Striking a balance between work and pleasure is increasingly important to British workers with just 17% of us completely satisfied with our work:life balance.
Research from the TUC estimates that more than two million of us would even give up some pay to improve their current situation.
There are many reasons for us becoming more disgruntled. Traditional working hours and the working week no longer suit our lives; more of us are staying in education until we are older and are opting to retire early; more mothers are returning to work and coping with the demands of young children on top of work commitments .
Parents of young children and those with dependent relatives may have been the driving force for greater control over their working lives, but young people are just as likely to want a balance between work and home. Some graduates are even starting to choose their future employer on the basis of their attitudes to the work:life balance.
The business case for new policies is also adding up. An employee who has a greater say over his or her working time is likely to feel less stressed, and more committed to work. This translates into increased productivity, improved recruitment and retention, lower rates of absenteeism and reduced overheads for employers.
So how can you find out if you have a positive work:life balance?
- Write a list of all the elements that make up your life – work, family, physical activity, leisure pursuits, voluntary and community work, spirituality, friends, socialising and so on.
- Grade how much time and energy you devote to each. Such an exercise will help you to identify those areas of your life on which you are compromising in favour of others, and it will often spell out what you already know.
- Face up to yourself. If you need to be the first at work and the last to leave, ask yourself why.
- Do you try to ‘out-busy’ your colleagues by constantly talking about all the work you have to do?
- Does working hard fulfil a personal need for security, self-esteem, challenge or self-respect that you could get from another source, eg, voluntary work, study or spending more time with your family?
Once you know where the balance needs to be restored, you can start to think of solutions. Perhaps it’s simply a case of working your contracted hours or being more efficient when you are at work. Or do you need to alter your working hours to free up the time you need to pursue other interests or meet other commitments?
You also need to think about the impact on your job and potentially your career, as well as on your home and personal life. Can you cope if a change in your working hours means a drop in pay or can you make up the loss elsewhere?
Don’t be put off by those who insist that pursuing a better work:life balance brands you as uncommitted and unmotivated, or means that you won’t progress in your chosen career. Many workplaces still operate on the basis that working long hours demonstrates commitment and quality, but long hours don’t always mean the best job is done or that talent flourishes.
Indeed many firms now recognise that it’s output not input that counts. These companies are gaining competitive advantage in the recruitment market by offering work:life balance and career progression to talented individuals.