Work-life balance has always been a concern of those interested in the quality of working life and its relation to broader quality of life.
In the early days of the industrial revolution in Europe (and today in some parts of the developing world) a primary concern was with the impact of child labour.
Yet work-life balance has come to the fore in contemporary debates largely because in affluent societies the excessive demands of work are perceived to present a distinctive issue that needs to be addressed.
Work-life balance is a form of metaphor. In the English language “balance” is a complex word with a variety of meanings. As a noun, a balance is a set of scales, a weighing apparatus; it is also the regulating gear in clocks.
If we use the scales, then balance occurs when there is “an equal distribution of weight or amount” but this presents problems for work-life balance since both sides may be very heavy or very light.
Work-family conflict and time pressure had a stronger effect than other stressors such as leader relations and job insecurity.
However this affected each partner independently and did not spill over into the marital satisfaction of the other partner.
1. What is Work-Life Balance 2. Meaning of Work-Life Balance 3. Definitions 4. Need 5. Traditional Perspectives
6. Importance 7. Balance Among men and Women 8. Measures 9. Techniques Adopted by Subordinates and Boss 10. Reasons for Imbalance.
Work-Life Balance in HRM: Meaning, Definitions, Need, Traditional Perspective, Importance, Measures and Techniques
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance has always been a concern of those interested in the quality of working life and its relation to broader quality of life. In the early days of the industrial revolution in Europe (and today in some parts of the developing world) a primary concern was with the impact of child labour. Yet work-life balance has come to the fore in contemporary debates largely because in affluent societies the excessive demands of work are perceived to present a distinctive issue that needs to be addressed.
In the community, there is growing concern that the quality of home and community life is deteriorating. There are various explanations for this associated with affluence, the growth of single parent families, the privatization of family life and the lack of local resources and facilities. In addition, the pressures and demands of work reflected both in longer hours, more exhaustion and the growth of evening and weekend work leave less scope for “quality” family time.
The consequences include increases in juvenile crime, more drug abuse, a reduction in care of the community and in community participation and less willingness to take responsibility for care of elderly relatives and for the disadvantaged. While steps to redress these concerns transcend work and employment, it is nevertheless argued that the demands of work contribute to a reduced participation in non-work activities resulting in an imbalance.
Much of the general analysis about the causes and consequences of work-life imbalance is speculative and based on limited convincing evidence. We need to learn more in particular about the consequences of imbalance on family and community and on changing values among younger workers. It is also notable that debates about work-life balance often occur without any clear and consistent definition of what we mean by work-life balance.
Work-Life Balance – Meaning
Work-life balance is a form of metaphor. In the English language “balance” is a complex word with a variety of meanings. As a noun, a balance is a set of scales, a weighing apparatus; it is also the regulating gear in clocks. If we use the scales, then balance occurs when there is “an equal distribution of weight or amount” but this presents problems for work-life balance since both sides may be very heavy or very light.
Furthermore, the type of work-life balance sought by many may not imply equal weight on both sides. However balance also has a physical and psychological meaning as “stability of body or mind” so that suicide is sometimes officially recorded as taking one’s life “while the balance of the mind was disturbed”.
In much of the debate about work-life balance, there is a loose use of language. Ideally, we should define work and life carefully. On the other hand, it is partly the blurring of the distinctions and the borders between them that has stimulated interest in the topic. In simple terms, “work” is normally conceived of in this context as including paid employment while “life” includes activities outside work. An important part of the policy debate has concerned the importance of family-friendly policies while leaving unclearly specified what is meant by the family.
In the face of these challenges, we need to find ways of operationalising and measuring work- life balance. An initial definition might take the form of “sufficient time to meet commitments at both home and work”. In his review of the subject area, O’Driscoll (1996) identifies research on work and life satisfaction, on well-being, mental health and physical health and on individual performance in organizations.
More sophisticated research typically starts from a particular model of the family. For example- there is a large body of research on women’s careers that explores the consequences of various types of family commitment. Similarly, there is extensive research on dual career families. Such studies usually take into account the demands and rewards in both the workplace and the home.
