2-6: Who Doesn’t Want a Good Work-Life Balance?
Jennifer finally left the office and drove home in the rush hour traffic on a Friday night after finishing up her typical sixty-hour work week. She had plans to go out tonight to meet up with some old friends, but cancelled last minute using the excuse that one of her children wasn’t feeling well when in reality, Jennifer is simply too exhausted to even think about dressing up, driving somewhere, and expending even more energy she doesn’t have socializing. Instead, she gets home, quiets the kids’ enthusiasm to play a game of hide-and-seek by saying that she’s “too tired”, and the whole family settles in on the couch to watch a movie. When she should be losing herself in the storyline, Jennifer pulls out her phone to check her work emails that piled up this week and does a few other tasks to try to get a head start on a project for the upcoming week.
What is Jennifer doing the following day at soccer practice? Definitely not watching how much fun her children are having and seeing their improvement. Sitting on the side of the field, she switches between scheduling meetings and micro-napping because she just can’t seem to stay awake when she sits down for too long. She’s irritable when talking with her husband while he makes dinner that evening for no apparent reason and has a hard time turning off her racing mind to fall asleep. Sunday finds Jennifer in a similar mindset, beginning to stress about an upcoming deadline. When she should be going for an afternoon walk, she hunkers down with her fifth cup of coffee and laptop to make sure every detail is perfect until well into the night. Monday morning starts this cycle anew.
So what is wrong with this picture?
There is no clear division between Jeniffer’s home and work life. As such, it seems like she is always worrying about work and thus paying less attention to the arguably most important aspect of her life: her family. She is too exhausted to be fully present and do the things she loves. So something has to give, but what?
It should come as no surprise that Americans are overworked, especially relative to other countries. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has found “‘Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers’” as noted in a 20 Something Finance article. While working overtime may be a financial necessity for some, for other professionals it is about chasing success but at a cost to their personal lives. This means spending time with friends and family and doing activities or going on vacations takes a backseat to work - often leading to burnout.
Burnout is a very real problem in the U.S. today. Deloitte surveyed 1,000 external full-time employees in the U.S. and found that 77% had experienced burnout in their current position and more than 50% said it happened multiple times. Burnout can leave individuals feeling overworked, perpetually drained, and lacking interest for the things they love to do. They may feel overworked and worry about work all the time. Additionally, a poor work-life balance leaves them in a constant state of stress over work, leaving them little opportunity to relax and find their happy place. Exercise is often the first thing to go when people feel like they do not have enough hours in a day. Clearly, the mental and physical wellbeing of employees takes a hit when they do not have a good work-life balance, but this does not have to be the case.
Companies have the power to support their employees and provide effective means for them to regain more of the life aspect in an uneven work-life balance. Building a strong community based on positive connections and support is very beneficial. Creating wellness programs that employees can participate in together not only helps improve their personal wellness, but strengthens the sense of belonging and teamwork. Additionally, company-sponsored events like cooks-outs can be a fun way for employees to socialize without having to worry about work. Allowing flexible hours and remote working is another key tactic companies can use, especially now in the world of social distancing, to give employees a greater sense of freedom to divide their time between work and play however they may need.
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