Achieving work life balance in ever-changing world
We live in a fast-paced world where everything is happening at the speed of light. Man being a social animal as noted by Aristotle, cannot live alone. He must satisfy certain natural basic needs in order to survive. This includes entering relationships with other humans. No man can break the shackles of mutual independence. This mutual independence has led to a man forming a family. However, this family has been torn apart constantly by work, as parents live separately in different cities, towns, states or countries. Those who live together barely have time for each other. There has also been an escalation of stress-related sicknesses like High blood pressure, weight loss, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, and many others.
Despite the improvement in technology, young people in the workforce are constantly fighting depression or are already depressed. There has also been a remarkable number of suicides recorded in recent times. People in the workforce hardly have time to take adequate care of themselves and their loved ones, especially during illness.
These issues call for a balance in the life of every individual especially those that are actively working. Balance between work life, family, personal and social life, so none of these aspects of one’s life suffers.
The concept of work-life balance emerged in the 70s, but it has been a much talked about topic in organizations now because of its importance. According to Wikipedia, work-life balance is the lack of opposition between work and other life roles. It is a state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal.
For work-life balance to be actualized, it must be captured in the organization’s policies; the pattern and how it will work must be fully communicated to avoid friction between management and employees. Examples of work-life balance initiatives include flex work system (which captures shift duties, rotation, work from home), family-friendly work environment, healthy work environment, training of managers to help carry out the policy, flexible leave policies, family support and other initiatives depending on the peculiar nature of the organization.
In creating a family-friendly work environment, it must not be a toxic work environment, but a safe, cooperative and enjoyable environment where employees can think positively and be able to take up initiatives. There also must be a well-structured grievance reporting channel. The work environment has to be safe, as unhealthy and unsafe work environment affects the total wellbeing of the employees. Managers should be trained to help employees. Be human enough to know when to intervene, especially when a diligent high-flying staff starts dwindling to the point of being placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Flexible leave policies should be created. Employees should be allowed to go for their annual leave in order to refresh and avoid being burn out. Managers should also watch out for those employees who want to be on their desk all year long without going for any leave. These categories of staff should be sensitized on the need to go for leave for their own wellbeing’s sake. Family support is another example of a work-life balance initiative. Some organizations now give up to three weeks’ paternity leave to men that their spouse put to bed to allow them to bond with their family. Others also provide daycare services within or around the organization’s premises to help nursing mothers attend to their little ones within the specified break period. Also, the provision of a staff bus helps lessen the stress of commuting especially in traffic prone areas like Lagos, Nigeria. Flextime working is being incorporated into the working system in some organizations. This could be in the form of a shift or rotation working system. Some organizations make room for some of their staff work from home some days in a week. When there is a situation in the community beyond the control of the employees, like road closure as a result of road construction or other similar issues, organizations make emergency policies for flex time working to help their employees cope.
In this era of artificial intelligence (AI), organizations do not hold firm on their staff or make them sign documents that will not allow them to engage in other profitable ventures. Moonlighting is now accommodated at the workplace, as long as it does not affect their main job. Employee sharing is becoming a norm, this is a situation where valuable employees especially the ones in IT sector can be shared among employers without any having a monopoly of the staff. It is also good to point out some things that work-life balance is not, because, as much as we want to strike a balance, organizational goals and objectives must be met so that the bottom line will not suffer. Work-life balance is “no work”, lateness to work by employees or lackadaisical attitude towards work. Work must be done and done well.
For work-life balance to be achieved, the organization, managers, employees and employees’ families must be involved. The organization must be involved because they will draft the policies, train the managers and provide the environment for it to foster. The organization stands to benefit more because, it will save operating costs, either from reduced cost from the supply of consumables used in organization’s clinic, or waste caused by exhausted staff. A healthy and refreshed workforce will, in turn, be productive and innovative. The managers should encourage employees under them. Make a deliberate attempt to know them better. Be open enough to welcome initiatives and not suppress them. If the manager can achieve this, he will have happy, productive and supportive team members. The employees should set their priorities right, track time, respect their private time, take a constant look at their personal habit and general lifestyle, take leave from work, ask for support, set boundaries, evaluate their work-life balance on daily basis, hire a personal coach, exercise, be open to learning and development. These will help them be refreshed, productive, innovative and valuable and their health will be secured as well.
Families of employees owe them constant support in the form of words of encouragement, advice and truthful assessment of their wellbeing. Families can also make a deliberate effort at creating bonding times, where phones might be switched off, so they can communicate and interact with each other either by playing games or watching movies together, which will help ease off tension and stress accumulated from work.
In all, work-life balance is achievable if the players involved are willing to do their very best in making it possible. It is obviously beneficial to all the players, as a healthy and happy employee, brings in more innovative ideas that will lead to high productivity and in return very robust bottom line for the organization and good remunerations for the employee.
Obinwanne, wrote from Lagos State
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