A typical example can be found in the work of Mauno and Kinnunen (1999) who report a Finnish study of 215 dual earning couples in which they explored the impact of a range of work stressors on marital satisfaction. One of the stressors was work-family conflict. Using structural equation modelling, they found that most of the stressors spilled over into marital satisfaction via job exhaustion and its impact on psychosomatic health.
Work-family conflict and time pressure had a stronger effect than other stressors such as leader relations and job insecurity. However this affected each partner independently and did not spill over into the marital satisfaction of the other partner. In other words, the women partner may have experienced work-family conflict; this had an impact on exhaustion and health which in turn had a negative impact on her marital satisfaction but despite this work spill over, the study detected no marital spill over from the satisfaction of one partner to the other.
Work Life Balance is defined as a means of flexible working or flexible leave available to employees. These arrangements may be in addition to statutory entitlements and are generally granted to the employee to accommodate their needs outside of the workplace.
Work life balance also describes the relationship between your work and the commitments in the rest of your life, and how they impact on one another.
Employers, employees and government want to maximize participation in the workforce. However, in our demanding lives many people struggle to balance work and the responsibilities of caring for children, family members with a disability or elderly parents. For other workers it’s often difficult to find time outside work for study, volunteering, taking care of their own health or participating in sport and recreation.
There is no ideal work life balance; everyone is different and the ‘right’ balance may alter over time as families grow older and personal commitments change. Having options about how work is organized makes managing work and life demands possible by allowing employees to work in non-traditional work patterns and locations that better fit their personal commitments. Overall quality of life improves and businesses also benefit from employees’ higher morale and commitment.
For employers the capacity to negotiate flexible work arrangements provides an antidote to loss of skills and experience and the high cost of recruitment and retention in a competitive labour market. Employers who provide flexible work options immediately gain a competitive edge in the labour market by becoming ’employers of choice.’
Work-Life Balance – Definitions
Kirchmeyer views living a balanced life as “achieving satisfying experiences in all life domains, and to do so requires personal resources such as energy, time, and commitment to be well distributed across domains”. Clark views work-family balance as “satisfaction and good functioning at work and at home with a minimum of role conflict”. According to Kofodimos, balance refers to “a satisfying, healthy, and productive life that includes work, play, and love”.
These definitions of balance tend to have some common elements. First is the notion of equality, or near-equality, between experiences in the work role and experiences in the family role. Clark (2000), Kirchmeyer (2000), and Kofodimos (1993) imply similarly high levels of satisfaction, functioning, health, or effectiveness across multiple roles.
The definitions of work-family balance implicitly consider two components of equality- inputs and outcomes. The inputs are the personal resources that are applied to each role. To be balanced is to approach each role – work and family – with an approximately equal level of attention, time, involvement, or commitment.
The second component of balance refers to the resultant outcomes that are experienced in work and family roles. One outcome frequently included in definitions of balance is satisfaction. Positive balance implies an equally high level of satisfaction with work and family roles, and negative balance suggests an equally low level of satisfaction with each role.
A comprehensive definition of Work Family Balance (WFB) was offered by Greenhaus, Collins & Shaw (2003), as “the extent to which an individual’s effectiveness and satisfaction in work and family roles are compatible with the individual’s life priorities”. Thus, WFB is an area of research that investigates whether the satisfaction that one experiences at work is in part affected by the satisfaction that one experiences in non-work and vice versa. Greenhaus and colleagues further explain WFB as “a 50/50 balance between work and family with respect to amount of time, involvement, and satisfaction”.
Time balance refers to spending an equal amount of time on work and family roles. Involvement balance involves being psychologically involved in work and family roles to the same extent. Satisfaction balance occurs when an individual is equally satisfied with their work and family roles.
Some researchers found limitations in this approach. Firstly, not all individuals may desire a 50/ 50 balance between their work and family lives. Secondly, the term ‘family’ restricted the scope, in the sense that as the era of globalization began; younger, single individuals began to enter the work force upon whom no one was dependent.
Thus, some researchers suggested that the term ‘personal life’ should be used so that the experiences of non- married or single individuals, or childfree individuals, are considered. This change in conceptualization also allowed other non-family activities, such as leisure time and friendships, which are undoubtedly important to many individuals, to be taken into account.
