In a competitive job market, showing one’s complete and entire dedication to the job is considered the key to staying on top. In fact, it is often thought that working a few extra hours is the way to move up the corporate ladder, even if that means putting one’s personal life on hold. Slowly, but surely, the one takes over the other to the detriment of any real work-life balance.
So what are the pitfalls of such a problem and how do we solve them? Here are a few useful tips to maintain a balance between one’s personal and one’s professional goals.
Let’s start with the current state of affairs…
A shared goal
According to a study released the summer of 2016 by research center Viavoice for Le Figaro, eight out of 10 employees in France consider work-life balance to be an issue of importance in the workplace. This opinion, which is widely shared, is evidence of an evolution in the way we think about work: our society is transforming towards a more hedonistic view of things than that of our predecessors. The notion of self-fulfillment, once considered a frivolous idea, is now at the forefront of the discussion around work.
And so, the need for work-life balance is clearly affirmed. But is it really being fulfilled?
The truth is, it isn’t. According a barometer published in 2016 by the National Union of Family Associations, two-thirds of employees believe that their employer isn’t sufficiently helping them with their work-life balance. Though it is an opinion poll, these numbers reflect a desire to reconcile personal and professional spheres in France.
Imbalance leads to risks!
The French Institute for Research and Security is a public organization in charge of preventing risks for professionals. Its work has established an overview of the kinds of risks incurred from a loss of work-life balance. To wit: the Institute has shown that systematic and prolonged encroachment of the professional sphere onto the private sphere can lead to burnouts. What’s more, it can cause laziness, loss of motivation at work, and burnouts in the worst of cases! If the threats for workers are this clear,
companies don’t have much to gain from allowing it to happen. Disinterest in work and one too many “sick days” significantly decreases productivity. In brief, too much work ends up killing work itself.
But where does awareness come from?
From the employee him/herself…
It’s the employee’s responsibility to first diagnose and understand that his/her work-life balance is well, unbalanced. This self-awareness of the problem is the beginning of a journey to create balance in his/her life. Without the employee’s personal involvement in bringing about change, success is limited.
- In the workplace: When an employee is faced with an unfair task, one that could encroach on his/her personal life, he/she must learn to say no and argue his/her point of view, without feeling guilty. Acquiring this reflex requires working on one’s own ability to assert that right. And in fact, it takes quite a bit of work to do so…
- Outside of work: Taking part in activities outside of the workplace is an excellent way to clearly separate work time and personal time within a day. Signing up for a sports club sometimes takes a little push, but once the first few days pass, a routine takes hold, and sometimes that respite from work ends up becoming a hobby!
…but also from the company
An employer should work towards maintaining a healthy work-life balance for all of his/her employees.
- This means identifying risk behavior: A manager taking on unreasonable extra hours, an employee that only talks about work, a colleague that never takes a break and so on. Work-life imbalance presents itself in a number of ways, making it easy to identify.
- It also means being able to propose solutions: Once again, this isn’t easy. An employer must not give the impression of giving employees the ability to work less. But, he/she cannot passively see a colleague bury him/herself in work.
And so, a number of options are possible:
- The first option is subtle: This could be suggesting activities outside of work to colleagues, sometimes even going so far as reserving concert seats, film and theatre tickets or sharing sports club promotions with employees…
- The second is more direct: In a word, the employer would take matters into his/her own hands. He/She could offer fun training courses, sport or yoga club subscriptions etc. The only catch is, if multiple employees participate in these activities, the disruption might be not be as effective as conversations will inevitably turn towards work…
The art of becoming a bastion of work-life balance!
If sports, cultural and social activities should be encouraged they should also be accompanied by simple measures designed to change behavior. Being able to break barriers is indispensable if one wishes to sustain a healthy work-life balance. The following methods aren’t for everyone, we suggest you pick and choose what works best for you:
- Turning off professional phone and email access after work-hours: A practice adopted by Volkswagen for all of its employees, this has proved an efficient tool for maintaining work-life balance.
- No working on Sundays: Working in the office on a Sunday should remain an exceptional event! Keeping this day sacred is paramount to protecting work-life balance!
- Turning to a professional: Owning up to burying oneself in work is no easy thing. Halfway between guilt and addiction, employees fear admitting there is a problem. Getting help from a psychologist or professional life-coach might be necessary. When the company pays the fees, both employer and employee are seen as collaborating to preserve work-life balance together.
Be vigilant and have good sense!
Most of the measures described herein can be adapted and serve a catalysts for change to preserve work-life balance. As we’ve seen, nothing is more harmful than a permanent blending of these two spheres! Keeping an eye on work-life balance is a key to success though it’s no easy task.
Just remember, slow and steady wins the race!
Any advice to share when it comes to work-life balance? Leave us a comment!