NL55 Work-Life Balance
Work life balance receiving extensive publicity
The issue of work-life balance has received extensive publicity the past few decades. Demographics and social changes have resulted in more women entering the workforce, while women with young children are remaining in the workforce or re-entering the workforce soon after childbirth. Additionally, a rapidly aging population has increased the pressure of eldercare responsibilities for both male and female workers. Some researchers argue that organizations with a high percentage of professional employees or a high percentage of women adopt more work-life balance practices (Goodstein, 1994, 1995; Ingrams & Simons, 1995).
Others argue that there are systematic differences across industries in adopting work-life balance practices because different industries experience different levels of institutional pressures, e.g., the maritime industry (Goodstein, 1994, 1995; Ingram & Simons, 1995; Miliken, Mattins & Morgan, 1998; Morgan & Milliken, 1992). Technical advancements have made it possible for some work to be performed 24/7 from virtually anywhere (Kalleberg & Esstein, 2001). Globalization and the rise of the service industry have also increased the pressure on employers and employees to be more flexible and to work at non-standard business hours.
Long hours and work life balance
Long work hours and family responsibilities have placed an increasing burden on employees in their attempt to balance work and their life demands. Unfortunately, most of us have an inability to control and balance work and life. From the employer’s perspective, this inability links to reduced work performance and productivity, increased absenteeism, high turnover rates and low commitment; however, not sure if the data can support this position. Differences such as these provide an explanation and perspective regarding why some organizations are more responsive to work life balance issues than others.
Plainly speaking about work life balance
Plainly speaking, work means the job that we do, e.g., going to sea, especially in order to earn money; and life means the quality that people have when they are not dead. Work- life balance then, is a concept suggesting prioritizing between work and lifestyles. Work may include career or ambitions and lifestyle may include health, pleasure, family, spiritual development and meditation, etc. Just the same, present industrial society requires a diverse range of skills to help fulfill the demands of the job market today. Steven L. Sauter, Chief of the Applied Psychology and Ergonomics, branch of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in Cincinnati, Ohio, suggests that recent studies show that “the workplace has become the single greatest source of stress.”
Just the same, in the past years increasing numbers of scholarly articles, press and books have been promoting the importance of work-life balance. For example, Douglas Hall (1990) in Organizational Dynamics, states that the “work-life balance is fast becoming the hot issue of the new decade”(p.5)
Some pretend work is a never ending process
Due to pressure and increased competition in the work place, many seem to pretend not to know that work is a never ending process. Even after our death the work will still continue. So why is it that people still give a lot of importance to their work over their life? As an example, one of my colleagues worked very hard, he used to be compensated by handsome
bonuses every year, but once a stroke hit him, that was it; he was admitted into the hospital and the company paid only half of his treatment and the other half came from his own savings. Luckily he managed to recover, but due to his medical condition he was not recommended by the doctor to continue his job with his present employer.
Prevention is better than the cure
There is a saying that the customer is always right and always the first priority but what about your family? Are they not the workers priority? Many husband and wife relationships have ended up in divorce because their respective partners were heavily engrossed in their job and forgot about their responsibilities towards their family. Gone is gone and as the saying goes prevention is always better than cure. So why not plan for work life balance.
Life is certainly not only about work, office and clients! There is more to life, at least I hope so! For example, workers need time to socialize, entertain, relax and exercise. Health experts recommend workers to exercise at least five times a week but, how many workers have really taken the initiative or have the time to exercise that much? The reason given is they’re too busy with their demanding jobs. Seafarers’ welfare section should look into the policies that play an important role towards meeting the needs for integrative thinking about the health and well-being of seafarers.
Many workers think that if they go back late from work, their bosses will like them more, however, not all bosses have the same perspective of workers that go home late after their work; there are bosses who consider a person who stays late at the office can’t manage their work within the stipulated time. Worst case scenario is that the boss might even think that the worker who stays late at office is inefficient and incompetent in his or her work.
Work life balance different for different people
The concept of balancing our work and life seems simple but work-life balance means something different to different people. It so happens that people don’t know when to stop their work and spend time for life. An important perspective on work- life balance may be to enrich and revitalize our lives. Theory encourages us to examine and question what we take for granted – unchallenged goals and assumptions guide the production and dissemination of managerial knowledge and practices (Calas & Smircich, 1989; Caproni & Arias, in press; Martin & Knopoff, in press).
According to a newspaper article in London, a palliative nurse who had counselled the dying in their last days has revealed that the most common regrets people have at the end of their lives; among the top most common regrets of the dying has been the wish that they hadn’t worked so hard.
Conclusions about work life balance
The right decision to live a more fulfilling life will come when one decides not to settle for a balance or juggling of life. Not settling means that one has transcended the discourse of work-life balance; predictability, control, individual achievement, hierarchy of values, constant movement towards goals, etc. In order to do this, one must create a new language of privileged tranquility over achievement, contribution over success and choice over status! Maybe one can then begin to judge success by how well you lived life rather than how much work one has achieved. Thanks for listening!
Caproni, J.P. (1997). Work/life balance: You can’t get there from here. Journal of applied behavioural science, Vol. 33 No.1, 46-56.