Thus was formed the concept of Work Life Balance (WLB). WLB means different things to different people and different things at different stages of life. It is the equilibrium between the amount of time and effort somebody devotes to work and to other aspects of life. Work-life balance is about the interaction between paid work and other activities, including unpaid work in families and the community, leisure, and personal development.
Conrad (1990) defines balancing work and life as the “successful orchestration of career, family, recreation, studies, hobbies and other commitments that promotes a sense of self-actualization”. The ability to make choices and find something that can be enjoyed doing as a career will enhance the probability of establishing a balance between life and work.
Owen, Heck & Rowe (1995) explain that WLB refers to “families or individuals who combine lifestyle, well-being and income generating work under the same roof”. Good WLB is defined as a situation in which workers feel that they are capable of balancing their work and non- work commitments.
The term Work Life Balance was coined in 1986, although its usage in everyday language was sporadic for a number of years. Research shows that WLB programs existed as early as 1930s. Bird (2006) observed that during the 1960s and 1970s, employers considered work-life mainly an issue for working mothers who struggled with the demands of their jobs and raising children.
The 1980s, saw the then leading organizations recognize the value and needs of their women contributors, and begin to change their internal workplace policies, procedures, and benefits. This period was also marked by men beginning to voice their work-life concerns. By the end of the decade, work-life balance was seen as more than just a women’s issue, affecting men, families, organizations and cultures.
The 1990s solidified the recognition of work-life balance as a vital issue for everyone – women, men, parents and non-parents, singles, and couples. Data suggested that both physical and psychological well-being of a person were affected whenever an individual’s life was out of balance, when too much time and energy was invested in one sphere.
Most research and theory related to WFB/WLB actually concentrates on the effects of a lack of balance. These effects are often discussed in terms of the stress created by conflicting demands between work and non-work activities. Another way to say this is that the satisfaction that one experiences at work is in part affected by the satisfaction that one experiences in non-work and vice versa, particularly to the extent that one environment has demands that conflict with the other.
Work-life conflict is defined as “A form of inter-role conflict in which work and family demands are mutually incompatible, meeting demands of both the domains is difficult”.
Thus, so far it can be said that Work Life Balance is a broader version of Work Family Balance and Work Family Conflict (WFC) or Work Life Conflict (WLC), its exact opposite. Hence, it is said that WFB is, in essence, the absence of WFC.
Work-Life Balance – Need
Effective work-life balance policies are valuable to businesses and organizations for a number of reasons, including:
i. Reduced staff turnover rates
ii. Becoming a good employer or an employer of choice
iii. Increased return on investment in training as employees stay longer
iv. Reduced absenteeism and sick leave
v. Improved morale or satisfaction
vi. Greater staff loyalty and commitment
vii. Improved productivity.
Work and life demands need to be balanced in view of the following reasons:
i. Increased competition due to globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation enhanced work pressures on employees;
ii. Increase in stress levels of employees due to high demands of jobs in terms of targets, high productivity, high quality, customisation and better customer relationship management;
iii. Increase in personal ambitions for higher level salary, status and power;
iv. Increase in pressure of family obligations to the accelerating pace of living standards;
v. High performance culture eroded the long-term loyalty and a “sense of corporate community;
vi. Managements expect more and more from their employees yet offers little security in return;
vii. Job targets and attractive performance-based pay results in spending of more than 18 hours a day by employees on the job and neglecting the normal family life including interpersonal and sexual relationships.
Work-Life Balance – Traditional Perspectives
Work-life balance reflects “the extent to which an individual is equally engaged in – and Equally satisfied with – his or her work role and family role”. According to Clark (2000) work life balance is defined as, “satisfaction and good functioning at work and at home with a minimum of role conflict”. Guest (2001) gives a more subjective definition of work life balance, as “a person’s perceived balance between work and the rest of life”.
There are several types of conceptual models to explain the relationship between work and family or personal life have been proposed, and they represent different perspectives on how we fill both work and family. Zedeck and Mosier (1990) and O’Driscoll (1996) note that there are typically five main models used to explain the relationship between work and life outside work. The segmentation model hypothesizes that work and non-work are two distinct domains of life that are lived quite separately and have no influence on each other; spill over model hypothesizes that one world can influence the other in either a positive or negative way.
