Attaining a satisfactory work-life balance has become increasingly elusive for many workers. According to a large number of them, the two main factors that hurt work-life balance the most are time management, and the people they either work for, or with. If you throw in a couple of dependent variables such as the employee’s age, marital status, number of children and their ages, the profession, employment and income level, then the challenge gets really amplified.
It is important to note that work–life balance does not mean to devote equal amounts of time to paid and non-paid roles, no. In its broadest sense, it is defined as the satisfactory level of involvement between the multiple roles in a person’s life. In any case, work will always interrupt life and life will always interrupt work. The challenge is finding a way to effectively integrate the two.
Urbanization further made matters worse. This is because in its wake, unemployment, inflation and poverty quickly became a new norm. Consequently, providing for one’s family took center stage in most employees’ lives. One job was no longer enough. Accordingly, 2-3 jobs a day, better known as ‘side-hustles’, became the new order. Apparently, to even keep or get a job, more education was required and hence, night school.
As a result, most employees find themselves with limited time and energy to be spent on other unpaid roles. Even sleep hasn’t been spared. Early in the 18th century, a ‘normal’ sleeping schedule was considered to be an average of 9 hours a night. Today, this has fallen to just 7 hours. Unfortunately, in this rush to ‘get it all done’, not to mention job strain and effort-reward imbalances, most end up sacrificing their physical and mental health, as well as the social well-being of their families.
Studies have actually shown that individuals who work 55 hours or more per week have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours. Other add-on societal consequences include lower-life satisfaction, family strife and divorce, violence, drug and substance abuse, and growing problems with parenting, thereby leading to escalating rates of juvenile delinquency.
In addition, there are also organizational consequences of this imbalance. These include absenteeism, reduced productivity, decreased job satisfaction, lower levels of organizational commitment and loyalty, hence high employee turnovers, and rising health care costs for organizations.
Today, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are replacing and in some settings, co-existing with the burden of Communicable Diseases (CDs). NCDs are actually expected to cause 73% of global deaths and 60% of the disease burden by 2020. Predisposing risk factors to NCDs are related to unhealthy lifestyles and as we have seen, work-life imbalance leads to unhealthy lifestyles.
Places of work are an optimal place for promoting healthy lifestyles. Healthy food choices at the cafeteria, a smoke-free policy, flexible working hours, leave arrangements and paid for or on-site gym facilities are some of the things that can be adopted at the workplace, to promote pursuit of the balance.
When a satisfactory work-life balance is achieved, employees are happy, more productive, take fewer sick-off days, and are more likely to stay in their jobs.
In conclusion, on a personal level, the key to managing stress lies in that one magic word: balance. Proper time management is key as one cannot manufacture time; you can only lose it. Accordingly, kindly consider the following ten ideas:
- live within your means;
- eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep;
- cut or delegate some activities, and learn to say no when overburdened – remember that it’s okay to respectfully say no;
- keep a manageable daily to-do list at home and at work so as to maintain focus;
- be efficient with your time at work and leave work at work;
- take advantage of your options e.g. flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, or even telecommuting;
- shorten commitments and minimize interruptions;
- stagger your leave days across the year to allow for year-round cooling breaks;
- make time for fun and relaxation;
- bolster your social support system and participate in selective volunteering;
The Author is A Public Health Specialist Based in Nairobi, Kenya.