This paper is a report on research contacted on work-life balance. Employees and employers find it difficulty to balance the two aspects. When it comes to life and work, each is mutually independent of the other but exclusively dependent on the other. To live well, one must work to realize and achieve his/her goals. To work effectively or otherwise, one must live through the experiences of life and at least have an area of reflecting his/her experiences. This paper is designed to analyze the different aspects that occur during and/or in the event of trying to balance work and life within the corporate world.
Work-life balance is an issue that has permeated the corporate world for decades. Companies have come up with solutions to this issue by providing work-life programs. The programs are to address the issues raised by their employees. Besides the companies, business schools are taking the initiative to train student in a manner that is aimed to enable them deal with the issue positively once they are employed. This paper examines the work-life balance research conducted by The International Human Resource Activist Group (TIHRAG) and discuses underlying issues associated with individual perceptions of balance and imbalance. Six questions relating to individual perceptions are scaled and analyzed according to different groups.
Multiple levels and aspects are affected by the work-life balance/imbalance. There are numerous differences, advantages and disadvantages associated with the work-life balance/imbalance. The disadvantages do not affect one party alone but both employers, and employees. For employees, the disadvantages that are associated with the work-life balance/imbalance may impact their personal, mental health, physical health, work and life satisfaction and the performance of an individual in an organization. For employer, disadvantages may be experienced through poor performance, sick leaves, absenteeism, high-employee turnover, and training and recruitment costs. However, the inverse is true and applicable to the individual and the employer who is able to achieve balance.
Positive experiences in the work place can be have the potential to enable employees reach their potential best, make them to be fully engaged, and make them realize their work and personal goals/objectives. These experiences promote balance where the work is used to enhance life off the job environment but not contribute by distraction. Going by the advantages and the disadvantages, the reason why companies are giving their employees work-life programs is revealed, but this is not a solution to the whole problem. Still in the work environment, there appears to be limited utilization of the employee going by the programs. Employees have the perception that adopting the work-life programs leads to less job security and is responsible for hindering future career prospects. (Carruthers, 2005)
The complexity of work-life balance is in the fact that it demands that all involved, including the employer and the employee, and there are indications that employers are not fully engaged in supporting the employees to participate. It is revealed that employees are afraid to participate or take up the work-life balance in that they encounter negative consequences due to the underlying fact that the organization would always lean its support more to the individual who give it all to the tasks at hand. This study shows that 48% of men and 35% of women are afraid that they would be penalized if they took up the work-life options. What this indicates is the fact that employees, individuals and employees are way behind embracing the idea.
Working long and hard is part and parcel of development in the corporate world. However, this is not the case when the performance of the individual and attitude are concerned. It is revealed that, a depressed employee at the work place would make more mistakes in the course of the working period than he would be able to track. A full and complete life carries with it the satisfaction and feeling of success in and out of the work place. Evidenced from the research, it can be evidenced that the problem of the work-life balance is much more serious for the high-paid management positions that are expected to be in a higher level of control over their work and their working hours. Most of the people and students look forward to achieving these kinds of high-paid management positions. But this according to experience and trend is not the reality of the situation; most of these people and student are in conflict with the implication that by achieving a well paid managerial position determines the achievement of work-life balance.
FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS
Demographic Characteristics and Work-Life Balance
Between work and life, are there demographic characteristic differences? For a long time, it has been considered the problem of women in any setting when it came to the balance of work and life. As time moved on, more men are found to be falling to the same problem. Men compared to women, seem to be losing in the score of work-life balance achievement at a ratio of 1.2:3.9 respectively. The explanation to this difference is in the fact that going by the duration women have been considered to have issues with balancing work and life, they have had all the time to formulate mechanisms that would give room to balance of work and life.
Age: Writing by Tulgan in 1996, as indicated in a report by the Guest (2001), shows that Generation X impacts work-life balance than any other group. Respondents of age 27 or younger at the time they graduated from their respective institutions were more likely to achieve a higher work-life balance as compared to the older respondents. The reasons for higher levels of achieving work-life balance on the side of the young men and women than older men and women are due to the independent variables and dependent variables. The independent variables that make the older generation unable to fair as well as the younger generation are as follows; commitment to marriage, children and elder care as the individuals grow older. This basis of age is significant when hiring employees for demanding positions. Inspite of how talented experienced, well informed or fit an individual is, age plays an important role when assessing the efficacy of that individual in the work place. (Department of Trade and Industry, 2001: Guest, 2001)
Citizenship: Besides age, citizenship is another factor that determines balance level of work and life. Taking USA, for example, US citizens are reported to have higher chances and levels of balancing work and life than noncitizen like Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans. However, going by gender it is found out that women do not differ much in these levels compared to men when citizenship is played. Still age comes to play alongside citizenship when the scores are to be determined with world regions. (Edgington, 2003)
Length of Employment: Length of employment plays an important role, when determining the levels and rates at which individuals can balance work and life. At the beginning of a career, work-life balance does not seem to be a factor that many people would consider. However, as time goes by, they find it to be hard to adjust in order to allow time and space for personal life. An analysis to this, depicts that the more an individual progresses in career, the more demanding the environment becomes and the less the chances of achieving work-life balance. An analysis of length of career and work-life balance shows that at the start of the career elements of work-life balance are witnessed and they deteriorate as the career advances. Statistics show that individuals with less than two years in the positions they are working in, score better in work-life balance assessments while those with three years experience with the current employer score poorer.