A compensation model which proposes that what may be lacking in one sphere, in terms of demands or satisfactions can be made up in the other; Instrumental model whereby activities in one sphere facilitate success in the other and Conflict model proposes that with high levels of demand in all spheres of life, some difficult choices have to be made and some conflicts and possibly some significant overload on an individual occur.
Different methodologies were used by the researchers to examine how increased work overload of layoff survivors relates to their work-life balance and job and life satisfaction. The study found that employees experience higher levels of workload which impact overall role overload that negatively affects work-life balance. Another survey was conducted to check that happy employees have a good work life balance stated that flexible working helps to keep the staff motivated.
Work-Life Balance – Importance
It stands established that jobs affect and create stress in the personal lives of the job holders. The pressures of work or personal lives can lead to stress. It has been found that stressful situations can take a toll on a person’s health, both physiologically and psychologically. Pressure, stress, or tension in work life can also lead to bad social life and vice versa. Employees should maintain a healthy balance between work and their private lives.
Maintaining this balance can help them achieve their personal goals, professional goals, and organizational goals smoothly. Programmes to support work-life balance fall into categories of alternative work arrangements, benefits, support programs, and health programs.
Contextually, Sekar (2009) quotes Bryan Dyson, the Chief Executive Officer of Coca Cola – ‘Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them—work, family, health, friends and spirit. You are keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. However, the other four balls—family, health, friends, and spirit—are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.’
Work-life balance does not necessarily mean an equal balance. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each one’s work and personal activities can never be rewarding or realistic. Life is and should be more fluid than that.
The best individual work-life balance of any person varies over time, and often on a day-to-day basis. Today’s right balance will probably be different from tomorrow’s. Again, the right balance for a person also differs before and after marriage, childbirth, starting a new career, and retirement. Thus, work-life balance varies with time, marital status, number of children, stage of one’s career, and is person specific. There cannot be any perfect and one-size work-life balance that fits all.
Work-life balance does not mean an equal sharing of time between work and personal life. Two terms—achievement and enjoyment—play a dominant role in balancing the two.
Striking a balance between professional and personal priority is a big challenge for an employee in today’s world, which is characterized by high competition, advanced technology, fast pace, and commercialization in every aspect of life. An employee’s personal and professional wellbeing is fully dependent on how well he balances his work and life. Employers cannot afford to neglect this aspect in their own interest of getting maximum return on their investment on employees.
Work-Life Balance – Among Men and Women, Gender Differences and The Work Home Interface
For many employees today both male and female their lives are becoming more consumed with a host of family and other personal responsibilities and interests. Therefore, in an effort to retain employees, it is increasingly important for organizations to recognize this balance.
According to Sylvia Hewlett, president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, if a woman takes time off to care for children or an older parent, employers tend to “see these people as less than fully committed. It’s as though their identity is transformed.”
Research conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute (KRI), a division of Kenexa, evaluated how male and female workers perceive work-life balance and found that women are more positive than men in how they perceive their company’s efforts to help them balance work and life responsibilities. The report is based on the analysis of data drawn from a representative sample of 10,000 U.S. workers who were surveyed through Work Trends, KRI’s annual survey of worker opinions.
The results indicated a shift in women’s perceptions about work-life balance. In the past, women often found it more difficult to maintain balance due to the competing pressures at work and demands at home.
Women spend more time feeling tense and worried at work than their male colleagues, a new in- depth study into workplace relations shows. The research by experts from Kingston University’s School of Human Resource Management found women were less likely than men to be relaxed and calm in the workplace, but still tended to be more satisfied with their job.
One possible explanation for the anxiety women reported could be down to the fact that 29 per cent of those surveyed said they had encountered some form of bullying or harassment at work. Dr. Soane said. Men on the other hand had experienced less bullying with just 19 per cent saying it was a problem. Despite women feeling less relaxed in the office, overall the study showed there were no significant differences between men and women’s experiences of stress at work.
The study also showed women tended to fare better in their appraisals and were more passionate about their work. They also felt more positive about their senior management team than men, with 41 per cent of women questioned saying they had confidence in their senior managers, compared to 34 per cent of men.
Female workers also reported a number of other positive aspects about their jobs. Women worked shorter hours, with 44 per cent of women contracted to work fewer than 35 hours per week compared with 18 per cent of men. Female workers were also happier with their work-life balance and felt they got more support to work flexible hours than their male counterparts.
