I am writing about work-life balance, the subjective idea of basically having a life outside of our job or schoolwork. Experts say that a healthy work life balance is when we are able to fulfil our responsibilities to our jobs, families, and other parts of life that are important to us. It has been the buzz on social media lately. Why? It seems at times there is almost an expectation to constantly be working, known as “hustle culture.” This can be fed by many things including changes in job demand, a fast-paced work environment, and the inability to escape work because of that darn internet. People early in their careers have not been satisfied with this and are pushing to discuss better balance. I know this can be a sensitive topic and that people have disagreements about what work life balance is, its value, and even how it can be attained, but most research finds that it has a positive effect on our wellbeing and places of work. Personally, I believe a work-life balance is incredibly important and would like to offer a fresh perspective on it.
Having (or in many cases, not having) a work life balance can have a major impact on productivity at work, quality of life, and stress. Research has found that this balance can lead to really good performance and satisfaction at work, as well as employees who are more devoted to their companies and organizations. Wait, is that not ironic, that by having a better work life balance, you could do better at your job too? In fact, a work life balance can reduce stress and lessen problems with substance abuse and emotional exhaustion. I did not know this, but work life balance can even make us less irritable and easier to get along with! That sounds like something our coworkers and supervisors should thank us for. Also, understandably so, a better balance can reduce family conflicts and make us happier with life in general.
Since the start of the COVID pandemic a year ago, I have been working on my dissertation research from home. This has created one big challenge for me: how do I know when I should be working or not? Previously, I would work on my studies while I was on campus, then pursue hobbies like playing video games and being lazy when I was home. The place I was located for the most part would determine whether I was studying or having fun. However, with more and more people working from home, research has shown there to be a “detachment” from place, where the location we are at no longer matters as much regarding work life balance. Although working at home can make us better workers and more enthusiastic at our jobs, it can also make things difficult for our personal life. It can make it harder for us to unwind and relax at the end of the day, causing us to worry more, and negatively affecting work life balance. Also, even if we are not working from home, technologies such as smartphones can make the distinction between work and life more difficult.
I learned a tip about work life balance three years ago when I attended a talk by the mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rosalynn Bliss, at my university’s campus. As she was discussing her experience campaigning, Mayor Bliss mentioned she learned that if you focus on only one thing (like her campaign), you will regret it five years later. Wow. Research has shown that engaging in many important aspects of our lives, rather than a single aspect (work), is an important component of work life balance. By engaging in activities other than our work, work life balance makes us more satisfied with our families, health, leisure activities, jobs, and life in general. That satisfaction can lead to improved performance, retention, and commitment to our work. It can thus be immensely important for employers and policy makers to promote a strong work life balance through flexible work arrangements, leave policies, caregiving benefits, and wellness programs.
In conclusion, research has shown work life balance to be so incredibly important to our wellbeing and the places we work. However, everyone’s balance looks different. It is possible that a healthy work-life balance is not a colossal concept to be intimidated by. Something as simple as scheduling a little hobby every day or setting aside time to go for a hike with friends and family could work wonders. In my perspective, we all have many things we want to do with our lives: hobbies, dreams, and passions. Why only focus on one?
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