those who are paid on commission. They have it in mind that the more they work, the more they earn. This has resulted in the popularity of the overtime system (Forbes, 2007).
If employees are salaried, then they may not be working to make more money but maybe working to reduce the amount of work that is available to them. In Japan, it was found that most people have a culture of work holism. This is because most people simply want to give their employers a good impression. In so doing, one places themselves at an added advantage when it is time to selecting an employee of the month. Such hardworking people will also be top on the priority list. (Deutsche Bank, 2007)
In this decade, competition has really increased; those who climb up the corporate ladder are the ones who seem like they possess a lot of drive. It has become a tough world and the only people who make it goes getters. Some people have too much ambition; they may want to live largely or possess too many assets. They could be dreaming of walking in certain circles in society, and the only way to do this is by spending most of their time at work, thus leaving out other crucial aspects of their social or emotional lives.
Another cause of concern for work balance in this century is the decreasing spirituality among people of this generation. Individuals do not have time to find inner peace from a higher power. Society has become irreligious- evidence of this is found by the high number of empty cathedrals in the UK presently. This means that a large part of the population is ignoring an important part of their well being. Human beings are made up of the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental. Because the spiritual part has been left out, then individuals will direct their energies towards work hence causing an imbalance in their lives (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2006).
In this day and age, most people do not take control of their lives. They do not keep track of their activities and instead get overwhelmed by events. Some of them do not realize that it is quite okay to reject a task at work because one is only human, and they cannot be expected to perform miracles.
Employees do not prioritize their actions. They may be given the mandate to assign their duties to some other person. But not everyone may utilise this opportunity. This applies mostly to people with managerial positions. However, even those who are working under managers do not muster the courage to ask their employers for postponement of a given task if they feel that pressure is too much for them (Forbes, 2007).
Recreation in this decade has become unnecessary. Most people in the UK do not make time for themselves to watch a football match that they like or to read a novel which they fancy. Most of them now think that it is unimportant to do so.
The concept of work-life balance is drawing a lot of attention lately because employee- output is greatly reduced when they feel like they are not in control of their lives. Research has shown that most people do not perform to their optimum when under stress. The main cause of this could be the fact that their minds are preoccupied with their families and social lives. Even when they spend time with their families, they get preoccupied with work. There is a feeling of not being fully present at any one time, i.e. imbalance. Therefore, such employees should work at reducing these high levels of stress.
It is important that employees balance their work-life because failure to do so could result in serious health issues. Stress could bring about a strain on the physical body and manifest itself as a form of illness like migraines, stomach cramps and other types of pain. In addition, workers mental health can be restored. They may suffer from feelings of inadequacy, guilt and inability to meet their target. (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2007)
In this day and age, work-life balance can be achieved by very many numerous resources. This means that employees have assistance at their disposal. This comes in the form of various aspects of their lives. Examples of these services include; child care services for working mothers. These programs may be seasonal for those who have peaked and off-peak seasons, it may be on-site at the place of work, or it may be an emergency form.
Other policies are also available for many individuals to be able to restore balance into their lives. There are family leaves policies. There are also seminars that available for individuals who can help employees to cope with stress or feelings of inadequacy.
Research has also shown that companies that offer policies restoring work balance have recorded high performance. This is because workers morale is high. They suffer less burnout and are able to coordinate their activities well with each other. Absenteeism will also be reduced to a high level. Employees are also able to remain committed to companies that offer policies that motivate them to work (Crown, 2006).
Work-life balance has attracted a lot of focus in this decade because this is what is happening lately. Most people have been complaining about burnout, stress and fatigue. They are not able to give due attention to their family members. It is possible to restore balance in one’s life through a number of policies or activities. These include going for vacations, assigning duties to other people and talking to employers.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (2007): work life balance: ways to restore harmony and reduce stress;
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (2006): Work life balance;
Forbes (2007): U.S. Workplace Not Family-Oriented.
Deutsche Bank (2007): Work-Life Balance.
Crown (2006): Work-Life Balance Defined.