A total of 58 per cent of women surveyed said they were happy with their work-life balance, compared to 52 per cent of men. This is probably a reflection of the fact that employers have made some changes to make it easier for women to work shorter or more flexible hours, but this has not yet filtered through to men.
Work life balance is the boundary that you create between your profession, career, or business and every other segment that makes up your life. It is the separation between your work life and your personal life. Aside from your career, these segments include your family, personal growth, spirituality, fitness and health, and community and friendships.
Once you begin to establish healthy boundaries between your work life and your personal life, you begin to feel more fulfillment and personal satisfaction. This happens as a result of your own state of wellness. Your mental state becomes much more confident, clear, and decisive because you are well-rounded and balanced.
By having a clear and consistent separation between your job and the other segments of your life, you enable yourself to truly be present in each realm of your life. You no longer worry about work projects while at home and do not worry about things you need to do at home while at the office.
This allows you to be sharper, more efficient, and better-focused. It also enables you to use your time more efficiently, be more effective with your communication, task completion, and decision making, and to enjoy your time at work much more than ever before.
Work life balance plays a huge role in determining whether a person will reach career advancement. This has been proven by studies and statistics. The studies on work life balance are truly impressive and have been eye-opening to many employers.
Another important research perspective within the work-family literature has focused on gender differences. Gender has been found to affect career advancement, perhaps through differential access to valuable work networks, work and family time investment, work-family conflict and roles stress, and strategies for managing the work-family interface. These gender differences may due to gender role socialization and different opportunity structure for men and women, which can lead men and women to have different psychological experiences of work and family roles.
Men and women have different perceptions of their work roles. Women’s perceptions of their work role often shaped by barriers to career advancement, compensation and networking opportunities. Such barriers start with sex typing of jobs and persist with differential access to development opportunities such as international assignments.
Gender differences also exist in the ways that participation in work and family roles affects one another. For example- Tenbrunsel et al. (1995) found that, unexpectedly, men’s work involvement increased their family involvement, but that women’s work involvement had no effect on their family involvement. Rothboard and Edwards (2003) found that family time investment decreased work time investment for women but did not affect work time investment for men.
Men and women also differ in the ways they manage the boundary between work and family roles, whereas women tend to integrate these roles. This gender difference in management of the boundary between work and family is thought to stem from differences in mental models men and women have about work and family roles, as well as from different societal expectations regarding how men and women ought to handle work and family roles.
Although much research has found gender differences in work-family relationships, it is important to note that some researchers have not found these differences. For example- Frone et al. (1992) did not find significant gender differences in the antecedents and outcomes of work-family conflict. Likewise, Frone et al. (1992) did not find gender differences in the permeability of the work-home boundary. Further, Anderson et al. (2002) did not find differences between men and women in the experience of work-family conflict.
Balancing is harder for men also than it was once. The men in the study came to realize that the tide toward their privileged status has turned both at work and home.
Job demands have gone up, especially for assistant professors. The quantity of publications and presentations required for tenure has risen dramatically. Men report working harder than before. Some wonder if they have grown less efficient as they have grown older.
Male faculty at every stage of career agrees that senior professors are better positioned for work/ life balance than their junior colleagues. Assistant professors see themselves as carrying undue burdens as a result of changing rules, rewards and definitions of academic success.
Meanwhile on the home front, men are doing more housework as their partners take full-time jobs. The old clear-cut division of labor has yielded to a more participatory model. Some divide tasks by who enjoys what instead of traditional gender roles. Accurately or not, many of the early- career men see themselves as equal partners at home.
Husband and father are important parts of their identities. In addition to helping meet practical needs, they value their role in the family. They want to be there for their children in a way some of their fathers were not for them.
Work-Life Balance – Measures to be Taken by Employers and Employees
Work-life balance means a harmonious poise of work and family life. It permits an employee to discharge all the roles in his/her life successfully and proficiently. Research in this field has proved that employees are at their best when they are satisfied and motivated both at work and at home.
Attaining a work-life balance is not as simple as it seems. In the corporate world, change is invariably impending. The impact of globalization has further stimulated these changes. The corporate world is symbolic of uncertainties, too many responsibilities, and long work hours. These changes in the environment upset the balance between domestic and work-life of employees. The increasing competition and demands of society further adds fuel to intensify the situation. All this adds up to burnout.