Location of Employment: Location of employmentmay be in terms of a region, a country, a city, a town and/or a village. Individuals who work in their countries of citizenship are more likely to have a higher work-life balance than those who work away from their countries of citizenship. As reported earlier, there are significant differences in the work-life balance score by the individuals’ citizenship. Taking citizenship as a variable to go by, it is shown that there is no significant difference in the work-life balance considering various world regions. However, US, Canadian, and Latin American citizens have a higher work-life balance than Asian citizens working outside their countries of citizenship. Generally, individuals who choose to pursue their careers outside their countries of citizenship are more like to have a lower score in work-life balance. Differences between genders by location are minimal, but age still plays a majority role in the work-life balance score sheet.
Work hours: Work Hours determine the level of work-life balance. The determination is based on how many more hours are allocated to the job past the average hours allowed or considered average. Going by the finding of the research, it is notable that the more the hours spend at job, the less the hours left for other aspects of life. It is also put as; the more the hours put into one sphere of life, the less time there will be for the rest of the spheres and more the work-life imbalance. According to , Stevens, Brown, and Lee (2004), it is clear that, besides the facts of how working hours impacted individuals with their work-life balance, individuals have the notion that working more hours allows better chances of promotion and gaining their career objectives. Amongst 1000 respondents interviewed, 40% felt that working more hours improved their chances of promotions and hence job security was ensured. 20% of the respondents felt that besides the job security and chances of promotion, working lesser hours allowed them to focus better and hence draw a work-life balance.
Surprising going by promotion, those individuals who believed working long hours was better for them registered higher scores in promotions with their current employers unlike those who did not think the same. On the balance of work and life, those who worked less hours and had the notion that lesser hours were better than long hours had a better and higher score with work-life balance. Based on the findings, hours worked do have differing effects on the individual where a work-life balance is concerned. It is by consideration of values and priorities are most important in gauging options like promotion and work-life balance.
Earning and Work Hours: Work-life balance is more elevated with well-paid management positions. The correlation between annual pay and the number of hours worked per week is significant. However, the amount earned per year doesn’t have anything to do with work-life balance. As discussed earlier, the number of hours worked significantly affects the work-life balance. The position held by the individual will only determine the work-life balance if elements like work hours and salary earned per annum are separated and reviewed individually. (Gliem, J., Gliem, R. 2003)
Satisfaction with Job: Achievement of work-life balance benefits both the individual and the employer. Organizations these days have leaders who are willing to see that their employees are well satisfied with their jobs and that they fit in the environment where they can achieve work-life balance. Among 1000 employed respondents, think and believe that the phrase, “my employer cares and wants the best for his/her employees” is true. Those who felt that the statement was true have had the satisfaction of achieving work-life balance.
Organizations have cultures within which work-life balance can be based on to draw how the employee feels about the employer and the environment. The cultures of these organizations allow employees to choose from two choices. These choices include either satisfied or slightly satisfied and slightly not satisfied or not satisfied at all. Those employees find themselves being satisfied with how the organization treats them are reported to have a higher score in work-life balance. The number of individuals found to be dissatisfied with their organization’s treatment struggle with achieving work-life balance. (Hansen, 2002)
Work-Life Balance Programs
There is a need for employers to realize the importance of offering packages of benefit to their employees. The importance of doing so would be to secure loyalty and commitment in a team approach to work-life balance. Lately, new employees in some organizations have had the benefits of accessing company-sponsored training and education programs at the margin of 67 percent while 50 percent has access to flexible scheduling. One in every 10 respondents of the 1000 respondents interviewed during the research said that the companies and organizations they worked for did not offer the packages listed above. The negative impact of that fact affects both the individual and the employer. The employee ends up stressed and depressed in the long run; this long run tends to get in the way of the employee to perform his/her duties effectively. For the employer, when the employee isn’t performing as expected of him/her, it tends to bother the company’s stability and with continuation of this trend can see a company being stuck in the same class or lagging behind while others are in progress.
From a policy perspective, it is amusing to bear in mind that the presence of family-friendly practices is not associated with cited work-life balance. However, the current study shows that employees who worked for organizations which did not provide or offer any of the listed programs did not quite near achieving work-life balance. For those indicated saying that the organizations they worked for offered them the programs or at least one of the programs, have a better chance and potential of achieving work-life balance.
Issues found to be of significance when trying to understand the variables responsible for dragging work-life balance include age, citizenship, number of work hours amongst many others. To address this for the good of an individual organization and its employees, human resource management should be keen on their selection and criteria of hiring their employees. If working domestically is more beneficial to the company and the locals in achieving work-life balance it should be resolved to that the organization would only be hiring local citizens for vacancy positions. For the issue, of age; all above 27 years of age cannot be disqualified for holding an office of whatever nature so to keep them focused and aid in work-life balancing, organizations should provide flexible scheduling to allow them balance the score between work and their personal lives.
The society needs to understand the fact that work-life balance is an issue that requires their attention. Employees can stay connected to work due to the fact that the changing nature of the organizations to operate on a 24/7 basis. Employers to their side should know and understand that a worn out employee is nearly useless to the organization. Success of any company lies within the satisfaction of its employees. To this end, many organizations have embraced the facts and developed programs that assist employees in dealing with issues that exist between work and the rest of the life. As depicted on the findings, employees who can access at least one work-life balance programs have a higher work-life balance score compared to those without.