By Kevin J Goodman
Many companies have taken note of the inevitable statistics and outcomes of an out-of-balance work-life environment and have added programs to help their companies and thereby their cultures, sustainability, and, ultimately, profitability.
It is not unusual to see group-exercise classes onsite, such as yoga and other forms of body movement and meditation along with more Western-traditional exercise modalities. Studies from multiple sources repeatedly demonstrate the connection between a healthy employee and positive outcomes, such as improved productivity and job satisfaction. This not only leads to better profits and sustainability but also helps to reduce employee turnover.
The internet, which causes some of the improved quality of life we have come to know, brings with it some lack balance in our lives. This digital age we live in has allowed me to quickly compile a definition of “work-life balance.” WLB is a concept that includes a proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family, and spiritual development/meditation). The good news is that we can work with this definition. And the bad news is … that our culture and its work-life balance is out of whack. The lack of work-life balance can be very costly to both individuals and companies. Stress, obesity, absenteeism, anxiety, addiction, errors, burnout, and unnecessary loss or accidents on the job can be the result of employees being out of balance.
Just like cloud computing, if you are to survey 100 people in any room for a definition WLB, you will get (as with most things in life) about 100 different answers. In a web, data-centric world, work-life balance can seem like an unachievable outcome. Technology in the digital age calls for employees to be accessible around the clock. Fears of job loss incentivize longer hours in tough economies and an evermore competitive global economy. In fact, a whopping 94 percent of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week, and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week in a Harvard Business School survey. Experts align on this: The increasing levels of stress from the digital age and its rigorous and hectic pace, which include seemingly unstoppable work days, oftentimes have damaging results. It can hurt relationships, health, and overall happiness as well as the business objectives.
KG’s basic tips to find balance
Low-hanging fruit/efforts to reduce stress, improve overall quality of life and wellbeing, and make for an improved workforce life include:
I called on my friend, Sudhir Kade Raghupathy, the founder and principal at Kade Social Ventures, to contribute to this piece. A fabulous thought leader, coach and facilitator for businesses, he says: “I found it somewhat ironic, oddly compelling, and now therapeutic to research and write about work-life balance, simply because it encouraged me to look at what it is, how we define it, and why so may of us complain about not having it. Many polls and results can be found in sources I researched, like this recent Newsweek article or this Wikipedia page. So many are unhappy, citing imbalanced and over-stressed lives. Perhaps what we all (or they) complain about is the uncertainty that leads to stress and the stress that hampers our ability to juggle what often seems to many to be an insurmountable workload. It points to dysfunction, no doubt.”
He continues: “Coaches in this realm will tell you to segregate the sectors of your life and what matters and devote balanced time to each. That might work, if that is what you want. But is it equal time spent with career and fair time spent doing the things outside of work what we covet or need? Entrepreneurs, for example, know how much failure and hard work it can take to find success. I was just reminded that it can take five or more years, on average, to find any kind of success as entrepreneurs. It really depends on many other factors. I speak to this personally as I recently have pursued a variety of freelance endeavors rather than typical 9-to-5 (now pressured to be more like 9-to-9 for some) work. The system is such that, in a tough economy, fear of job loss and social stigma motivates people to work harder and longer. I debate whether it really motivates them to work better or healthier. Some love working long hours because they are not overly stressed, they love what they do, and they are allowed to do it.”
Work-life balance for many job seekers is a criterion in their job search. Achieving this delicate balance can be a critical tool to both attraction and retention of your most important assets — your employees — along with building a sustainable and profitable enterprise. Be mindful to keep your workforce not only engaged but also refreshed.
Kevin Goodman is the managing director, partner with BlueBridge Networks, a downtown Cleveland-headquartered data center cloud computing business. He can be reached at (216) 367-7580, firstname.lastname@example.org and kevinjgoodman.com.
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