Live to Work or Work to Live?

Work, eat, sleep… repeat.

This is the simple schedule citizens across Australia adhere to for much of their working life.

We are constantly time poor, are always frantically rushing and juggling a multitude of commitments. It’s no surprise that this has lead to Australia falling behind the rest of the developed world in the pursuit of a healthy work-life balance. A report published in 2017 by the government outlining the welfare of Australians, revealed that out of 35 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)  countries, Australia was ranked a low 27th when measuring work-life balance. Australians are spending more hours at work than ever before and accrue more unpaid overtime each year than their annual leave allowance.

Work-life balance involves harmony between different aspects of your life, where benefits gained from each area can strengthen and support others. It’s a concept where people learn to seamlessly blend their work and personal lives successfully. The tricky part is getting the right balance. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow. The right balance for you when you are single will be different when you marry, or if you have children; when you start a new career versus when you are nearing retirement.

So, what are the benefits of having a balanced life?

1. We become less susceptible to burnouts

From personal experience burnouts often occur when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. The negative repercussions of burnouts affect every aspect of an individual’s life, including personal and social life. Having work-life balance creates a separation between work and home, meaning that the stress at work should stay at work and not follow workers home after hours.

2. Attention is paid where due

It’s no surprise that when we are juggling a number of commitments all at once we can become tired and run down. When leaving the office, it’s important to be able to switch off, allowing your full attention to be turned to your home life and family. This not only creates less friction in your relationships but will also allow you to be an efficient worker by being fully focused when it’s needed most.

3. We experience fewer health problems

When we’re tired, stressed and run down, our immune system is often the one to suffer. It’s no secret that stress can cause a number of health issues ranging from the flu to more serious conditions such as respiratory and digestive problems. Taking the time from your busy schedule to exercise, relax and eat well can contribute to limiting potential health issues.

Work-life balance can be difficult to manage due to the fact that it differs for every employee, especially between generations. The initiatives millennials find sufficient in maintaining work-life balance would differ from those in other generations. In these modern times, it has become easier for work to be assigned to any employee at any hour of the day, through electronic communication tools. This tool, however, means that work can intrude far more into people’s personal lives.

Failure to maintain appropriate etiquette for after-hours can significantly impact work-life balance, leading to a number of problems for both employees and businesses. A healthy work-life balance is vital in ensuring adequate employee satisfaction. To ensure sound mental health of employees and to alleviate some of the stress associated with the added pressures of the modern workplace, employees need to be able to switch off from work.

Contrastingly, the benefits provided for businesses are centred around keeping employees happy and employed with the business for as long as possible. Providing a suitable work-life balance for employees leads to a decrease in absenteeism, which costs businesses $33 Billion dollars annually.

According to a ‘2018 Robert Half Salary Guide’ poll, of the one thousand people interviewed, over 84% said they would accept a lower salary in return for increased work-life balance initiatives and benefits. Flexibility has quickly become one of the most actively sought-after employee benefits, with employees feeling as if their employers are controlling more and more of their time.

An Australian company that strives to achieve a suitable work-life balance for employees is NAB bank. Employing over thirty-five thousand people, the bank attempts to create a flexible work environment. The NAB website boasts their flexibility measures and emphasises the fact that

“Flexibility is not a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a fundamental part of how we do business.”

Also mentioned are the organisation’s shared workplace settings, leave options and family care.

Research conducted suggests that work-life balance as provided by Australian employers is a work in progress.  The budgets of companies make opportunities and initiatives difficult to supply for their employees in current working environments. However, over the past decade, work-life balance initiatives have slowly become more prominent within organisations. Work-life balance is improving but is not yet at levels that benefit everyone in the workforce. Instead, it only seems to be apparent for those who work for multinational corporations with profits to burn. The remainder of the workforce, especially those who work for smaller businesses, do not have access to the same initiatives.

Despite work-life balance initiatives not being mandatory across all organisations, there are still certain steps you can take to achieve a balanced lifestyle.

Work out what matters

  • This involves being realistic about your needs and goals. Don’t set unachievable objectives and remember why you’re working in the first place.

Manage your time

  • Schedule your time out by using activity logs, which allow you to see how much time has been spent on a certain task. Additionally, pre-plan your days and block out work and home time. Ensure that these activities do not overlap.

Ask for help

  • If you ever feel overwhelmed by the workload it’s always important to speak up. This will allow resources to be allocated appropriately and ensure you are coping stress-free.

Many of us who are just entering the workforce will be unlikely to retire until we are in our late 60s, possibly even early 70s.  Australians are also working a longer week than ever before. Employers will need to take employee well being serious if they are to keep them from straying elsewhere.  A healthy work environment is not just about physical wellbeing but also the mental wellbeing of employees and for that to happen work-life balance will need to be a high priority in our society.

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