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Work life balance has become an important issue for organisations today; as family life and career expectations of employees change organisations are responding with new and innovative ways to retain their employees. Work life balance refers to the healthy balance between an employee’s family, mental and physical health, personal commitments and their duties at work. As globalisation increases and technology evolves, there are constant blurred lines between work and personal life. This is more apparent as there are now a high number of employees choosing to work remotely from home or telecommute. As we will discuss in this essay, there are several consequences to both the individual and to organisations if there is a failure to manage work life balance including; employees becoming demotivated and unproductive, and potentially a greater number of mental health concerns. However, there can be a positive impact to work life balance relating to individual satisfaction which can be measured by the culture of the organisation, job satisfaction, productivity levels and motivation of the workforce.
Modern families have changed in today’s society, Australia has experienced a significant change in its population demographic, family structures and current workforce. As the cost of living in Australia has significantly increased, it has become common for both parents to be working in a family dynamic. Since 1968, there has been a 24% increase in females in the workforce with dependent children (ABS, 2018). Both an increase in cost of living and having both parents in the workforce is placing additional pressures on families and employers to ensure both parties allow for an adequate work life balance.
Work life balance is an important factor for an organisations to focus on to create a healthy and balanced work environment for both employees and employers. As defined by Oxford Dictionary, work-life balance is the ‘division of time and focus between working and family or leisure activities’ (Lexico Dictionary 2018). Organisations have responded to the concerns of employees by implementing work life balance programs and policies to assist employees ‘juggle a wide range of factors in their life and work environment; these include work, family, friends and health’ (Byrne 2005, p 53). Achieving a better work-life balance can have multiple benefits to employers by creating motivated, productive workforce and have the potential to become an employer of choice. Many employees find it challenging to balance work and life commitments which is why it has become a large issue in society. As globalisation continues and the increased practice of working within a virtual team, and as technology increasingly evolves, the need for work life balance is more important than ever for ensuring employee satisfaction. ‘Job satisfaction and employee wellbeing are among the main factors that influence an organisation’s reputation’ (Mcshane 2016 p. 53) therefore it is important for employers to ensure it is attracting the best workforce. ‘The recent economic downturn and evolving technology have put pressure on organisations to perform, and on employees to increase their productivity’ (Kluczyk 2013, p 41), which has intern affected employee’s relationship with work and home life and allowed them to feel pressured to work longer hours.
In recent years, work life integration has been gaining popularity, according to Berkley ‘work/life integration instead is an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define life’ (Berkeley Haas, 2019). Balance refers to separation between work and life; whereas, in today’s society boundaries between employees professional and personal life are blurring. Work life integration, being a new term, is becoming increasingly popular and may be a way forward to assist organisations to work together with their employees to understand their personal pressures, to clearly identify the demands of the business and the define the expectations of the both employee and employer.
The reasons employees may have an imbalance in their work and personal lives could be due to many factors including; tight deadlines, financial implications, an established or perceived culture within the workplace and technology overload resulting in increase and constant accessibility reducing the amount of downtime employees have. These issues are increasing with more ‘workers now telecommuting or bringing work home’ (Stanton & Gavin 2003). An imbalance in either work or family life can have potential impacts, for example, ‘the number of hours worked, if an individual’s preferences did not align with their working hours, they reported lower levels of satisfaction and poorer mental health than individuals whose preferences aligned with their working hours’ (Michael Page; 2019).
With significant technology advancements, employees are now able to access their work via their mobile phones and laptops and they are no longer limited to specific hours or locations. ‘The mobile phone has led to harried leisure, and perpetual contact extends work into the home or intensifies work in other ways’ (Bittman, Brown, Wajcam, 2009 p 673) this is adding to the employees’ pressure at home. Consequences of poor work life balance have multiple effects on mental health, work performance, absenteeism and poor physical health. Recent studies have also suggested work stress is not only affecting the employee but also could affect the spouses and family members (Jones, Burke, Westman, 2013).
As discussed within Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, motivation is determined by two factors: hygiene and motivation. Hygiene relates to salary, job security, working conditions and personal relationships, which on their own will not motivate an employee in their role. However, motivation factors include a sense of achievement, recognition, responsibility and anatomy. The theory outlines that the failure of one of these factors can severely affect the employee’s satisfaction which in turn can affect the employee’s motivation. As discussed by (Gawel, J 1996) satisfiers refer to an employee’s relationship with tasks that that they must complete as part of their roles and dissatisfiers refer to an employee’s relationship to their work environment. Therefore, ensuring a correct and accurate work life balance could be a trigger for a dissatisfier as per Gawel’s theory or hygiene of Herzberg’s motivator theory.
Consequences of a poor work life balance include mental health problems, employees feeling; over-worked, unmotivated and unproductive, which is why it is extremely important for organisation to ensure their employees have adequate work life balance. ‘Low work life balance can also lead to employees experiencing low morale and higher absenteeism’ (Kluczyk 2013, p 41). A recent report conducted by PWC, estimates that mental health in the workplace costs Australian businesses approximately 10.9 billion dollars a year, which is why it is important to ensure business are implementing these policies for their employees (PWC; Return on investment analysis). By identifying the effects of a poor work life balance on an organisations and it employees, demonstrations the need for stringent policies and changes within organisations to ensure they address the associated risks.
The ways in which organisations can improve the work life balance within their workplace is to introduce policies and ensure that they are correctly communicated to their employees. This can include flexible working conditions; allowing the employees to have flexibility to schedule their own hours and limiting the number of hours they are required to be in the office. Telecommuting is frequently used by organisations; allowing employees to work from home and eliminating the commute time so they can spend more time with their families. Additionally, employers can improve the work life balance is by encouraging their employees to take all their available leave, discussing work life balance and ensuring employees are aware of the policies available. As the work life balance policies are implemented organisations will also require ‘managers to play a pivotal role in translating work life balance policies into practice’ (Maxwell 2005, p 179) this includes ensuring it is not misused. These changes within the organisation not only improve the wellbeing of their employees but also the reputation of the businesses and attracting and retaining the best workforce.
No organisation’s employees are ‘completely free from stress and mental illness, but companies are introducing mechanisms to assist them in dealing with such issues’ (McShane 2013, p 139). The positive impact of work life balance on an individual satisfaction can be measured by the culture of the organisation, the job satisfaction, productivity and motivation of the workforce. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is identified by how employees satisfy several personal needs in the context of their employment. He identifies that there are patterns of needs recognition and satisfaction, these needs include physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. As organisations are continuing to evolve and considering employees mental and physical health, it is important for their employees to fulfill these needs. With the assistance of work life balance policies, it is ensuring employees are fulfilling these needs and remaining motivated and productive during their employment.
In conclusion, work life balance and work life integration are important issues for organisations today; an appropriate balance is important for employees mental and physical health. Consequences of poor work life balance can have detrimental effects to the individual, the work teams and to the organisation. Therefore, it is critical for organisations to ensure they are not only implementing, but also communicating work life balance policies to their employees and encouraging them to use them. These policies will ensure the organisations are attracting and retaining the best staff. The positive outcomes of work life balance to individuals can be measured by the motivation and productivity of their team members and employee job satisfaction.
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