Achieving a work-life balance benefits both employers and employees. While the employers get the advantage of industrious and active employees, the employees feel protected and loyal. It also improves self-assurance, attentiveness, self-worth, and allegiance among the employees.
To build up knowledge of the significance of work-life balance in employees, companies should carry out regular workshops and programs on work-life balance.
The following measures have to be taken by employers:
1. Working late should be discouraged.
2. Employees should be surveyed at regular intervals to ascertain their satisfaction level and causes of dissatisfaction.
3. Provide vacations for recreation.
4. Provide plans like work from home, flexi times.
5. Relocate the employees.
The employees should take the following actions:
1. Practice Meditation:
Meditation is one of the most effective techniques in reducing and avoiding stress.
Regular meditation helps in stress reduction by –
i. Enables one to control the thought process.
ii. Enables one to take effective decisions.
iii. Helps in physical and mental relaxation.
iv. Improves concentration.
2. Relaxation Exercises.
3. Change the outlook towards life.
It is truly believed that the productivity of the employee is negatively affected by work place stress. Many big companies like Hewlett Packard, Dr. Reddy’s laboratory, Google Inc., Wipro Technologies Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services, Max New York Life Insurance Company to name a few have programs to assist the employees and managers to achieve work-life balance. They ensure of provide a work environment provides employees with all the facilities to make them feel at home.
Work-Life Balance – Techniques of Work-Life Balance Adopted by Subordinates and Boss
In order to help employees to maintain a fair balance between work and personal life commitments, the company may resort to the given techniques:
1. Bring children to the office if and when one can, and let them see their photos or their creative work on your desk. This lets them know that they are in your mind and heart. It helps them understand that you think of them often – and they will also feel a part of what you do. Make their special day an adventure.
2. Know the boss’s schedule – Maximize meeting time with your boss; be strategic and work closely with his administrative staff to achieve this.
3. Know when to make calls and when to do administrative work to optimize your time at work.
4. Schedule family vacations when people aren’t going to be around. Offer a countdown to vacation time so there are no surprises for your boss or team.
5. Draw a clear line between your personal and work time. Set clear expectations with your boss.
6. In case of an overachiever, consider cutting back to realistic goals in order to succeed.
Work-Life Balancing Techniques for the Boss:
1. If a manager is an overachiever, he/she should encourage staff to take breaks
2. In case of the employees’ work-life balance the manager must not interfere of dictate. Learning to let go will pay dividends in building a dedicated, motivated staff.
2. Work-life balance is a daily effort to make time for family, friends, community participation, spirituality, personal growth, self-care, and other personal activities.
3. In addition to the demands of the workplace, it is assisted by employers who institute policies, procedures, actions, and expectations that enable employees to easily pursue more balanced lives.
4. The pursuit of work-life balance reduces the stress that employees experience. When they spend the majority of their days on work-related activities and feel as if they are neglecting the other important components of their lives, stress and unhappiness result.
5. Work-life balance enables employees to feel as if they are paying attention to all the important aspects of their lives.
6. Because many employees experience a personal, professional, and monetary need to achieve, work-life balance is challenging.
7. Employers can assist employees to experience work-life balance by offering such opportunities as flexible work schedules, paid time off (PTO) policies, responsible time and communication expectations, and company-sponsored family events and activities.
8. Managers are important to employees seeking work-life balance. Managers who pursue work-life balance in their own lives model appropriate behaviour and support employees in their pursuit of work-life balance.
9. They create a work environment in which work-life balance is expected, enabled, and supported. They retain outstanding employees to whom work-life balance is important – like parents.
The impact of work-life balance is relatively more on women employees compared to men employees. This is because; women employees are more responsible towards taking care of
children, old parents in addition to home maintenance. However, it is felt that with the breaking down of joint families even male employees need to spend more time on family responsibilities and interests.
Employers are interested in bringing balance between life and work life of employees as the imbalances affect workers’ health, quality and productivity. In addition the long run contribution of employees towards, quality, quantity, innovation and customer care is severely affected.
