Money & Business

The Work-Life Balancing Act

By / May 14, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A new study shows that managing work-life balance is getting harder for workers around the world. Not a terribly surprising finding, yet one that shows how workplace dynamics continue to change with greater connectivity and increased demands.

Google “work-life balance” and the results yield a telling picture: an article extolling “Five Tips for Better Work-Life Balance” shows up above an article detailing the decline of work-life balance, which is right above another article declaring work-life balance a myth.

It’s a prevalent topic among workers of mixed generations and lifestyles, and it doesn’t seem to be getting easier as the lines between work and life continue to blur.

In fact, a new survey from global professional services firm EY found that managing work and life responsibilities is getting harder for one-third of workers, especially millennials and parents.

The survey, which looked at work-life challenges of nearly 9,700 workers from around the world, uncovered that the most common reasons behind the growing difficulty are flat pay coupled with increasing personal expenses and increased responsibilities at work.

Technology also keeps employees tethered to work beyond time spent in the actual office. (It can also keep people working during vacation.)

“There really isn’t any downtime any longer where people could [in the past] sign off for the day and be done,” Karyn Twaronite, EY global diversity and inclusiveness officer who commissioned the study, told The Wall Street Journal. “You can be done for the day but it will be morning in China and you need to be responsive to that.”

Increasing hours are also affecting work-life balance. Four in 10 survey respondents reported the hours they work have increased in the last five years, and it’s creating the “perfect storm” for millennial parents moving into management positions.

The survey took an express interest in millennials and parents because of that confluence of variables and how it might affect why employees stay or leave a job. Overall, millennials reported they are more likely to join a company and work longer hours, as well as less likely to quit, if they are offered more flexibility and parental leave—benefits that employers may want to more strongly consider.

From the personal perspective, while there’s no easy solution, here are a few words of advice to create a little more balance between work and life:

Unplug. Whether you put a limit on answering email during non-official work hours or make a commitment to take a vacation, taking some time off from electronic devices can prove restorative and lead to fresh perspectives.

“Can you really be fully engaged in life when you’re constantly plugged in, networked, and always on?” asked Nancy Settle-Murphy, founder and principal consultant of Guided Insights, in an ASAE Global Link article [login required]. “Your family and friends will assure you that you can’t. Decide where you want to be fully engaged at any given time, and turn off the rest.”

Fully engage in your downtime. Have an absorbing hobby, and go on vacation when you go on vacation, Elizabeth Engel, CAE, a former association executive and CEO and chief strategist at Spark Consulting, wrote in Associations Now.

“With very few exceptions, no one’s life depends on 24/7 availability,” she wrote. “This is particularly tough for association executives. We want to be responsive to volunteer leaders and members. Many of us work in small-staff organizations, where redistributing responsibility, even temporarily, is nearly impossible. But you’re not indispensable. None of us is. Educate your board about the culture you are choosing for your association. Make sure at least one person knows how to reach you in case of a true emergency, and make sure that person can actually determine what constitutes one.”

Use your energy wisely. The upside of being consistently connected is the ability to get work or projects done when your energy is at its peak, which may not coincide with a 9-to-5 schedule.

“Arrange your time so you can apply your best energy and brightest ideas to the work (or play) that matters most in your life,” Settle-Murphy wrote. “This might mean doing your best thinking work early in the morning or late at night, or working out at mid-day to restore energy reserves for a big afternoon meeting. Think in terms of a 24/7 weekly calendar and plot your events accordingly.”

What are your tips for managing work-life balance? Please share in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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