Work–life balance is a concept including the proper prioritization between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family).
According to 2010 National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement data, 16% of U.S. workers reported difficulty balancing work and family. Imbalance was more prevalent among workers aged 30–44 (19%) compared with other age groups; non-Hispanic black workers (19%) compared with non-Hispanic white workers (16%), and Hispanic workers (15%); divorced or separated workers (19%) compared with married workers (16%), widowed workers (13%), and never married workers (15%); and workers having a bachelor’s degree and higher (18%) compared with workers having a high school diploma or G.E.D. (16%), and workers with less than a high school education (15%). Workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries (9%) had a lower prevalence rate of work–family imbalance compared to all employed adults (16%). Among occupations, a higher prevalence rate of work–family imbalance was found in legal occupations (26%), whereas a lower prevalence rate was observed for workers in office and administrative support (14%) and farming, forestry, and fishing occupations (10%).
By working in an organization, employees identify, to some extent, with the organization, as part of a collective group. Organizational values, norms and interests become incorporated in the self-concept as employees increase their identification with the organization. However, employees also identify with their outside roles. Examples of these might be parental/caretaker roles, identifications with certain groups, religious affiliations, align with certain values and morals, mass media etc.
Employee interactions with the organization, through other employees, management, customers, or others, reinforces the employee identification with the organization. Simultaneously, the employee must manage their other roles well. In other words, identity is “fragmented and constructed” through a number of interactions within and outside of the organization; employees do not have just one facet to life.
Most employees identify with not only the organization, but also other facets of their life (family, children, religion, etc.). Sometimes these identities align and sometimes they do not. When identities are in conflict, the sense of a healthy work–life balance may be affected and cause stress.
Work–life conflict is not gender-specific. According to the Center for American Progress, 90 percent of working mothers and 95 percent of working fathers report work–family conflict. However, because of the social norms surrounding each gender role, and how the organization views its ideal worker, men and women handle the work–life balance differently.
Technology has further blurred the boundary between work and family since employees stay connected to the business even when they are not in the office. As a result, communication technologies in the temporal and structural aspects of work have changed, defining a “new workplace” in which employees are more connected to the jobs beyond the boundaries of the traditional workday and workplace. The more this boundary is blurred, the higher work-to-life conflict is self-reported by employees.
Organizations play a large part in how their employees deal with work–life balance. Some companies have taken proactive measures in providing programs and initiatives to help their employees cope with work–life balance. Employers can offer a range of different programs and initiatives, such as flexible working arrangements in the form of part-time, casual and telecommuting work. More proactive employers can provide compulsory leave, sponsored vacations, strict maximum hours and foster an environment that encourages employees not to continue working after hours. Exercise is another method employers can promote to help reduce stress. It activates feel-good endorphins through the body. It helps lift your mood and can give a lift by also putting you in a meditative state. Steps should be taken by employees to unwind and switch off after working hours and spend time exploring other facets of life including faith, family and leisure. Employees should also learn to de-stress and enjoy work by not taking things too seriously in the strive for perfection and take things as they come with a smile.