In addition the employees prefer to stay with those organisations which take care of their work and family life balance. Some organizations to be a model employer prefer to invest on work-family life balance initiatives. Without any loss of performance employers can introduce some initiatives like flexible working arrangements in the form of part time, casual and telecommuting work.
Work-Life Balance – Reasons and Consequences of Work-Life Imbalance
Some of the reasons for work-life imbalance are discussed below:
i. Societal Drivers:
Agricultural society is giving way to the industrial and knowledge societies. Consequently, we can observe major shifts in societal forms and structures. This shift is leading to conflicts between work and life activities. In the past, husbands used to earn livelihood while wives were responsible only to manage the domestic issues. In other words, men were responsible for working outside the family while women were the homemakers. The centuries-old traditional gender roles have changed now.
Women are pursuing higher levels of education. Added to this, double income has emerged as a prime necessity. Societal perceptions have changed and it is now appropriate for both men and women to pursue paid employment outside home and also share responsibilities within the home.
The Indian society is male dominated and has traditionally granted a favoured status to men as the chief breadwinners. The employment rate of women has also increased worldwide. Women’s increased wish for autonomy and social recognition is quite justified. Work-life balance is critically important for working women to ensure sound physical and mental health.
ii. Organizational Drivers:
Employee-oriented organizations believe that if employees’ work-life balance is well achieved then organizational effectiveness will be high. It is evident from literature survey that most multinationals from Scandinavian and western countries take initiatives to promote work-life balance. On the other hand, the inclination towards the same in Korean and Indian organizations are low.
HR initiatives play a vital role in promoting work-life balance practices in an organization. Work load, working hours, stress at work, and organizational reasons are the grounds behind experiencing difficulty in balancing work life. Organizations should formulate HR practices such as job description, and role clarity to reduce role stress due to overload, role ambiguity, and role conflict.
Effective organizational design and systems and processes further facilitate achieving work-life balance. Progressive organizations develop a variety of work-life balance practices, such as flexi time, no meetings after core working hours, forced annual leave, maternity and paternity leave, shopping at work, creche, disincentives to overtime, gym and good food facility, no late sitting culture, and so on.
iii. Individual Drivers:
Individuals hold differing views about life. The philosophy of life is a major determinant of work-life balance. All of us have a life philosophy that affects of work-life balance. However, philosophy is generally implicit and people cannot articulate it concisely in a few words. One’s philosophy of life can focus either on ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ or strive to attain a balance between the two.
The state of being is concerned with human endeavour for self-actualization, contentment, harmony, and enjoying what one is. However, the state of becoming is related to material achievement, money, power, and social status, etc. ‘The greater the conflict between being & becoming within an individual, the lower is the WLB.’ Individuals must learn to prioritize between and professional and personal goals while companies cannot afford to neglect the need for work-life balance.
Work life, if not properly balanced, leads to a range of physical and psychological strains, such as irritability, depression, anxiety, diminished self-confidence, inability to relax, lack of sleep, increased susceptibly to a number of illnesses, a number of psycho-somatic disorders, burnout, low productivity, high employee turnover, safety hazards, increase in divorce cases, high blood pressure, ulcer, migraine and many psychosomatic disorders.
Karatepe and Tekinkus (2006) found that the work-family conflict has increased emotional exhaustion and decreased job satisfaction.
The consequences of work-life imbalance are also categorized as societal, organizational, and individual consequences.
i. Societal Consequences:
Societal consequences include family dynamics, social pathology, and harmony. People with poor work-life balance cannot do justice with family members. In such conditions, the family is likely to be unhealthy characterized by exchange of hot words, misunderstanding between husband and wife, and so forth. This unhealthy family environment gets reflected onto the society.
A family lives in a society and hence, it is a subset of the society. To improve the societal life and make it healthier, it is of utmost importance to put all-round efforts to balance the work life.
ii. Organizational Consequences:
The direct consequences are poor productivity, high employee turnover, accidents, etc. The indirect consequences are low involvement, serious interpersonal conflicts at work, apathetic attitude towards work and so on.
iii. Individual Consequences:
Lack of work-life balance affects family dynamics indirectly and negatively. The child may not get proper guidance. In many cases, it results in marital discord, divorce, child abuse, and neglect of old parents. All these affect societal functioning and harmony.