Work-Life Balance: A Herculean Task

Work and life/family are both central to our lives. Finding a balance between these two in today’s fast paced world has become a herculean task. Work–life/family balance is quite important not only for married people but also for single ones.

Work and life/family are both central to our lives. Finding a balance between these two in today’s fast paced world has become a herculean task. Work–life/family balance is quite important not only for married people but also for single ones. Moreover work-life imbalance, if affects dual earner families on the one hand then it disrupts the traditional families where males are working outside the home for long hours.

You must remember that work-life balance never means an equal balance i.e. we don’t need to allot equal number of hours to our personal and work commitments. Rather it would be unrealistic to do that. Equilibrium here does not mean equal time allocation for work and life rather the focus here is on equitable division of time between work and family. Work-life balance varies for individual to individual and changes from time to time. For example, if you are a married person with children, your work-life balance would be different from a person who is single. Similarly, if you are just starting your career, your work-life balance would be different from a person who is approaching retirement. You must bear in mind that there is no “one-size fits all” type of balance that you should be looking for.

How would you know that you are experiencing work-family/life imbalance? Here is the checklist

  • Do you often return home physically and emotionally drained, too tired to talk and look at anyone in the family?
  • Do you feel like that you always lag behind in your work and find it difficult to complete your tasks/assignments in time?
  • Are you suffering from any physical or emotional distresses linked with your problems at work?
  • Are you smoking too much, taking too much tea/coffee, eating too much/little owing to work related anxieties?
  • Are you missing family functions because of your hectic work responsibilities?
  • Are you no longer invited to such family functions because everyone in the family knows that you would be too busy to attend these?
  • When was the last time you took a vacation for recreation (rest & recreation leave in the Public sector)
  • Do you work late hours and also bring office work at home?
  • Do you think that you don’t have enough time for yourself and your family?
  • Do you lose temper at work/home?
  • Do you manage to take lunch break/prayer break?

If the answer is yes to these questions, you are suffering from work-life/family imbalance, which is currently affecting millions of workers in the whole world.

You need to be clear about these four points before you can start creating work-life balance for yourself. Firstly, You must be clear about your values. Values guide our actions and usually are based on our life experiences. Values are sometime unknown or even unconscious. These unknown values create the feelings of stress when these are in conflict with others. For example, you may have a value that you should reach office in time while on the other hand you hold another value to spend sometime with your child in the morning by taking your toddler to the nearby park. These values are in conflict because if you take your child to the park, sometimes he wants to spend more time there and you are consequently late from your office. In such like situations, you need to modify or prioritize your values in order to avoid the strain. If you know your values clearly, it will make easier for you to take tough choices. Secondly, you should set realistic goals and expectations. The unrealistic goals create problems in work-life balance. If you want to have more money, either you get a well paid job or do extra hours of work. The extra hours of work will take some time that was initially reserved for yourself and your family. To ease the strain/stress, you may put some of your goals on hold (like marriage), modify (sending your children to public schools instead of Private) and even leave others (buying a Honda Accord). Thirdly, you need to set priorities for time management. In order to create a work life balance, you should prioritize your activities keeping in view your goals, both concrete (getting early promotion) and relational goals (participation in more family activities, self-development etc.). Similarly, try to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Make a “not to do list” for saving yourself from spending your precious time on unimportant goals. Fourthly, learn to delegate. We usually feel that best work is created only when we are in control. However, this habit can keep us from reaching our other goals. If there is someone at office who can work on this project, let that person start the project. You can always add extra details and refine that. Moreover, let your superiors refine/brush up your work as well. You don’t always have to be a perfectionist, as it will consume all your time.

You must understand that if you are “married to work”, you may end but work will never end. In order to achieve better outcomes at work and to have out of the box solutions, you need to spend some time away from your desk with just yourself. Moreover, if you are a habitual extra hour worker, you will always be given more responsibility (as is the case in many public sector organizations). You may be rewarded with some bonus; foreign training….etc. but this extra responsibility will ruin your social life. You should get organized and learn to say “No” in a respectable way to every extra hour project. There is usually a false sense of obligation due to which we are doing extra work, if you quit these extra activities you will find enough time for yourself and your family. Don’t procrastinate spending time with yourself and your family (and enjoying your accomplishments) by repeating the phrase, “ as soon as ………”, because this stage will never come.

In addition to your personal efforts, you can also talk to your organization for creating a work-life balance plan for you. Many organizations have flextime, childcare, study leave and cafeteria equipped with LCDs for cricket matches to enhance their employee productivity. Try availing these facilities and if your organization does not offer any work-life balance facilities, you can always talk to the management about your flexibility needs and devising an appropriate solution.

However, you must also know that according to a recent survey organized by World at Work Alliance for Work-Life Progress, most of the managers in developed as well as in emerging economies think that ideal employee is the one who is available on call (disregarding the work hours), without any personal commitments and is not using any work-life balance arrangements as those employees don’t advance much in their careers. According to this survey, employees, availing work-life balance facilities, receive unfavorable job assignments, negative performance reviews, denied promotions and are excluded from social/business circles.

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