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Finding work-life balance

Published: 
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

Very often, in this period of heightened “wellness speak,” we are faced with concepts, which have either not fully been defined or for which we have cursory understanding. One such notion is the much-used phrase “work-life balance” which seems to describe something that every employee should experience. But what is it and where can it be found?

Where or what is the realm of work-life balance? What exactly is that phrase describing and what demarcations between life and work, if any, does such a concept suggest? Is there a place where work begins and life ends or vice versa? Isn’t work life? Does it not take up most of our living and, or awake time?

Susan M. Heathfield at www.thebalance.com writes, “Work-life balance is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives.”

If that is what work-life balance is and if it “supports the efforts of employees” then it proposes a model that places some (or much) responsibility on employers to provide the framework for such an experience.

This may well be in keeping with the business and productivity perspective that aims to reduce the stress level of employees.

Employers’ concerns, in this model, must go beyond the bottom-line measurement and embrace the overall/total wellness of employees and therefore the working population. It cannot be that the issue of focus is solely workplace stress. To think that would be to assume that there is a place between work and life where you can tuck your personal stresses away until you complete the workday agenda.

The truth remains, no one leaves their life or their troubles, ill health or worry at the office door. That is not how life works. It is the reason that the concept of balancing life and work has gained so much traction, because life, as much as wellness, exists on a continuum. Employers, therefore, should always share the concern about employees’ wellness in their personal space while creating fortification at work, which positively impacts that balance.

Heathfield says that work-life balance is achieved when employers actively participate by instituting “policies, procedures, actions, and expectations that enable employees to easily pursue more balanced lives.”

Work-life balance is that place where an employee fulfils their workplace responsibility without detriment to their personal life issues. Or better than that, it is that place or state where employees judiciously pay attention to each aspect of their lives, meeting the main goals to a reasonable extent.

Heathfield says, “Work-life balance is a daily effort to make time for family, friends, community participation, spirituality, personal growth, self-care, and other personal activities, in addition to the demands of the workplace.”

– Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and a Master of Public Health With Distinction (The UWI). Write to: mindful.tt@gmail.com

MORE INFO

In an attempt to define work-life balance the site worklifebalance.com defines what it is not.

1. Work-Life balance does not mean an equal balance. It is not about trying to schedule equal number of hours for work as for “life” since “life is and should be more fluid than that.”

2. Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time, often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow.

When you are single the balance required would be different from when you are married and when or if you have children. It will differ if you work in management or not.

3. There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance you should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives. (http://www.worklifebalance.com)