Expectations and Outcomes of Work-Life Balance in the Workplace: From Burnout, Productivity, Job and Life Satisfaction, Overall Health and Wellness, Motivation, and Other Factors
In an interesting video on TEDx, Thurmon (2013) talks a lot about the expectations of work-life and workplace balance. In fact, quite interestingly Thurmon (2013) suggests one should be “off balance” as it is an unrealistic expectation for us to always be balanced given all the factors in our lives and those at work pulling in all directions. Thurmon (2013) also suggests some solutions, e.g., that there are five spheres of success for work-life and workplace off balance that deal with; work, relationships, spiritual, health, and personal interests. These spheres act more like an infinity loop (not balanced) with twists, ups, and downs while simultaneously trying to connect with these spheres of success from time to time as a series of life-lines while all-the-while juggling the five spheres in this infinity loop (off-balance). Thurmon (2013) suggests that in order to do so– we need space for this in order to help create opportunities in our own signature five sphere patterns as we all have different infinity loops.Checkout the video here Allen, Shockley, & Biga (2010) tend to agree that, “… balancing personal demands and career aspirations may be one of the greatest challenges individuals face in contemporary society…” (p. 377). For example, quite a few organizations are struggling to find out how to help employees meet both their work and non-work responsibilities (Allen et al., 2010). According to one survey, an effective workplace with regard to balance is one consisting of “… job challenges and learning opportunities; job autonomy; supervisor task support; a climate of respect and trust; benefits and opportunities, satisfaction with earnings; benefits and opportunities for advancement; and work-life fitness, including workplace flexibility” (Society for Human Resource Management, 2017, p. 3).In quite a few of the readings, there was a similar theme in that wellness programs, flextime, flexplace, and versions of this all played a major part in helping to make the work-life and workplace balancing act more tenable and workable. It also helped ensure better performance.
The Impact of Cultural Dimensions and Diversity Issues, and Other on Work-Life Balance
The impact of diversity and culture on work-life balance is a bit complex in that not all cultures have the same definitions of work-life and workplace balance. For example, in some cultures around the world, it is not uncommon to take more than a couple of hours for lunch during mid-day for a siesta of sorts, e.g., to watch a cinema movie and enjoy a few drinks, e.g., in Lisbon Portugal. Also, in France, e.g., lunch might be a full five-course meal not to be rushed of course; maybe it’s time for some brandy and a cigar as well. And, in some cultures, they have come to terms with long maternity leave for women, e.g., in Malaysia. So, before managers and leaders from different cultures dig in on a position of what’s right or wrong for work-life and workplace balance—try some of what that culture has to offer first, you might like it.
Additionally, “… the work-family dilemma is evident not only in the United States but also in countries across the globe”, with little information in helping manage “… between cultural context, work-life effectiveness, and use of flexible work arrangements” (Allen et al., 2010, p. 377). Unfortunately, recent data suggests that the “Western model” of dealing with work-life and workplace balance may not generalize globally to the population, this could be a problem for the global workplace of the future (Allen et al., 2010).To make things more complicated, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (2017), there are over 18 options “for workplace flexibility”, which include flextime, flexplace, choices in managing time, reduced time, caregiving leave, time off, flex career, and culture of flexibility (Society for Human Resource Management, 2017, p. 13). The sample for this was conducted in 2016 and consisted of over 920 organizations with 50 or more employees (Society for Human Resource Management, 2017). According to the study, “… employees in more effective and flexible workplaces are more likely than other employees to indicate… being in excellent physical health… a low frequency of minor physical health problems and sleep problems… no indications of depression… [and] a low general stress level” (Society for Human Resource Management, 2017, p. 4).
As far as considerations for IO psychologist to pay attention to, the trend in flextime and place is increasing ever so slightly and looks to continue to be an influence on work-life and workplace balance into the future. For example, in the recent study on flexibility in the workplace, 81% of the sampled organizations allow at least some employee flextime and place and 32% allow all or most of its employees to take flextime and place (Society for Human Resource Management, 2017, p. 15). This is up slightly from 2008 in which 79% of the sample organizations allowed at least some employee flextime and place in the workplace and 31% allowed all or most of their employees to take flextime and place (Allen, Shockley, & Biga, 2010, p. 379).
In conclusion, Thurmon (2013) seemed to have the right idea that creating a great organization that gets ranked among the best of great places to work are the ones that look at those five spheres of success mentioned earlier (recall work, relationships, spiritual, health, and interests). According to Keswin (2018), “… today, 70 percent of U.S. employers offer some kind of wellness program”, to the tune of some “$8 billion a year” (Keswin, 2018, Chapter 5). These great organizations know how to create an environment where it doesn’t feel like people have to choose between life and work, “… it’s not either or, it’s all of the above…” (Thurmon, 2013).
Allen, T. D., Shockley, K. M., & Biga, A. (2010). Work and family in a global context. In A. I. Kraut, Jolton, & Lundby (Eds.), Going global: Practical applications and recommendations for HR and OD professionals in the global workplace (pp. 377-402). Retrieved from https://www.redshelf.com
Keswin, E. (2018). Bring your human to work: 10 surefire ways to design a workplace that is good for people, great for business, and just might change the world. Retrieved from O’Reilly Safari Books
Society for Human Resource Management. (2017). 2016 National study of employers. Retrieved from http://whenworkworks.org/downloads/2016-National-Study-of-Employers.pdf
Thurmon, D. (2013). Off balances on purpose: The future of engagement and work-life balance. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OkzozrUEHY